A family friendly motoring event set around the track at Dunsfold Park, home of Top Gear
Beginning as a group of Ferrari owners offering rides to children undergoing treatment for brain injuries, this family event now attracts over 20,000 people and 150 supercars. Open Air Business talks to The Children’s Trust event organiser Tracy Poulton about its unique appeal.
Describe your event and how many people it attracts?
The Supercar Event 2017 takes place on 24-25 June at Dunsfold Park, Cranleigh, and is one of the only car events that offers once-in-a-lifetime passenger rides, alongside family friendly attractions. There are around 150 supercars in total, including the Ferrari 458 Speciale, Porsche 911 GT3RS and the Lamborghini Aventador SV. And it’s very exciting when they’re all on the start line together.
Now in its 11th year, the family event attracts around 20,000 visitors and is expected to raise over £100,000 to help children with brain injury. It’s also known to attract a number of well-known personalities, with stars such as Chris Evans, Max Chilton, Andrea McLean, and Craig Philips taking a spin in recent years.
Where do you hold the event?
We work very closely with the team at Dunsfold Park. The venue is a working airfield Monday to Friday, so we only have access to the event area the evening before the event starts, which is a challenge. As all the infrastructure has to be in place by 8am Saturday morning, it’s all hands on deck Friday night.
What is the event’s history?
The event started at The Children’s Trust in Tadworth, Surrey, when a small group of Ferrari owners brought their cars to the centre for some of the children undergoing specialist brain injury rehabilitation to have a ride. The cars were so popular that it became an annual treat with more and more drivers interested in supporting the charity.
It soon outgrew the grounds, and the group wondered if the public would consider paying for a ride in the cars if a suitable venue could be found. The Supercar Event was born, and has gone from strength the strength ever since. We now have 150 supercars on the Top Gear track and pride ourselves on being the largest interactive supercar event in the UK.
How did you find applying for permission to run the event?
There is no specific licence required other than the standard TENS licence with the local council, however, we have a detailed traffic management plan to ensure smooth flow of visitor traffic coming along to the event. We also have noise mitigation and waste management plans to ensure we create as little disturbance as possible to the local community.
How have you planned the layout of the event?
We use scale drawings for the layout and we use a mixture of marquees and temporary production offices.
How did you research and source your marquees and other infrastructure?
The Supercar Event committee and The Children’s Trust fundraising team have many years’ experience, and have built up a network of trusted companies who support the event.
What entertainment do you offer?
Apart from the cars on the track, and all the other rides, we are fortunate that TV presenter Craig Phillips has generously compered the event for many years. This year we have guest presenters including Mark Dixon from Eddie Stobart Trucks & Trailers and former British racing driver Nick Whale. Along with a few surprise guests.
During the driver’s lunch break we have various displays on the track with all the action shown live on a big screen.
As the event has grown, we have added more attractions including rides in Caterham Sevens, Sporting Bears, Lexus LFA, helicopters, fire engines and a 4×4 course. For our younger guests, we have a Stay Safe young drivers school, Diggerland, hovercraft, simulators, mini-tanks, Mini-Monster Truck Mania and Laser Quest to name just a few of the activities. The event is very family focused and has an area for smaller children.
What provisions do you make for power, lights and sound?
We have limited lighting as it’s a day time event. We use EES for all the sound including the PA; all other power is provided by hired in generators.
How do you manage admissions and visitor safety?
As the event has grown, so has the number of attendees, so it was necessary to outsource the ticketing. We partner with See Tickets who do an amazing job managing the pre-event ticket sales. We offer an early bird discount rate to encourage pre-sales and sell the majority of the tickets pre-event.
We work with GFI Event Services who handle all the traffic management and parking, crowd control and security at the event.
How do you publicise the event?
We are a charity so our advertising budget is very limited. See Tickets help us promote the event to its database and that’s extremely successful for us. We do some paid advertising, but we offer a lot of competitions in local newspapers and magazines in return for entrance tickets. This works really well for us.
We also work with Mann Countrywide Estate Agents, and they provide 250 advertising ‘for sale’ boards that our local supporters display in their gardens for us. Again, this has proved very successful.
We have an increasing online following, and this year have invested in Facebook advertising for the first time.
What challenges have you faced?
Perhaps our greatest challenge is the late access to the venue, bearing in mind we have a very small core team and we rely heavily on volunteer support to set up safely and securely in time for the opening. We are also very weather dependent as the event is completely outdoors but so far, the weather hasn’t impacted on the event too much.
The event is run with the support of volunteers, and we need to have recruited an army of 150 volunteers each day to help us sell tickets, get people safely loaded and unloaded from the passenger rides, give out information and help us set up and de-rig. Without volunteers, we simply wouldn’t be able to run the event.
Our budget doesn’t allow for us to pay for any activities, and we rely on the support of all our attraction providers to donate a pre-agreed percentage of takings over the weekend to The Children’s Trust. Some of the suppliers such as Sporting Bears, Stay Safe Driving School and the Caterham Club donate 100 per cent. We sell stand space to raise extra funds, we also have a VIP marquee in which people can buy space. All our ground suppliers offer us favourable rates as well and are generally very supportive of the charity.
What are your plans for next year?
This year’s event takes place on 24 and 25 June so we are busy organising that at the moment. We hope to run the event the same weekend next year, and would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors does the landowner operate in?
Dunsfold Park organises its own air show every year and is a popular location for TV and film crews including Top Gear.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the outdoor event industry?
Meticulous planning is the key. Know your audience and work with reputable, recommended companies so you can build up your network of reliable suppliers.
W Event Structures – 01903 444731 / www.weventstructures.co.uk
SOUND & STAGE
ESS Hire – 0845 177 0630 / www.esshire.co.uk
BARES & CATERING
DW Catering – 01428 685349 / www.drinkwaters.co
GFI Event Services – 01276 28867 / www.gfieventservices.co.uk
Loo’s for Do’s – 01420 588355 / www.loos.co.uk
See Tickets – www.seetickets.com
123Send – 0800 542 3123 / www.123send.net
GFI Event Services – 01276 28867 / www.gfieventservices.co.uk
Medevent Medical Services – 01622 753415 / www.medeventmedicalservicesltd.co.uk
24-25 June 2017
Dunsfold Park, Surrey