A view of the downtown Austin, Texas skyline
With the Inaugural FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX under our collective belt, the second F1 race will soon usher in new and repeat visitors to the Lone Star State. With more hospitality and entertainment options than last year, we wanted to help our readers navigate the F1 landscape with experts in the industry. For this first interview, we turned to a seasoned F1 hospitality company, US Star Events, to learn more about their experiences, offerings and expectations for year two. In the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix, we’ll bring you more insight into specific events as you'll be sure to stay entertained while in Austin.
US Star Events is the sister company of Monaco Star Events, which is based in the Principality of Monaco. A University of Texas at Austin graduate with 13 years of Formula One hospitality, ticketing, package sales and event management, CEO and Founder Shane Heminway says it made great sense to bring their experience, network and passion for F1 to Austin to support the US F1 Grand Prix. Shane knew Austin was a great destination for a Formula One race and a city that people from around the world might not know a lot about but would learn to love once they came to visit.
Having lived in Monaco since 1988, Shane notes that residents of the Principality don't have much of a choice in becoming F1 fans; the city becomes one big race track as fans and teams take over the city every May. It didn't take long to learn to appreciate the speed, drivers' skill and excitement of racing along the same city streets he navigated on a daily basis. Shane has been fortunate to witness the likes of Aryton Senna and Alain Prost dueling it out and meeting legendary and likable drivers like Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve.
After a long tenure in the restaurant business, Shane realized there was a great demand for hospitality and entertainment for visitors, teams and sponsors coming in specifically for Formula One weekend. Monaco Star Events started with race viewing, hospitality and parties on yachts in 2000 but, based on client needs, branched out into creating full packages that included accommodations, transportation, evening entertainment and brand activation. A little over a decade later, he was able to replicate the experience deep in the heart of Texas.
It was thrilling being part of the first year of F1 in Austin, knowing what was coming to a city that had no idea and educating incoming groups about all the allure and charm Austin has to offer. The city and the circuit really nailed it and the reviews world wide were outstanding. It was rewarding to be a part of that and our level of repeat business this year is a sign of how impressed the general public was with everything on offer.
Shane anticipates a larger international and particularly European presence this year over last year. Prior to our inaugural race, there was a lot of skepticism overseas over whether the track would be ready or not and many said they would wait to make the trek until the first year mistakes were ironed out. Those people now are eager to experience the Grand Prix in Austin first hand. This year, Circuit of The Americas is offering concerts at the track after the race sessions and new events are coming to town like Motostalgia at the Austin Convention Center and Amber Lounge. Events such as My Yacht Club will be even bigger and better and Fan Fest will have an impressive lineup and more fan interactive experiences. There are a lot of great reasons beyond racing to come to Austin to participate.
People really can't get over how nice of a city Austin is; I think people think of cowboys and tumbleweeds when they think of Texas - not that there is anything wrong with that. Plus Texas hospitality really leaves a positive impression and memory on people from out of State.
The track itself is arguably the best one on the entire calendar and race fans, teams and drivers were pleasantly surprised. The weekend programming was full and diverse, giving people the option to enjoy the restaurants, surroundings, night life and great November weather.
Monaco is the crown jewel on the F1 calendar, but from a race fan perspective it’s not the most exciting, as overtaking and top speeds vastly differ from what we see in Austin. The Monaco Grand Prix is a must see, bucket list type of event, maybe more because everything going on around the race such as parties on Super Yachts and the undeniable glamour and rich history of the Principality of Monaco. There is a certain buzz about a street race that makes for a completely different experience from a track race. Every city on the F1 calendar brings its unique spin to what an F1 experience is all about, and Austin arguably brings great racing together with a down home feel as well as the opportunity to be part of a multitude of upscale events.
There is something for everyone's budget in Formula One, but if you’re planning on experiencing the Austin race just once, and you have some money put aside to experience it in the best way, Shane proposes race viewing in the Formula One Paddock Club™. The hospitality and service are amazing, plus it’s the only way to participate in pit walks and find yourself up close with the teams and garages at the track. Barring this, Shane thinks Turn 1 is one of the most unique views in all of F1, being at the highest point of the track where drivers then face a blind left turn into Turn 2, which makes for an exhilarating beginning of the race.
When not at the track, Shane suggests picking a night to attend one of the "pop up" night clubs that come to town exclusively for F1 weekend, such as My Yacht Club or Amber Lounge. Also new this year is the Motostalgia Classic Car Auction at the Austin Convention Center. This unique event will feature 75 of the finest classic cars, including some with F1 racing pedigree, a vintage-themed Gala on Friday evening and the headlining Auction in the early evening on Saturday. On top of that, the halls of the convention center will be open to the general public using these cars as the backdrop for an Automotive and Lifestyle showcase event featuring brands displaying their products and services, such as Mercedes, Aston Martin, Bentley and Tesla, just to name a few.
There are more hospitality options this year, such as the VIP Trackside Skybox and Hospitality, which will host many A-List celebrities and feature the Circuit of The Americas Grid Girls, or COTA Girls as Hostesses, all of which takes place on the Start Finish Line of the track. Also, US Star Events has private suites on Turn 1 still with limited availability which includes food, an open bar and champagne all day throughout the three-day weekend. There are several live entertainment performances throughout the weekend at the track, including Hip Hop artist Pitbull on Sunday evening and the Australian band Sick Puppies performing on Saturday night. Also new this year, COTA is opening up access to the track after the race on Sunday for people to walk a good section of the track and really soak up the ambiance where history was just made on the only purpose-built Formula 1 track in the United States.
In short, guests can expect much of the same as last year only bigger and better! Guests can be assured of an authentic Texas experience, the highest form of automotive racing and long weekend full of making lasting memories. Those thinking of satisfying their need for speed should contact US Star Events to help them put together a memorable package according to their needs and budget. US Star Events is based in Austin and distributors off all elements of the Formula One weekend. Think of them as your on-site, one stop shop for all things Formula One.
Once you've experienced the US F1 Grand Prix in Austin, why not branch out to see other Grands Prix around the world? Shane and his team will be covering the new races being added to the 2014 calendar and with 14 years experience in Monaco, they can offer packages that most F1 enthusiasts only dream about.
You can reach US Star Events by calling +1 512 586 1335, emailing Info@USStarEvents.com or visiting their website at www.USStarEvents.com.