Bentley Manor raises the Grand Prix luxury stakes

Bentley Manor raises the Grand Prix luxury stakes

BENTLEY Motors brought the Birdcage to the Australian Grand Prix this year with a swanky show-stealing hospitality suite designed to impress from inside and out. In a best-of-the-British snub, the luxury automaker planted its sleek new black digs directly opposite its previous accomodations in the Skydeck Lounges above the F1 team garages. 

A Bentley spokesman says the company took a gamble in creating a more refined space for guests after they’d expressed their desire for something better than the Skydeck’s offering - effectively a partitioned room with a view above Pit Lane with an all-day grazing menu. 

‘Less than a 100m walk across real grass, its easy access was a relief to those who still insist on wearing Louboutins to events where flats may seem more sensible.’

The resulting Bentley Manor stepped things up by more than a notch, positioning guests at ground level beside the track between the exit from Pit Lane and in full view of Turn 1. As if the upgraded experience trackside wasn’t enough, guests were also among the first in Australia to see - and drive - the brand’s new Grand Tourer, the Continental GT. A helicopter ferried them between the Albert Park track and Sandown Raceway where they enjoyed a lap or two with professional drivers who then took the wheel to show them what the car was really capable of. Not a bad inclusion, frankly, with four-day access to the Bentley Manor costing $6000 a pop.

It really was an outstanding experience from the moment one caught sight of Bentley Manor’s modern structure after entering the Grand Prix confines from Gate One. Less than a 100-metre walk across real grass, its easy-access was a relief to those of us who still insist on wearing lofty Louboutins to events where flats may seem more sensible. Car nuts flocked to the Manor’s entrance to photograph the suite of Bentley vehicles parked there, including the flagship Mulsanne Speed, a Bentayga SUV and a Flying Spur.

‘Overall, the Bentley Manor really was quite fancy but it had to be - after all, the whole exercise was designed to sell cars.’

Stepping inside to air-conditioned splendour, guests checked in at a front desk which looked every bit as Bentley as you’d expect it to be. They could then choose to turn right, into the suite, or left into a purpose-built, pitch-black room for a cutting-edge virtual reality experience on a hologram table. Bentley had worked with gaming company Euclideon to bring in the 3D technology which enabled multiple users to custom build a holographic Continental GT, swapping through colours, wheels and interiors before watching it drive away on a raised road through a futuristic landscape. It was impressive, but the best thing about Euclideon’s unlimited-detail, immersive technology was that it’s world-leading and designed in Queensland.

Back in the Manor, a clever interior designer had clearly been at work as lounge and cocktail furniture was elegantly blended with Bentley objects, merchandise  and creative floral arrangements. A backgammon board also provided a welcome distraction for some. Outside, guests could watch the action from a covered deck or step down to a garden bar at street level where a silver, bejewelled new Continental GT was parked awaiting their admiration. Even the bathrooms looked bespoke. Large TV screens, indoors and out, enabled guests to choose their view and ambience while pleasant staff from premium catering brand Atlantic Group delivered rounds of food befitting the time of the day through to the Manor’s 7.30pm close each day.

Australian Grand Prix organisers no doubt watched closely to see how Bentley fared through the weekend given its efforts to make the event more high-end and hospitality focused. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati were other luxury automotive brands in the premium mix this year, which also included Rolex and Dior.

Overall, the Bentley Manor really was quite fancy but it had to be. After all, the whole exercise was designed to sell cars and, by all accounts, the gamble paid off. Bentley’s spokesman says about a dozen guests had put down money to pre-order the new Continental GT by the end of the weekend. And at more than $500,000 before on-roads and desirable options, the Manor has probably more than paid for itself and will - hopefully - justify a return next year to keep the Grand Prix standards high.