Girls like motorsport too, you know?

Girls like motorsport too, you know.

I, for one, am growing tired of the petty little comments about being a female and liking racing.

It does not make me special, it does not make me any different to any other fan of speed.

Whilst we still may be the minority gender when it comes to motorsport, it does not require endless sexist comments and inappropriate remarks.

I’m not trying to play the victim here, I am just trying to be real.

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The horror when I opened this, from an official Formula 1 team’s Snapchat.

 

The raw speed, the aggression, the split second decisions – racing is my life. But hold up, I am a girl. I can’t like racing. I shouldn’t like racing. Racing is for men.

Why are we being shamed for our passion?

If I want to wear race gear, I will wear race gear. Like any other fan, I support teams, I like to wear and own merchandise. It is not attention seeking, it is simply expressing that I like racing. I will don on a Red Bull polo for me, and me only, to show my support. So I shall wear my merchandise proud, without replying to the comments. I don’t want to be told to take my bra off and I certainly will not go to bed with you.

It is not attention seeking, it is simply expressing that I like racing. I will don on a Red Bull polo for me, and me only, to show my support. So I shall wear my merchandise proud, without replying to the comments. I don’t want to be told to take my bra off and I certainly will not go to bed with you.

The derogatory comments are another thing. Through different publications, I’ve been named, by professional and respected journalists, everything from ‘that bitch’ to ‘hoe’ and ‘slag’. It’s not nice, not pleasant, and it is happening time and time again to females in the racing community and not just from those employed in the sport. It is an endless tiresome cycle which seems to be getting worse.

I really do struggle to apprehend the fascination and the surprise people have with ladies liking racing. It’s no different to men liking cooking. That is accepted, so why can’t this be?

It’s the 21st Century. Girls like cars. Deal with it.

Helena 🙂 xx

 

Suzi Perry: “Just be yourself”

“I tell you, I was talking about this the other day to somebody who works in television,” Suzi Perry, a motorsport broadcaster, begins. “We were discussing how different television presenting jobs are. They are literally night and day between shiny floor entertainment and autocue sport presenting.

“She works for Sky and she was saying people that work in entertainment were coming to look at how sports presenters work because it is completely different.”

Broadcasting is notoriously tough. But when you mix in live sport, where just about anything can happen, the bar gets raised even higher. You have to think and act on your feet, as well as making what you are saying appear extremely effortless. It is a juggling act and one you must perfect in order to make easy viewing.

Suzi Perry, who has worked in the profession for over 21-years, insists that you “just have to be yourself” which, of course, comes from knowing all of your facts. Granted that is no easy task in the ever-changing world of motorsport.

“I think the biggest challenge is always getting the story right,” Perry tells me. “I think in the media people are so fraught to get there first, but it is more important to get the facts straight.

“For me, the biggest challenge is getting the story right and then after that what you want to do is – in a sports area what you’re supposed to do is create entertainment – so you want to make it entertaining as well.

“In order to do that you need to be able to unlock information from whoever you’re talking to. It is finding the right way of getting the information you want in a fun and entertaining way.”

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Suzi Perry presented Formula 1 for the BBC.

 

Perry has had a long and successful career in presenting – most notable being the lead figure with BT Sport covering MotoGP and BBC1 presenting Formula 1.

“I wouldn’t say I get nervous but I get a rush of adrenaline and it’s physical. It is a shortness of breath and a slightly shaky hand sometimes.

“It is more about the anticipation of what is about to happen. I am still as excited today presenting as I was 21 years ago when I started.”

Perry acknowledges that she holds a role that many aspire to. Many young girls and boys strive to make a career out of sport presenting.

“When presenting MotoGP, really anything can happen. You cannot call anything. It is all very much about speculation and lots of ifs and buts,” she says.

“You know that you are just going to be treated to an incredible spectacle and you’re lucky enough to have a patch on your neck and you’re right there in the heart of the action. It is an extremely privileged position to be in.”

And the passion you feel is key. Perry believes so, in order to succeed in achieving your dream job. It is an intense and competitive world, but you have to love what you do.

“What you have to do is know your subject. And love your subject. If you do know and love what you are talking about, then you just have to be yourself and that’s it,” she tells me.

“I have given that advice to a few people. Natalie Quirk included, who is now presenting on BT Sport. I met her and she was 14. She came up to me and asked that question when I was in the pits doing Speedway for Sky back then.

“It is nice now how all these years later, those girls are going ‘oh yes, you! Now I am doing this, doing that and writing here.’ It is lovely to meet young girls that want to be involved in media and broadcasting.”

