When I ask Mark Curtis what car he drives during the rallies he organises in the most picturesque of locations, he laughs. “Everyone asks me that,” he says, “and I drive a Mini when I’m working.”
The man behind event management company Jam Events has driven many a sports car, and his favourite is the Ferrari 458 Italia Spider. “When you drive it, you feel superhuman,” he says.
For the past five years, Curtis, 36, who set up Jam Events seven years ago, has organised two-day car rallies in Europe for charity. The most recent one, for Chana – a charity that supports Jewish couples who are facing infertility – in Monte Carlo raised £400,000, a record amount.
Now, Jam Events is rolling out the concept outside of the charity sector, for companies that want to offer bonding experiences, for example, or as a thank you to existing and potential clients and suppliers.
Itineraries include the Cote d’Azur region, driving through Monte Carlo round the Grand Prix track and the port, as well as Cannes and Nice, Florence and the Tuscan countryside, the Mille Miglia route, Evian in Geneva and the Mont Blanc area, which borders France and Italy.
Curtis, who has a diploma in international event management from King’s College, can accommodate between 40 to 80 people in attendance for a client on one of these rallies. “We will source the hotel in a suitable location, the luxury sports cars – including McLarens, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis – and we will give them the two best days of their lives,” he says. “It’s a real adrenalin rush.”
Packages can be tailor-made to suit the client’s needs and requirements. At the last rally, guests arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon on a Monday (each participant is “treated like a king,” says Curtis) and, after a private check in, they relaxed in their rooms or had a light snack in the exclusive 24-hour hospitality suite.
Most recently, participants stayed at the Fairmont Hotel, one of the most exclusive hotels in Monte Carlo, before testing out the cars they had chosen beforehand and then enjoying a lavish buffet supper in the hotel.
The following morning, following a short briefing, they received rally paraphernalia, including branded caps and T-shirts. After a group photo and individual snaps, the real fun began.
Driving in tandem or in convey, they got to see some truly stunning views, of mountains, valleys and lakes. After lunch, they returned around 4pm for some free time and then attended the gala dinner; optional themes have included a Grand Prix, James Bond and magic. “This year we did something a bit out of the ordinary,” recalls Curtis.
“Being based in Monte Carlo was an opportunity to do something different so we went to Cap d’Ail, which is located next to the palace. At the end of the pier, there is an exclusive venue overlooking the harbour, home to an antique car collection, and the views were stunning. We invited Eddie Jordan [former Formula 1 team owner and entrepreneur] and he met everyone and signed autobiographies for our sponsors.”
On the second day, the participants went out in their cars for a shorter drive, returning just after lunchtime. “Being a stone’s throw away from the famous Grand Prix circuit enabled us to organise a Pole Position photo and video opportunity for all the guests and to create a special memento for them capturing the moment,” recalls Curtis.
“At the Fairmont Hotel’s rooftop restaurant, we did a farewell BBQ,” he adds, which is when everyone (probably reluctantly) handed over their cars, said goodbye, checked out and went back to their normal lives, ready for work the next day. “The reason why it works well with charities is that people are bored of dinners and want something different,” explains Curtis.
Charities will normally invite their high net donors as a way of thanking them for the donations, charging them a registration fee to cover their costs.
Participants have included young entrepreneurs, retired people, investment bankers, commodity brokers, hedge fund managers, sports agents and PR agency people, as well as artists, wholesalers, jewellers and partners in law firms. Curtis used to run an IT support company but is not phased by organising such high profile events.
While in his former role, he was organising events within the community, thus enabling him to seamlessly transition into doing it as a business and organising multiple events, both large and small, including a Challah make for 3,300 people, communal get-togethers for 1,000, gala dinners of up to 1,200, and full-day learnathons for 800 people.
Jam Events has been instructed to project manage the entire Shabbat UK programme this October. I ask Curtis why people should come to his company to organise their car rallies rather than any other. He replies: “Other companies don’t have what Jam Events is selling – we do the whole package. We organise the event – we have the know-how to organise the routes, liaise with the hotel and all the relevant parties involved. We offer a full concierge service and look after people individually.
“Another difference is that we offer two-day rallies, which is perfect for the business people who can’t take a week off. We also source all the sports cars. In the invitation, we include options with regards to the package, including various upgrades that are available in the hotel or regarding what car they wish to drive.”
Reading his company’s testimonials, Curtis certainly seems to have a knack for the small details as well as the big picture. “I couldn’t afford to mess up with even one serviette being folded the wrong way,” he says about the first rally he organised. “The people on this trip wanted to come and not think about anything other than being wined and dined. When they step into the hotel, we don’t want them to think about where to put their second foot. Every guest is a VIP.”
• Details: www.jam-events.com