September 24, 2008 / 8:54 AM / 10 years ago

Champagne parties to slake Singapore's need for speed

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - With champagne parties and caviar, restaurants along the world’s first night Formula One race circuit in Singapore are luring luxury-seeking speed lovers, and hoping the financial crisis won’t put the brakes on it all.

Tickets of the hotly anticipated Singapore leg of the Grand Prix have sold out, so last-minute ticket hunters are turning to unconventional locations to view the race or seeking out bankers worried by the financial crisis selling discounted tickets.

Although the practice runs and the final race are from Sept 26 to 28, several nightclubs and banks are also planning social events around the week to lure the region’s rich.

Among the eateries seeking to cash in on the race fever is French restaurant Le Saint Julien, located at a bend in the circuit, and which is offering grandstand-style seats and a three-day dinner package for $4,888 Singapore dollars ($3,462).

Another watering hole above the circuit, Axis Bar & Lounge, is offering 500 Singapore dollar packages for a view of the race and extravagant snacks.

“We have free flow of champagne, fresh oysters and canapes during the Pit-Stop Parties for guests,” said Ruth Soh, spokeswoman for Mandarin Oriental hotel where the bar is located.

The F1 race in Singapore is a five km (3 mile) circuit, lit by powerful lamps, that snakes around the central business district and passes several historical monuments.

Millionaireasia magazine will be holding a private aviation show in Singapore coinciding with the F1 weekend for around 300 millionaires, said Brian Yam, the magazine’s editor.

“There will be one helicopter and the rest are private jets — yes we hope to sell them,” Yam said.

Singapore’s most famous nightclub Zouk is holding a three-day party at an open field near the circuit, for revelers — with F1 tickets — to dance to racy beats.

The world’s tallest ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer, is also planning a champagne party for almost 700 Singapore dollars a head which includes the chance to mingle with celebrities and get a bird’s eye view.

Despite a dismal financial climate, banks are determined not to be outdone. UBS and Societe General Private Banking are holding hospitality events for VIP clients before and during the race, while others are flying in clients and offering cruises.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which sponsors the Williams F1 team, will be hosting a party during the race weekend, attended by firm’s chief executive and a former racing champion.

Asked about tickets that Lehman Brothers has bought, given the collapse of the U.S. investment bank, Singapore F1 organizers declined to comment but said the race was sold out as of Tuesday.

Traders in Singapore said the meltdown on Wall Street had led to some three-day tickets being sold off at a discount of around 400 dollars, compared to the original price of 1,388 dollars

But the Singapore Flyer’s events organizer Max Stengel did not see market turmoil as making people miss the race.

“I don’t really expect that to happen. Maybe some will say after the race: I want to go home, I don’t want to party.”

Additional reporting by Luke Pachymuthu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Miral Fahmy

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