Autocar: A Porsche for a Fiver
SEE FULL PDF of article
Back in 1965, my dad got six score draws out of six on the football pools. A jackpot of £65,000. Enough money to buy the family home 10 times over or, more to the point, around 30 E-type Jaguars. There was only one snag: we were on holiday in southern Ireland and that’s where the old man posted his winning coupon. Not being one for small print, Goodwin Snr didn’t realise that posting it from abroad would invalidate his entry. D’oh. It never put him off; dad would enter every competition going, convinced that one day he would win. It put me off, that’s for sure.
Well, almost. In the 1970s and early ’80s Motorcycle News used to run a ‘spot the ball’ competition, with a new bike as the prize for the winner. The motorcycle was never something ordinary, like a Honda CB250, but always an unattainable machine, like a Ducati. Not one of those crosses drawn by my trembling hand ever got near the centre of the ball. I used to wonder if anyone actually won, and whether the cheesy photo outside a dealership for the ‘handing over of the keys’ ceremony was faked.
I used to think the same when I walked past a Ferrari or Aston Martin being raffled on a plinth on my way through Heathrow’s T4 departure lounge. The tickets were about £65 and I never heard of anyone winning, although there was often a photo of some lucky person being handed a key. You must have thought the same any time you’ve been through Gatwick, Stansted or any of the other airports where Best of the Best raffles sexy cars. BotB was started in 2000 by young petrolhead and entrepreneur William Hindmarch. “In 2000 I bought a Porsche 911 Turbo and put it in the lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 4,” explains Hindmarch. “It was raining on the day it arrived and I had to buy about 50 bottles of Evian to wash it.”
Now, 13 years later, BotB is a very different set- up. About half the tickets are bought online and the other half at airports or at either of London’s two Westfield shopping centres. The deal is that you go online, find a car that you’d like to win, and then buy a ticket. For example, a ticket to win a Porsche Cayman S costs five quid. Because of gambling laws, however, skill has to be involved, so, like in the old MCN competition, you have to put a cross where you think the ball might be in a game of footie. Each cross is £5, so spend £20 and you get four crosses. The more exotic the sports car is, the higher the cost of a cross. Simple.
In the name of research I did exactly this and bought four tickets to win a Cayman S. Sadly, a professional FA referee, whose job it was to judge where the ball was, disagreed with my choice. Clayton Shaw was luckier. Last October he got his cross in exactly the right place and bagged himself a new Porsche 991 911. I’m looking at it now. Black, and a Carrera S to boot.
We’re at Bruntingthorpe proving ground, Leicestershire, where BotB is celebrating its 200th prize draw. It’s getting some of its past winners and a select bunch of regular players to blast up the runway in a Lamborghini Aventador, with the aim to crack 200mph. As marketing stunts go, this is on the epic level. The Aventador, by the way, will be joining the next competition as a potential prize.
A go in a Lamborghini under V12 power is never to be missed but instead I’m rather fascinated by Clayton Shaw’s winning tale.
“I’d bought about £600 worth of tickets before I won the Porsche,” he explains, “and I still play the game because I fancy winning a 4x4.”
Also present is Alun Rowe, who in 2011 bagged a Cayman S, the lucky devil. Thanks in part to atrocious service from his local Porsche dealer it’s now gone, but the money went on a bargain-price Lotus Evora. So a direct hit with a cross two years ago set him on the path of sports car ownership.
BotB boss Hindmarch is an interesting chap. Clearly he loves cars, but he also gets a real buzz from calling up the winners and giving them the good news. “Some can’t believe it and think it’s a prank call,” explains Hindmarch. “We give the winners the option of cash but the majority take the car, even if they only hold onto it for a few months. The car itself is always without options and the winner can add whatever he likes to the car at his or her expense. One of our players has just won a new Jaguar F-type and will no doubt be adding a few extras.”
It’s dangerous stuff, this. I only went on the BotB website to check a few facts, but by accident discovered that you can win a Radical. Eight quid, a carefully placed mark, and fingers crossed.