The quiet and industrious hum of the McLaren Technology Centre’s central boulevard is rarely punctuated by excessive noise or crowding – but both visited on Friday night, and transformed Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ UK base into a bustling assembly of enthusiastic fans from across the country.
More than 600 lucky Vodafone customers made the pilgrimage to Woking, on Friday evening, for an exclusive event at the MTC and the chance to get up close and personal with 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton. It was all part of Vodafone’s Free Friday text initiative, which encouraged customers to sign up for free F1 SMS updates on the race team’s activities.
With the doors open, and shuttles continuously dropping guests outside the main entrance, the boulevard quickly filled with people of all ages – parents with their children, businessmen on a group outing, teenagers wowed by the exotica on display.
With guests busy taking photographs of the collected heritage cars, posing for shots with Lewis’s world championship trophy or busily trying to best the times on the pitstop simulator, the scene was set for Lewis’s arrival.
The lights were dimmed on the boulevard, a shrill V8 engine note cut the evening’s stillness and Lewis suddenly appeared at the wheel of his championship winning MP4-23, sweeping around the lakeside driveway and blasting up to the main entrance with a surge of Mercedes-Benz horsepower.
Standing to greet the crowds, Lewis was met with a rapturous reception: “I couldn’t believe we’d won tickets,” said one onlooker. “To get this opportunity to visit a closed facility like this has been incredible, and getting to meet Lewis and get his autograph was just the icing on the cake. It’s a money-can’t-buy experience.”
Lewis happily signed autographs and took part in an open Q&A session with the crowd. He also pulled out raffle tickets (from his championship trophy!) for 22 lucky winners to receive a special reception with Lewis. One lucky couple also got a unique prize; racing through traffic after being misdirected by their SatNav, they arrived at MTC only to discover they had missed Lewis, who heard about their plight and took time out from his schedule to meet them personally – one of those extremely rare occasions when being caught in traffic actually pays dividends!
After the event, Lewis said: “I always love to meet people, talk to them and sign autographs – and this was an amazing occasion that really brought MTC to life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people here, since the homecoming, it was an incredible atmosphere and I think everyone really cherished the opportunity to see a place that they’ve probably only read about.
“Vodafone did an incredible job to get so many people in one place and we had a fantastic evening – I hope they all feel an even closer part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team now!”