And I could not agree more…

Motoring version of Netflix launches in the UK

  • Motoring fans able to access more than 2,000 hours of premium automotive content, live and on demand
  • Racing highlights include European Le Mans series, Pirelli World Challenge, FIA Formula 3 European Championship and 24-hour Nurburgring
  • Coverage of special events including Goodwood  and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, complemented by original programming and live exclusives

Until now the news has been strictly embargoed but, finally, it can be revealed that the motoring of Netflix shall be launching in the UK and Europe as of today.

Motor Trend On Demand – as the platform is called – will house thousands of hours of motoring related content available to stream across all devices, the perfect package for any petrol head.

Millions of motorsport fans in the UK and Europe will now be able to choose and watch seemingly endless hours of live racing via their phones, tablets or desktop computers, including the 24-Hour Nurburgring, Blancpain GT series, FIA Formula 3, FIM Motorcycle Racing, Virgin Australia Supercars and the Pirelli World Challenge.

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Motor Trend On Demand

 

Motor Trend was launched in the US last year and has continued to expand unprecedentedly. As a result, it is making the jump across the ocean to the UK and beyond.

Speaking to Suzi Perry, she told me: “The motoring version of Netflix has worked really well in America. As a broadcaster, I can see that we are at a huge crossroads in terms of the way we digest content.

“You were talking about younger viewers watching motorsport and generally, they don’t switch on the TV. That has got to be catered for. Something like this streaming service is invaluable.

“I think it will be really popular in the UK and the rest of Europe as a go-to place to watch motorsport. There are thousands and thousands of hours of content and what better for a petrol head than to just be able to go to one place to see DTM whether that is live or highlights. They generate their own content as well – this is going to go really well.”

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Suzi sees herself as a petrol head, claiming Motor Trends On Demand to be ‘great’

 

The service will be available for a small fee, much like Netflix and other on-demand streaming services. Currently, it is difficult to watch motorsport all in one place. Motor Trend On Demand aims to change this going forward.

“It is really important because at the moment motorsport is all over the place in the UK and Europe,” Perry explains. “It’s on different channels and you’re paying different companies to watch. If you like watching different motorsport, then you have got to pay BT, you have got to pay Sky – at some point, it needs to be put and wrapped together in some way. In terms of streaming motorsport content, this is brilliant. This is great. I mean, why not?

“Netflix has been so hugely successful and now it is just the go-to place to watch movies, original content and that kind of thing. This will be exactly the same to people who like two wheels and four-wheel action. I can only see the market growing – this is a welcome platform for us in the UK and it couldn’t have come sooner.”

15 minutes with Suzi Perry

Suzi Perry is the face of MotoGP as far as broadcasting is concerned, and has been involved in motorsport for over 20 years. If anyone knows MotoGP and Formula 1, it is this friendly face.

Taking time out of her extremely busy schedule, Perry spoke to me about the future of motorsport and how it needs to adapt in order to continue being a success.

“In MotoGP, anything can happen,” she tells me. “You cannot call anything. It is all very much about speculation and lots of ifs and buts. You know that you are just going to be treated to an incredible spectacle and you’re lucky enough to have a patch on your neck and you’re right there in the heart of the action. It is an extremely privileged position to be in.”

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Perry presented MotoGP for a staggering 13 years at the BBC, as well as more recently leading the F1 team along with co-presenters David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan. Perry has seen the immense changes that have taken place in each sport, concluding that Formula 1 desperately needs closer racing.

“They’re two very different sports in my eyes, but I don’t think they always have been,” she comments. “MotoGP reacts carefully whereas Formula 1 has a habit of acting instantly and coming up with sticking plasters rather than actual solutions for the problems.

“I think fans are finally starting to see through that and have become slightly disillusioned with the lack of entertainment on track. There’s always such interesting things to talk about with Formula 1 but, unless you are seeing anything riveting on track, ultimately viewers do get a little bit fed up.

“They want to see entertainment. They want to see closer racing and MotoGP has that right now. It has closer racing, it has more than one front-running manufacturer at the sharp end. You get to see lots of battles on track, it is completely entertaining throughout the whole race. Formula 1 is different. Naturally, it’s different, it’s big cars in the formula it takes. You are never going to see that amount of overtakes in Formula 1 – it would be stupid to try and compare the two in that respect. I think ‘God, these are two great motorsports, why don’t you just watch them both?'”

MotoGP saw nine different winners last season as opposed to Formula 1’s 4. With a figure that is more than double, MotoGP gives fans what they want – racing. With this, Perry was keen to share her visions for Formula 1’s future to ensure that it continues being the pinnacle of motorsport.

