Darcey Lingley: The Rome E-Prix “was one of the most challenging first events I have experienced, and the final product was fantastic”

With the popularity of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship continuing to rise, the demand from fans, investors and celebrities alike to experience the sport up-close also increases. Working as the championship’s Senior Hospitality Manager, Darcey Lingley is responsible for Formula E’s most exclusive VIP hospitality, the EMOTION Club. I spoke to her about working at Silverstone, the high-pressure world of hospitality and seeing her plans come to life.

Having been involved in many sports teams during her childhood, Darcey’s interest in motorsport didn’t begin until she was older and working at Silverstone. “My interest developed after I started working there as a waitress for the F1 Grand Prix in 2011. Though, my Dad has always had a keen interest in motorcycles and regularly attended the Isle of Mann TT,” she said. Waitressing at Silverstone was her first role in the industry and this came through working at her local pub when she was 16. “The HR Manager for Silverstone Hospitality was a regular for steak night, every Wednesday. He commented on my interpersonal skills and offered me to join the team on zero-hour basis starting from the British Grand Prix weekend in 2011 in one of the private suite holder hospitalities,” Lingley told me.

After beginning to work around the sport, when it came to continuing her education, Darcey put her plans on hold to see where motorsport could take her. “I had a place at university in Sheffield to study International Business and Hospitality Management yet deferred my place because I was loving my work so much and thought I would come back to it later. I was hooked on the motorsport environment with hospitality a great way in. Now I am doing exactly the job I almost went to university for four years to train to do,” she described. Following the 2011 British Grand Prix, she continued to work at the circuit around her studies. “I then branched out and worked for two agencies at varying other sporting venues across the UK for more experience and started progressing to a supervisor/manager level. I was offered a full-time contract at Silverstone as the new ‘Wing’ was operational. At the point of my connection with Formula E, I had been working at Silverstone for three years and was ready for a new challenge. A colleague of mine who had left to work for a supplier of Formula E in the first season was asked about an opportunity after the first race in Beijing as a Catering Coordinator so suggested me for the role and sent my CV to Formula E for consideration,” Darcey explained.

Since her initial role with the championship four years ago, Lingley has progressed to become Formula E’s Senior Hospitality Manager. “I am responsible for the delivery of the EMOTION Club product which is our most VIP hospitality experience offered at the E-Prix. I also lead a team who deliver the catering products across the series and race suites, the privately branded suites offered to championship teams and partners,” she told me. With her being very hands-on in her role, it involves her being trackside at all E-Prix to ensure the VIP experience is to the highest standard, and therefore involves a lot of travel. This season will see her travel to Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and the USA among other European and South American countries. “I travel extensively. I play a very operational role when I am trackside, living in a pink hi-vis vest is my life! From the point of contact for the contractors linked with the set up and delivery of the hospitality areas to actively managing the full guest experience for the EMOTION Club guests. On race day this can include entertainment management, access, managing staff and ensuring the celebration champagne arrives ready for the podium (the bottles are heavier than they look!) When in the office I spend a lot of time in planning meetings and administration with the team for pre and post event management. I also spend a considerable amount of time travelling for site visits to the venues before the races and client/ supplier meetings,” she said.

With Formula E heading into it’s fifth season, it’s still a relatively new championship, and this brings with it some slight difficulties. “The very nature of a young championship gives some bumps in the road as we are constantly delivering events that – in some cases – have never been done before in these specific venues. With that, it also gives you the ability to make your mark and put your stamp on the work you are doing. Being recognised comes with the closeness to your colleagues that a new company offers,” Darcey described. With Lingley’s role being so busy, time management is one of her greatest challenges, along with working internationally, something she had not had to do before. “Time management is the hardest thing when you are juggling multiple races, further events within those races and working in different time zones. There comes a balance of always working ahead on the events to come whilst maintaining a solid delivery of the one taking place. Working globally is a whole new kettle of fish than organising events just in the UK. It’s a challenge but it gives an incredible experience to work with teams from all over the world. Language barriers, different approaches and local culture is hugely important to understand and respect, especially in hospitality,” she explained.

Despite her role being difficult on occasions, the experiences that working in Formula E and motorsport in general have provided her, are unforgettable. “Before my whirlwind adventure with Formula E began, my biggest achievement at Silverstone was managing all suite holders for the British Grand Prix in 2014, this was exactly the location I began my career in motorsport only three years earlier and on my last Grand Prix was a huge moment showing my progression,” Darcey said. Since she has been working in Formula E, much like with working at Silverstone, it’s how she has managed high-pressure situations that are the proudest moments of Lingley’s career. “I would say predominantly my best moment had to include delivering hospitality during the second season. I was in a huge moment of progression personally and had just moved from my catering role to join the wider hospitality management. I was filling in for my line manager during her maternity leave which was a hard task and proved to be an incredible learning curve for me. The podium ceremony for the season finale in London was very emotional and I was fortunate to have my family there to celebrate my success. Secondly, my promotion to Senior Manager between season three and four was a huge appreciation for the work I had done. Finally, the Rome E-Prix last season was a huge success and one of the largest for the hospitality team with numerous venues, clients and thousands of covers spanning the entire site. This was one of the most challenging first events I have experienced, and the final product was fantastic, our team truly shone,” she described.

Darcey Lingley has worked her way up with Formula E from a Catering Co-ordinator to her role now as a Senior Hospitality Manager. Having taken the risk not to go to university after being offered a place, she is now doing the job that she was originally going to study for. Speaking of the advice she would give to others hoping to work in the industry, she said: “keep an open mind and stay to what you know. There are huge varying roles within motorsport and like mine, some that are transferrable from others. Learn as much as you can and spend time with the veteran team members, learning the history of motorsport and the individual achievements and roles from the team around you. Lastly, I would also say to gain relative knowledge, volunteer, take internships and show interest in the world you want to join!”