Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Selling Is Believing; ES WHEELS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Selling Is Believing; ES WHEELS

Article excerpt


Whether it's models of Formula One legend Ayrton Senna's cars or Ferrari racing suits for children, marketing motorsport away from the racetrack is big business, says Emma Rigby

SARA Linney was in charge of publicity for the National Lottery, but then she took a gamble of a different kind and gave up her high-profile job to start her own business.

Linney and her boyfriend, Christopher Paul, now run Grand Prix Legends, which sells motorsport merchandise, including everything from race-style overalls to loo seats.

"You could say I was an armchair motorsport enthusiast," says Linney.

"Now it's my job. Motorsport is my life.

I can't get enough." Which explains the black-and-white checkered flag suit she wears for meetings.

"Our friends laugh at us because we spend ten hours every day, six or seven days a week talking about motorsport at work. Then we come home and carry on talking about it."

But when you are steering an enterprise which last year hit a turnover of [pound]4 million, there is plenty to discuss.

It's Linney's job to ensure that some 2,500 mail-order items are stocked at their warehouse, ready to dispatch to memorabilia-mad fans.

Motorsport has become a massive leisure industry, with spin-off services such as race-related holidays. Linney and Paul have tapped into this market and now employ nine telephonists to take orders for everything from Schumacher socks to diecast models.

"Our strength is having small numbers of lots of different things," said Linney. "People browse through our catalogue until they see something they like."

So who could resist a toilet seat with pictures of racing cars, child-sized racing overalls, or a paperweight gearknob. And, if you idolise your motor, they will even draw a caricature of it, if you send in a photo. All this, claims Linney, has made them "the world's biggest mail order company in the field". Not bad going considering the business was started as a sideline.

Seven years ago, Paul, who then owned an advertising company, agreed to shift official models of Ayrton Senna's F1 racing cars as a favour to a client. …

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