“How Formula 1 now acts long term is important,” she explains. “I think they will get there because you’ve got people at the top there now that recognise what needs to happen. I am just aware that there are a lot of rules and contracts in place for the next three years – I don’t think we’ll see huge changes over the next few seasons, but we’ll see small changes.

“I reckon they’ll address the DRS issue, and you’ll probably lose the shark fins and things like that. The media is already opening up to more sharing-nature which really is how it needs to be, with the way people digest their content. It is interesting at the moment for Formula 1, it is at a huge crossroads and it has to decide what it is going to do.

“Is its priority being an entertaining sport? If it is, then we have to see closer racing. If it is to align itself with road cars, which I personally don’t think it should do, then they are still going to encounter all sorts of problems.

“Whilst they need to keep an eye on that, they do need to look at the entertainment value. And they will. Ross Brawn – he’s all over it. As soon as he can make the changes he needs to, it will happen.”

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Perry was also enthusiastic to reflect on the past of Formula 1 and how that differs to now, emphasising that the entertainment factor needs to be brought back.

“Motorsport needs to be entertaining,” she asserts. “I know I have used that word several times, but that is it in a nutshell. Once you lose the entertainment people start to talk about the lack of noise, the lack of ambience, the lack of atmosphere, which are things that you just expect from motorsport. In the past, they have just been a given. You never discussed it, that was just how it was. You went there and you could feel the vibration of the engine in your heart and your head when you were watching racing.

“With all that under where it should be, people start to look at other things Anyone that is doing a motorsport should primarily look at the entertainment factor otherwise you won’t get people watching it. Of course, there are going to be people out there that are going to completely batter my argument down but I think the purists are a much smaller market than the big entertainment market which is required for sponsors.”

But with that, comes the question of money and its distribution.

“Ultimately, this sport has to be paid for. Whichever way they choose to distribute their money, that has to be done fairly and it has to be done in the right way,” Perry says. “That is another difference between MotoGP and Formula 1. The money distribution is different. In MotoGP they will give money to the smaller teams to closely align them with the factory teams so you do get the Cal Crutchlow winning races.

“You rarely see that in Formula 1! Giving all of the money to the top teams, it just doesn’t make any sense. It absolutely widens the gap and I don’t see that changing at least for the next few years. As soon as the agreements come to an end, things will get broken down, stripped back and it’ll be like starting again.”

 

With the loss of the German Grand Prix from the F1 calendar and Silverstone’s future in doubts, the roots of the sports and the tracks it graces have been a hot topic for discussion.

“If you completely go away from the heritage of motorsport, it loses its soul,” Perry tells me. “For me, it loses its reason for being. That said, the world is smaller than it has ever been and if countries want to embrace motorsport that have never been thought of, then that should also be looked at.

“I know Thailand is probably going to come on the MotoGP calendar, that is a massive market for bikes. It makes sense to go and do a race in Thailand; the world superbikes have been going there for three years. It has worked for them.

“Yet, the whole thing is a business model that you need to rip apart. You have to have a balance between old tracks and the new tracks that are coming up. The new tracks need to be good, they can’t just be ones that are generated on computer software. If it doesn’t generate good racing, then how long are people going to want to go to that track for because they know that they won’t get any racing there.”

The second part (of three) of my interview with Suzi Perry will be published later in the week. Make sure you keep an eye out if you want to follow in her footsteps!

www.twitter.com/suziperry

 

Destination Guide: Melbourne

Formula 1 returns this weekend, and ahead of the first race of the season, I spent some time finding out what to do if you are lucky enough to be attending the 2017 season opener.

Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state Victoria and is home to over 4 million people. Founded in 1835, the area is steeped in diverse culture, which is near impossible to experience anywhere else in the world.

Situated in the vibrant city, Albert Park has plenty to offer. At just 3 kilometres from the central business district, the green space has played host to the Australian Grand Prix since 1996. In that time, it has had some of the biggest names in motorsport grace its tarmac.

The suburb is a hit with tourists, with its many streets featuring shops, bars and restaurants – a must, especially if the sun is shining. Whilst out and about, take advantage of Bridport Street with its cafes and Victoria Avenue which is renowned for boutiques and delicatessens.

Eating Out

Melbourne is home to many restaurants, providing cuisines from just about any culture imaginable. A firm must is Chinatown – the food is very good value and freshly prepared. The atmosphere at night is incredible, too. Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar and Laksa King are among my favourites. The Railway Club Hotel Steakhouse is said to be one of the best places to eat if you’re looking for steak, but their grills are also highly commended. Situated on Raglan Street, you’ll be a little further away from the hustle and bustle, but within walking distance of the other bars along the Yarra River.

