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Formula One digs deep for GOSH fundraiser 18 Jun 2009

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity F1 Party, V&A Museum, London, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 Speakers address the audience.
Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity F1 Party, V&A Museum, London, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 Tamara Ecclestone (GBR).
Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity F1 Party, V&A Museum, London, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 Atmosphere.
Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity F1 Party, V&A Museum, London, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

It was a fabulous night. With the location at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum breathtaking, the charity auction lots priceless, the performers world class and the guests more than willing to put their hands in their pockets for a good cause, Wednesday night’s Formula One Party in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity was a complete success.

Now in its fifth year, the event celebrates the official launch of this weekend’s British Grand Prix and raises vital funds for the London hospital's new heart and lung centre. Together with support from Abbey and Santander, Formula One racing has proved yet again that it is as generous off-track as it is competitive on track. And as he welcomed his guests into the museum’s fabulous entrance hall ahead of the evening’s festivities, CEO of the Formula One Group Bernie Ecclestone spelt out the event’s objective, saying: “I am delighted that so far we’ve helped to raise well over £1 million towards this new centre, but, with your help, we can do more.”

To illustrate just what that help can mean, Matthew Swatton, a six year-old patient who was born with a life-threatening congenital heart disease, was in attendance with his father Duncan. Choking back tears Duncan Swatton said: “Without the tireless care of GOSH, Matthew probably would not be here with us tonight.”

It was no wonder that after being confronted with such an emotional story, bidding for the ‘once in a lifetime’ lots during the charity auction was fast and furious. The first item up for grabs was a high-speed lap of Silverstone in the Santander Abbey two-seater driven by ‘The Stig’ from BBC television’s Top Gear, before the British race.

The second lot, the chance for a ‘Ferrari experience’ at the Italian team’s Maranello factory in September, was snapped up equally quickly, whilst one of the most popular items was a week’s work experience at Brawn GP. Although Red Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner almost sealed the deal to get an exclusive glimpse of his biggest rival’s factory, another guest eventually beat him to it.

A dream dinner date with Hollywood star Orlando Bloom was also up for grabs, whilst a Lewis Hamilton helmet with a Steinmetz diamond encrusted number one was bought by Ecclestone for his collection of Formula One memorabilia. The most important item of the night, however, was a vital signs monitor for GOSH and there were so many bids that in the end enough funds for three units were raised.

To round off the auction, Ecclestone offered a final surprise lot - the chance to buy a lap of Silverstone for young Swatton to enjoy before this weekend’s race. After some frantic bidding, the Formula One Group CEO battled down the other contenders to be the one to put a smile on the little boy’s face.

In terms of guests, the party proved to be as big a draw as ever with celebrities from entertainment, sport and show business packing into the museum. Formula One racing was represented by reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, Renault’s Nelson Piquet, team principals Ross Brawn and Christian Horner and CVC‘s Nick Clary. Also in attendance was model Erin O’Connor, singer Jamelia, actor Damian Lewis, TV star Tina Hobley, the party’s creative director Tamara Ecclestone and her sister Petra, and Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. And then there was the star act of the evening - Grammy award-winning singer Duffy. When she started to perform her number-one single Mercy there was no holding back for the audience, who forgot their cerebral location and turned the Victoria and Albert Museum into a wild concert venue.

Better still, what Ecclestone had wished for at the beginning of the night had become reality, with the funds raised for the hospital taking a big step closer to £2 million.