Words by Nick Hendrix
Picture the scene: You’re at your desk, inbox is bursting, phone’s ringing off the hook and Janet in accounts keeps harassing you for those end of quarter figures. Next thing you know your boss has crashed through the door demanding a client day out – there’s a deal in the offing and word on LinkedIn is that the company’s nemesis is willing to sell their own children to make it happen.
There’s an established list of typical client excursions that are tried and tested. The long, leisurely golfing break has been the hotbed of many a business deal and the ever-prevalent dilemma as to whether beating your prospective client is good for the deal or not. Then there’s the boat trip – if the weather’s good a hired yacht chartered from the south coast or even a motorboat up the river can be a winner. It’s a self-contained place where hair can be let down without recrimination and most skippers can be coerced into creative navigation and signing the odd NDA.
A third reliable favourite is the exclusive box at a sports fixture – whether that’s Arsenal at the Emirates, England at Twickenham or the Ashes at Lords it’s a safe bet as who doesn’t like sport of some kind and an endless flow of alcohol? Well, actually, there are a few.
There’s a new and burgeoning industry of experiential companies who intend to buck the trend of unoriginal liquid lunches and stale chat about batting averages. Forward thinking companies want both their clients and employees to think, engage, work together, harvest some healthy competition and hopefully leave having learned something about each other and themselves. And it’d be nice if everyone didn’t have to take the following two days off because they thought a 6th Jaegarbomb seemed like ‘banter.’
I give you DTO Motorsport. A track day as a work trip isn’t necessarily a new thing, as a keen interest in cars has often been the plaything of many a CEO, but no one has really done it properly before – in fact DTO don’t do ‘track days’ they do ‘motorsport experiences.’
When one pictures the pitlane at a track like Silverstone, one rightly envisages a series of garages made wholly of grey breezeblocks, grey shutters and grey concrete. The only thing that breaks the cold starkness of it are the unpredictable and brilliant collection of cars you will come across – a track day can attract practising racing teams, classic car enthusiasts or simply a wealthy 911 owner who wants to let out some frustration through his right foot. It’s a great place to be if you’re interested in cars, but if you’re not it does need a little warming up both literally and metaphorically.
DTO was setup by ex-American Express executive VP and Fintech CEO Mike Jordan and prides itself on delivering a high-end, quality product that is as personable as it is professional. Jordan and his team show their knowledge of the world of luxury hospitality and their clear passion for motorsport in their various packages. These two principal faculties are clear to see the second you step into their inviting and downright cool space.
The inside is transformed to such an extent that you begin to question whether you were actually still in the National pit lane garages and not stepped through some kind of teleportation device. A DJ pumps the room full of atmosphere, there’s a coffee bar, sofas and a highly conspicuous McLaren sitting amongst the furniture. The mixture of car and character clear to see.
Upon arrival you are quickly partnered up with your race coach for the day which is at the heart of their product – a truly one-on-one experience with someone who really knows what they’re talking about. The fleet of drivers are all, either currently competing, or former racing drivers. Those that don’t still race, now teach, so are even better suited to guide you. It’s a formidable squad of talented guys and girls – all ready and very enthusiastic to show you the ropes.
The other beating heart of the DTO arsenal is its collection of cars. This is no second hand sportscar collection that’s held together by gaffer tape and self-confidence. This is no red-letter day voucher that your Auntie June bought you because ‘you like cars’. It’s a genuine, consciously chosen, performance-focused line up. There’s a progression from performance road car to track weapon and all steps have a reason and have been dutifully considered. In addition to that the coaches all know the cars in such detail that they could probably take them apart and rebuild them.
Once you’ve drained a freshly made coffee, it’s time to drive – the coaches take you out first to acclimatise you to the track, the car and the rules of the road. They are capable of nurturing a nervous debutant or pushing a budding Lando Norris – no one is too experienced or too inexperienced for them to tailor their coaching. Once all intros are made you get behind the wheel and begin your track day journey – it starts off gently in BMW M140i, which is a slightly track enhanced version of the road car, so the interior won’t confuse you and you’ll feel like you’re still driving a regular car. This then moves through to a Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 and onwards to a BMW M2 CS Racing and finishes off in a McLaren 720S. But that’s not all, the fleet has great depth and is often added to, so there is likely to be more on the day.
Between outings drivers are encouraged to sit with their coaches and analyse their data, which is all recorded through sophisticated VBox’s setup in the car’s cockpit. It’s a great tool to see how you’re doing and encourages a little gentle competition between colleagues. More often than not any person with a vague interest in self-preservation will brake too soon and not accelerate hard enough, which will be easy to see on screen. The challenge for all the drivers, both psychologically and physically is to push themselves to find that extra ounce of bravery that will elevate their lap times and tighten their apexes.
The warm atmosphere and the buzz of engines surrounds all participants in a feeling of community and drama – there’s nothing like sitting down to a gourmet lunch whilst hearing the whizz of racing cars flying past the open garage doors. Before the day is done and you’ve hopefully managed to leave the cars as you found them, the coaches take you out for a ‘hot lap’ – where they show you what’s possible with these cars, and what you’ve been striving for from the beginning. It’s quite astonishing. It’ll make the most terrifying theme park ride seem like a slow walk to the post office and leave you amazed at how far there is still to go to get that elusive ‘perfect lap’.
I’m not an expert in corporate days out but I’d imagine getting your team interacting with each other and your clients, in an enjoyable and high-octane way can only be good for business. There’s not a Jaegarbomb in sight and thankfully no need to rescue someone who fell overboard or tackle Nigel the intern as he decides to streak across the half-way line. The only hangover your team may experience is in the form of an achy neck and the odd bullish assertion from Dave in HR that he’s ‘really got a talent for racing’. Thankfully you go home with all your data so you can actually find out if that’s true.
All imagery used in this article credit: DTO