Like anywhere else in Australia, food and drink can burn a hole in your wallet. However, if you’re prepared to venture further out of the CBD, then meals become more reasonable and some even say more quirky. There are many urban eat-outs along side streets which are becoming more and more popular with both locals and tourists. Don’t be afraid to try somewhere new!

Nightlife: The city is famous for its vast array of nightlife and there’s no doubt that all the stops will be pulled out for the Grand Prix weekend.

If you’re looking for something a bit different, then head to Art Nouveau Curtin House. The Bar & Rooftop is a cinema on top of a skyscraper – they say champagne tastes better at altitude. Screening movies throughout the week,  ensure you book upon arrival in the city to avoid disappointment. Watching Indie classics with a beer in hand, there’s not much to not like.

There are half a dozen places to choose from on Swanston Street, (a tad to the north of the Central Melbourne Station) while a night out in the clubs and bars of King Street (over to the west of the CBD) bowls along at a blistering pace. Either way, bars and clubs in Melbourne are rated as some of the best on the planet. However, if you are truly looking for the best, then the districts of Collingwood and Fitzroy (to the northeast of the city) are the places to hit up. They are what earn Melbourne its unique partying label.

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Seeing the Sights: If you are lucky enough to have a few days to get over the jet-lag then there’s plenty of places to visit in and around Melbourne. From beaches to river cruises and amusement parks to botanical gardens, there is, quite literally, something for everyone.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are perfect to take a stroll around, even if there’s rain in the air (which there can often be, as Melbourne is famous for its four seasons in a day). Take a rug, a picnic and pick a good spot by the lake. It’s an idyllic space to take five away from the mayhem of the race track. The grounds are beautiful and there are many different pathways to explore. Within easy distance of the city centre, you’d be crazy not to get up that little bit earlier and have a walk around. They’re open from 7:30 a.m. daily and entry to the Melbourne Gardens is free.

If that’s a bit too tame for you, head to Eureka Skydeck to see if you have a head for heights. It’s known as the highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere. And if just the viewing floor is still not enough for you, then experience Edge, which allows you to tower over the rest of the city at over 300 metres up. Oh, and the cube is made of glass. Unsurprisingly, there’s not other experience in the world like it.

Lastly, if none of those are taking your fancy then head to St. Kilda. Home to theme parks, species of penguins, markets and much, much more, it’s no surprise that St. Kilda is Melbourne’s beachside playground. Luna Park is a family friend amusement park. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012, Luna Park mixes traditional rides with more modern day attractions. In fact, it boasts the title of having the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world and the only one of its kind with a standing brakeman in control aboard its moving carriages. Whatever your age, it is a great day out. Even if you don’t visit Luna Park itself, St. Kilda is an essential.

You can find more about things to do in Melbourne here: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g255100-Activities-Melbourne_Victoria.html

Transportation: Wherever you’re staying in Melbourne, I’m sure it comes without saying to allow plenty of time to get to the race track. Like any city, the roads can often become gridlocked. Not so fun, but the tram runs through the city is a great aid in keeping things moving.

Several tram routes service Albert Park. You’ll be pleased to know that they are inexpensive too. Oh, and on Friday and Saturday, the service runs all day and night and on Sunday until 11 p.m, giving tourists plenty of time to do a bit of sightseeing before vacating the race track.

Last year, Melbourne introduced a ‘free tram’ which permits travel from the iconic Queen Victoria Market, across to Victoria Harbour in Docklands, up to Spring Street and over to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. Most of Melbourne’s bus routes run well within social hours.

Of course, if you are staying in the city centre then there’s always the option to walk. The streets are clean and always well lit. It’s also good to take in the view on foot. Melbourne is unique, to say the least.

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Conclusion: I fully admit that Melbourne is one of my favourite cities in the world. There is something for everyone and truly unlike any other place I’ve visited. Be sure to pack for all weather occasions; even if it’s forecasted to be sunny then it’s not unfamiliar for rain clouds to appear out of nowhere.

The race track itself is one of the best on the calendar, providing a great weekend no matter what happens out on the circuit. Just be sure to take a look around the city too!

Tatiana Calderon: “It’s a dream come true”

Recently it was announced that Sauber had signed Tatiana Calderon as their development driver, bringing her one step closer to her goal of one day having a seat in Formula 1.

The 24-year-old Colombian will work alongside Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn, the only female team principal in F1.

“2017 is a big step forward in my career in terms of being a part of a Formula 1 team like Sauber,” Tatiana tells me. “It is a dream come true and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity they’re giving me. I am really pushing hard to make the most out of it.

