Hospitality Matters | Finding Out About a Different Side of Rally Organisation, with Eleonora Piccolo
“If nobody speaks to me then it’s been a good rally” declares HERO-ERA’s hospitality chief Eleonora Piccolo. A strange sentence for someone charged with competitor liaison and ensuring that everybody’s activities away from the road books maintain the same standard as the competition. But, with the addition of some context it makes perfect sense, as Ele continues, “If nobody has spoken to me then it means that everything on my side of things has run smoothly, and none of the competitors have course to complain.” But what exactly is ‘her side of things’ and, indeed, who is Eleonora Piccolo?
Many of you will be familiar with Ele of course, certainly the ERA competitors, she is the friendly face that hands over your hotel room keys at the end of a long day of competition, but there’s a bit more to it than that. As head of hospitality she takes care of almost everything that isn’t concerned with the competitive elements of a rally. Ever wondered who finds hotels large enough to house up to a hundred people, in the middle of nowhere somewhere in South America? That would be Ele and her team. But how did an economics graduate end up in the midst of the sometimes-chaotic world of endurance rallying? Surprisingly, the story begins a little more recently than you would think.
“It all started when Philip (Young) passed away really, my husband knew him well as he was a childhood friend of his daughters. I think he gained his respect when he rolled a car in Philips yard, aged 12! Philip was more interested in finding a camera, than seeing if he was ok. After Philips sad death his widow, Jane, needed help running the business and knowing of my background in hospitality and customer service asked if I wanted to get involved. It all looked too exciting to say no!”
That was January 2016, when the ERA was still reeling from the loss of Philip. “Everything concerned with the day to day of the company was largely in Philips head” says Ele, “There were seemingly no processes or procedures in place, it was an exciting time learning as I went, but stressful as well.” The stress levels would only have been compounded by the fact that 2016 was a Peking to Paris year, the company’s flagship event and one of the hardest to coordinate with so many people, countries and borders involved. The first event that Ele could really begin to make a mark on though was that years Rally of the Inca’s, and it was also the first international rally she had the opportunity to be on. “I had to fight to make my voice heard early on” she tells me, “but that Incas rally was great, it all ran smoothly and I could see some of the working practices I had introduced beginning to bear fruit.”
Things have changed fast since those early days, particularly since the merger with HERO, and from the skeleton crew that used to run the events there are now a lot more people involved. Ele still relishes the challenge though, and enjoys working within a bit more of a structured approach. “You still have to be prepared for last minute changes though” she says, “flexibility of mind is key for this job. I have to keep very tight with the route planners, as our jobs have a direct effect on each other. They understandably want to take us off all over the place, but we have to ensure that each night finishes somewhere that I can find accommodation for everyone, and excellent accommodation at that!”