“My goal has always been to race in Formula 1 and this is the first step. Now it’s in my hands to really take the chance with both hands.”

Formula 1 hasn’t seen a female driver on the starting grid since 1976, but Tatiana Calderon is hoping to end that wait. There’s also been a lack of Colombian drivers – Juan Pablo Montoya, a race winner for Williams and McLaren between 2001-06, is one of only two Colombians to have started a Formula 1 grand prix. Roberto Guerrero was the other in 1982-83.

“Where will it lead, I ask myself,” she says. “Well, I want a race seat. I know it is really hard to get one of those but I am really looking forward to learning as much as I can from Sauber. I want to show them that I deserve another chance. Although, I think at the moment I want to go step-by-step.

“My goal is to do really well in GP3 and then we shall see where that leads. After this year I would love to drive the C36. The offer is there, on the table. But it’s in my hands, I need to perform in GP3 and show the team what I am capable of in the simulator.

Sauber previously had Swiss-born racer Simona de Silvestro as an ‘affiliated driver’, aiming to one day bring her into Formula 1. The plans fell through and, instead, Silvestro raced in the all-electric Formula E series and is now competing in Australia.

“My role at Sauber involves attending races, debriefs and so on. I started doing this at the Barcelona test,” she explains. “I’ll also get to do a lot of sessions in the simulator, to learn how a Formula 1 car works. Things like knowing Sauber’s steering wheel will make a difference when I actually get to drive the car for real.”

Tatiana also explains to me how things have gone slightly crazy ever since the news broke to the world at the end of February.

“I was overwhelmed with the reactions on social media and with the positive responses that I had,” she begins. “Of course, there are people that are against us but there are those who encourage me. People have been positive, showing that yes I have done the work and I therefore deserve what I am getting. It has been amazing.

“I never expected something like this so it motivates me even more to keep working hard and make the most of this amazing opportunity. I’m just excited to start going.”

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Tatiana will be racing with Dams this season, alongside Santino Ferrucci and Bruno Baptista – both rising stars of motorsport. Ferrucci finished 12th in GP2 last season, while Baptista competed in Formula Renault.

Calderon’s season last year saw her finishing 21st in the GP3 standings, with a couple of point-scoring finishes under her belt.

“I have known Santino for a long time because we have raced each other in karting and shared some experiences in the USA as well when I was racing there. In Formula 3 in 2o14 and 2014 and in GP3 last year. I don’t know much about Bruno, but we all need to work together to bring the team and the car together and to be ready for the first race. I am looking forward to working with them

“I don’t know much about Bruno, but we all need to work together to bring the team and the car together and to be ready for the first race. I am looking forward to working with them.”

GP3 graduates include Mercedes’ new signing for 2017 Valtteri Bottas. Calderon is hoping to follow in the likes of him and Gutierrez to make it to the pinnacle of motorsport.

“My biggest challenge this season will be to combine GP3 and Formula 1. It won’t be easy – I’ll be travelling a lot and digesting a lot of information which I’ll have to remember. But, I love challenges and this is an important year for me.

“Barcelona is the race I’m most looking forward to; it’s the first one. I love Spa too – it is my favourite track!

“I want to be fully focusing on GP3 this season because I think good results in the series can lead to great things and open doors for me in the future. GP3 is where I’ll be racing, but in the back of my mind is a Formula 1 test…

“I can’t wait to show both teams what I can do.”

GP3 returns in May.

Tatiana Calderon: “I love my job!”

How to become a Motorsport PR and Journalist

Jess Shanahan is a well-known name when it comes to motorsport PR, journalism and promoting female involvement in the sport. A go-getter, the ‘Jetlbomb’ has grasped everything in her reach to earn a reputable name for herself.

Find out how she managed it below…

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“I started my own marketing agency in 2012 and soon my love of motorsport worked its way in there too,” Jess explains. “I started working with racing driver and television presenter  Rebecca Jackson on her PR and web content. Since then I’ve never looked back! I’ve worked closely with drivers in a range of series, as well as with automotive and lifestyle brands.”

From Team Boss to Racing Mentor…

“Last year I ran the Porsche team Turn Eight Racing, bringing in sponsorship, photographing race weekends and getting the team coverage in the local and national press,” she comments. “Over the past two years, I’ve been inundated with drivers coming to me asking for me to find them sponsorship.

“Juggling marketing clients and a small handful of drivers, as well as my own journalism career, was enough and I found that I couldn’t help everyone. That’s where The Racing Mentor was born. I thought, I might not be able to search for sponsorship for everyone but I can teach them how to do it themselves. The mentoring extends further than just racing drivers, I also help people to develop their careers, make more money and find their dream job

“Alongside running Racing Mentor, I am still running my marketing agency  Jet Social and am also a motoring, fashion and travel journalist.”

One busy, busy lady! But what are Jess’ highlights in her fun-filled career to date?

“Well, on-track tuition in a Clio RS with BTCC’s Adam Morgan as part of a Clio Cup launch event was brilliant,” she says. “Travelling to Frankfurt with Rebecca Racer and lead sponsor Turtle Wax,  roaring around Texas in a track-spec Corvette Stingray, being the face of the Route57 Road trip – all completely memorable.

“And, of course, watching Turn Eight Racing win numerous races during the 2016 Porsche Championship picking up feedback from every driver and individual that I have had the pleasure of helping. Those are my favourite moments.”

Unfortunately, with such a high-profile profession, there are some low points.

“There’s the long hours, a certain amount of uncertainty around income in those early days, and a very small amount of self-doubt,” Jess admits. “All that being said, however, I take everything in my stride and the key is never to regret and instead to keep pushing on.”

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That aside, Jess was eager to tell me her top tips about how to get a head start in this competitive industry.

Believing in yourself is important,” she begins. “If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you?

“Secondly, you have to keep going – perseverance and determination are the two most important tools. When something knocks you down, get back up. This is what sets the truly successful people apart.

“Finally, don’t be afraid to ask – it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to ask for an opportunity. Build a strong personal network and ask those for help or a recommendation when you need it. Just remember to pay it forward.”

Jess is a member of Dare To Be Different, a feminist and an advocate for inspiring women in motorsport. After years of experience, Jess has seen a lot – the good, the bad and the ugly.

“For a while, and I think many women do this, I just looked past the sexist comments and got on with my job. I took a lot of it as banter. Sexist, yes, but meant with good intentions or as a ‘joke’,” Jess tells me. “However, I soon realised that jokes are part of the problem and that simply laughing along or ignoring it only feeds institutional sexism. I now speak out, if something is sexist or inappropriate, I say so.

“Most men welcome women in this industry and while it might be very male-dominated, motorsport isn’t a scary place. You just need to find your place and defend it when anyone suggests you’d be better off fetching coffee. If you want to know how to deal with sexism in the workplace, I can’t recommend Feminist Fight Club enough.

“For the most part, being a woman in this industry is great. I’ve met some wonderful men and women since I started in motorsport and have made friends for life. I’ve also been challenged in a way I could never imagine and have been able to build a successful and exciting career. Not to mention the fact I get to spend my weekends with race cars!”

And, who would say no to that?

www.youtube.com/user/jettica

Danny Watts: “I’m gay and proud”

“It’s hard being open and honest about being homosexual,” Danny Watts, a recently retired professional racing driver, tells me. “When you’re a contracted driver you always have to think about the sponsors and whether they might be proactive or anti-LGBT. I always assumed and thought it would go against me if I came out whilst racing if the sponsors and teams were not supportive.”

And that’s why Danny Watts has waited until he’s retired to come out as gay, in this exclusive interview. After a long and successful racing career, Watts opens up to me about how his life has changed dramatically in the recent years.

“I’m sure everyone is going to be shocked but that’s normal and, unfortunately, I expect a few haters,” he says. “There maybe even be some verbal abuse but what can I do? I can’t help who I am and what I feel. Hopefully, some people will embrace and accept it but I am guessing that I’ll soon find out who my friends are.”

Danny Watts started to make a name for himself when he made the move from karts to single-seaters in 1999. In his inaugural season, he dominated the UK Formula First Championships with a staggering 12 wins.

In 2000 he made the jump to the Formula Renault championship, where he partnered Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and had a highly successful three years in the series. This, ultimately, kick-started his endurance racing campaign.

For the 2009 season, he raced for Strakka Racing in the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a  Ginetta – Zytek GZ09S. In the opening round of the Le Mans Series in Barcelona, he claimed overall pole on the team’s LMP1 debut.

2010 was another good year; he retained his seat for Strakka Racing in the Le Mans Series. However, the team moved down to the LMP2 category. Nonetheless, the car took the class victory at Le Mans finishing 5th overall.

Nick Leventis (GBR) / Danny Watts (GBR) / Jonny Kane (GBR) Strakka Racing HPD

In 2012, Watts went on to put in a hero’s drive at the World Endurance Championship round at Silverstone. He drove a double stint of three-and-a-half hours to finish within 0.6 seconds of 4th place.

“Winning Le Mans twice in my class is definitely a career highlight for me. But also winning at Macau was incredible… and winning the Formula Renault UK Championship,” he says. “I am very fortunate to have had a long and successful driving career with many, many moments that I look back on at smile at. I had enormous fun.”

Whilst his racing credentials are impressive, this interview is not about that.

“I’ve finished racing so that makes coming out, as gay, a whole lot easier as I’m not involved so much, competitively, and the fact that hiding it for such a long time built up inside. Hiding my secret was fine but it got to the point where it slowly started slipping out to close people and it felt good to hear the responses I was getting which in turn gave me confidence that being different is not so wrong,” he comments. “Yes, I expect that I will get some negative responses from people but that is normal as they are shocked about this part of me.

“I read up a lot about other people’s experiences of coming out, especially as athletes, and they inspired me to do the same.

“Nobody specifically inspired me, but reading stories of athletes in various sports whether it be soccer, netball, rugby or running, their story shows how hard it was for them and how free and happy they felt coming out and how they are proud of who they are and supporting the LGBT community. Helping others to embrace themselves and to be open and honest about their own feelings is important, and it’s good to be like this. I want to be like that.”

Danny Watts (GBR) Strakka Racing HPD
Danny Watts (GBR) Strakka Racing HPD

Danny also emphasises how there is a need for the motorsport industry to accommodate for people in the LGBTQ community. This is why Danny Watts is now going to dedicate his time to both racing coaching and helping out with the gay community.

“Coaching is my job now and I get a huge reward from seeing drivers improve and develop after I have helped them to go faster,” he explains. “For some, it’s seconds they take off their time and others a few tenths but, either way, seeing a driver you’ve helped get better in either their approach, mental focus or driving technique, is a great feeling. Seeing a driver on the podium I’ve contributed to is also an excellent feeling!

“In the future, I want to be continuing to coach drivers in motorsport. I have a beautiful eight-year-old boy who is my world and I will give him everything. But, at the same time, I want to travel the world and do other sporting activities, whilst also being a role model for promoting LGBT in society. I think the promoting will be especially important.”

Now that Danny has gone public with his very personal news, he hopes to inspire others – young and old – to come forward. Motorsport is a harsh environment, but he believes that you should be true to yourself and not be scared what others may think of you.

“Hopefully with what I have done it shall inspire and give other people in racing in the confidence to be themselves. I’ll be more than happy to give advice and help out in any way I can because I know what a depressing and lonely place it can be!

“I want to show everyone that there’s no shame in being gay; I am gay and proud. Yes, it’s hard as there’s always the worry of what people are going to think, but you have to be yourself, no matter what people may say. Be proud to be who you are!”

I would like to wish Danny the best of luck as he continues on his journey and I look forward to seeing how his future unravels. Talking to him over the past couple of weeks have really pointed out something – a potential flaw in the world of racing. At no point in the past few years has he felt comfortable in coming out whilst he was wearing the sponsors’ logos. This has to change; sexuality in racing is a taboo topic.

Why does him coming out matter, you may ask. Listening to Danny in the build-up to this article’s release has been heart-breaking at times. So, I sincerely hope you share this article and support Danny as he heads through the unknown. He’s a very, very inspirational man. Hats off to him.

Racing world, please unite.

How to become an F1 Parts Co-Ordinator

The next feature in my ‘How to become a’ series showcases Cory Ashton, a Part Co-Ordinator at Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team. Granted, this topic area is rather niche, but there are currently multiple positions available for people like Cory in the motorsport industry.

Cory started out as an Engineer with Williams and has progressed to his current role. Diverse, challenging and requiring him to think on his feet, find out more below.

What the job entails: “My role as a parts co-ordinator is to supply the race team with everything they need to continue running where ever they might be racing in the world,” Cory tells me. “We select the parts from an in-house computer system which shows us what parts they are in need of. Therefore, we can send specific parts out to them, often in big shipments.

“When the team are back at the factory, we are responsible for supplying the parts so all the cars can be built correct to the letter for the upcoming race. They have to be made to the specification.”

A day in the life of a parts co-ordinator: “It’s difficult to describe a typical day because our workload and our schedule varies so much,” he begins. “We could word from 4 am to 8 pm one day and from 6 am to 3 pm the next – it really does vary so much.

“It is difficult to talk about day-to-day life in the job as it depends massively on what the team needs and so on. All of these parts have been made at the factory and are then transferred into a shipping location and boxed up.

“We work to a cut-off time, which is usually two hours before the parts are collected by DHL to be taken to the airport or wherever and transported to the race team from there.”

The path to follow: “It’s hard to pinpoint the steps I made to get here, I just kind of progressed up through the racing series, starting with British Touring Cars at the age of 14.

“From there I went to various GT categories, both national and international, and eventually I made the move to F1 when I had gathered enough experience and skill sets,” Cory admitted.

“The only qualifications I have are GCSEs and then I studied sports science at college. I have got to where I am through gaining experience at a young age!”

The highlight: “I’d say the best part is definitely seeing our drivers on the top of the podium!” he enthuses. “Without a doubt, you can’t beat the feeling of knowing that you were a part of the team and you helped to achieve the victory or podium. I think that would be the same answer for most people who work in the world of motorsport.”

And one final piece of advice: “The one thing I would say to someone is just to gain as much experience as possible from a young age. Experience speaks volumes and makes your CV stand out!”

 

cory-ashton
Cory Ashton with some of the team’s silverware.

 

Renault Sport F1 are currently looking for a Race Team Assistant Parts Co-Ordinator. You can find out more about the role and apply here: www.renaultsport.com/Race-Team-Assistant-Parts-Coordinator-Factory-Based-8233.html

 

 

 

Nick Cassidy: 2017 and beyond

Nick Cassidy – there is a man who is making a name for himself. Born in New Zealand, the Kiwi racer is on track to make his Le Mans debut in the next couple of years. He says so himself – and rightly so.

2016 proved a vital year for Cassidy, who finished 5th in the Japanese Super GT, and 4th in the FIA European F3 championships. A second in the Japan 1,000 km was evidently a great achievement and one he depicts as a stand-out moment from last season.

“Overall there were many highs and lows throughout 2016,” he tells me. “I was very pleased with my debut year in Super GT and had some highs that will stay with me for a very long time.

“The most obvious one was finishing 2nd at the Suzuka 1,000 km race. I was fighting one of the most experienced Super GT drivers on the grid for the biggest race of the year, to be the youngest ever winner. Ultimately we missed out by just 1.2 seconds, but for Lexus and TOM’S it was still a great result.

Cassidy’s European campaign wasn’t quite so straight forward; weekends often yielded frustrating results. Driving for PREMA, giants of F3, Cassidy did however feature on the podium multiple times. Despite tyre problems plaguing races, Nick clawed the points back to finish in a strong position in the championship at the end of the season.

“In Europe, my year was a lot more up and down, with many of those things ultimately outside of my control. My highs would have to be the weekends at Zanvoort and Paul Ricard, winning my first FIA European Formula 3 race, and finishing 2nd on multiple occasions,” he says.

“The lows were having issues with tyres at Hungaroring, meaning we basically missed out on 3 races. This meant we had to start from last in the races at Norisring after a gearbox failure in Qualifying.”

Cassidy notes that he is lucky to be where he is, living a lifestyle that an ordinary 22-year-old could only dream of. Racing, however, is the cherry on top of the cake.

“I guess I’m fortunate enough to have a few highlights – which makes it difficult to choose! Finishing 3rd at Macau on debut with T-Sport would have to be up there, along with winning the Japanese Formula 3 Title with TOM’S in 2015,” Cassidy reflects. “It’s hard to pinpoint a single aspect to look forward to for 2017.”

Last week, Cassidy revealed his 2017 plans on social media, confirming that he’ll be competing in both the  SUPER GT500 – with Team TOM’S – and the SUPER FORMULA – with Kondo Racing.

“In a way, my racing schedule is similar to 2016 in the fact I am doing two complete Championships, but now they are both in Japan and both with Lexus/Toyota it makes it easier for the focus to be more concentrated on each one,” he comments.

“The fact that I am racing the best guys in the world in both series excites me, and I’m more looking forward to getting to work and doing the best job I can.

“Overall I am very happy with where I am currently. I love the Japanese culture and working with those around me in Japan, not just the racing side. In Super GT and Super Formula, I am driving some of the fastest cars in the world – there isn’t much more you could ask for as a racing driver!”

The New Zealand-born racer has high expectations for the coming years, hoping to one day follow in the footsteps of some of the best racers to have ever graced the planet.

“My biggest short-term goal is to win the Championship in Super GT, while long-term I would love to be competing for the win at Le Mans in the future.”

Nick Cassidy – or Cass as he is better known as to friends – enjoys travelling and with that, comes a passion for photography. You only have to scroll down his Instagram (www.instagram.com/nickcassidy_ ) for that to be revealed.

“Through moving away from home alone to concentrate on racing from a relatively early age, I have found many hobbies and interests along the way. Travel and seeing new places is something I really enjoy, and have got to the stage where I am fairly restless staying in the same place a couple of weeks!

“I often travel with close friends in the off-season, enjoying a life away from the racing. Over these travels my favourite city would still be Queenstown in New Zealand – quite close to home and to me one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

https://twitter.com/NickCassidy_