“I love driving a car as fast as possible on a closed road with no oncoming traffic or distractions – there’s no feeling quite like it!” Emma Gilmour, one of the world’s fastest female rally drivers, tells us.
“Add into the challenge of gravel and slippery surfaces and the feeling of dancing a car through acceleration and braking is unbeatable…”
New Zealand-born Emma Gilmour made her rally debut in 2002 at the Targa Bambina. Since then, she has been impressing with her skill and determination to take on some of the toughest rally stages in the world.
Through competing in FIA (the International Governing body for Motorsport) sanctioned events like the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, she has been able to net some excellent results while running her very own car dealership.
In 2009, she finished second in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has been recognised as the ‘top female rally driver’ at World Rally Championship events.
“I started co-driving for my sister, and then I finally had a go at driving and was hooked,” she says.”I think people are still surprised when they find out my passion. I think it’s regarded as a dangerous sport, but the horse riding I did before motorsport is much more dangerous.
“Our cars are built very safe and we take a lot of safety precautions. Driving every day is probably more risky!”
Emma has lots of brilliant motorsport memories and she has so “too many great rallies to choose from”. However, the WRC Finland will always hold a place close to her heart for “it’s truly special because of the nature of the roads and the passionate spectators”.
She competed in the Finnish event in 2006, where her and Claire Mole won stages in the Ford Fiesta – it was also the first event that they had ever competed in together.
“It was a very special event and I really hope to compete there again in the future,” she says.
The rally driver also regards desert racing as a favourite of hers, especially competing in Qatar, a place far from her home on the other side of the world.
“Desert racing in Qatar is has to be a highlight,” she says. “It was hugely challenging and so different to what I normally do. I can’t not mention doing the X Games in America as part of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series as a fantastic moment too. It was also hugely special.”
But, like with all sports, rallying can have a downside too. The engineering that goes into the cars is complex and a simple fault can spell out disaster for a competitor.
“Having to rely on a mechanical object to show your true ability is tough,” she says. “It can be so heartbreaking to be having a great event and then for something to break on your car.”
Emma also points out that the smallest of mistakes can lead to big repercussions, as you can pay a “big price for making a tiny error”.
Aside from this, Emma is adamant that women can be as competitive as men when it comes to rallying – Emma herself is a great example of this. “We need more women starting out in motorsport,” she says.
Despite being in the rallying game for over a decade and a half, she’s certain that there’ll be lots more motorsport adventures to come.
“I still want to compete in the WRC again – ideally in an R5 car,” she says. “I know I am a much better driver than the last time I competed in the WRC.”
This year she has been one of only two women competing in the New Zealand Rally Championship, where she is currently sixth in the standings with one weekend to go.
Since the age of just 10 I had endlessly dreamed of attending a Formula 1 race. I wanted to experience the sounds and smells first hand and, more than anything, I wanted to cheer on my heroes as they put everything on the line.
This time last year, I was in the midst of experiencing the best weekend of my life. It was everything I had expected and more. Special. Something to cherish forever…
Monza is the temple of speed, the grand prix to attend if you’re looking for an electric atmosphere – fast corners, long straights, and the formidable Tifosi, it has it all.
A bold statement I’ll admit, but I am not exaggerating here. As an avid Formula 1 fan, it was everything I had ever hoped for and more. Even now I can’t stop smiling, reflecting on my time in Italy. Besides, it’s no secret that Monza was my first ever live grand prix. And what a weekend it was!
I attended with my dad – a lifelong F1 fan – on general admission tickets, and we based ourselves at the second Lesmo on the Saturday and Sunday. The views were better than I had expected, considering we hadn’t paid the extra for a grandstand seat.
Saturday morning came and we left our apartment near the city centre early – 0530 early – and already it was raining. The day was tough, but came with rewarding results.
The weather forecast said the rain would stop by mid-morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t. This resulted in very little on-track action and the Formula 1 qualifying being postponed continuously.
I was frustrated, and I couldn’t cover that up. I had been looking forward to the event for so long and was met with a torrential downpour which resulted in everyone being soaked through, with no race cars.
By half past three in the afternoon, the majority of people that were sat on our stand had packed up and gone home for the day. I was tempted too, but I hadn’t come all that way for nothing. I was going to stand with wet everything until a decision to delay qualifying until Sunday morning was made.
I am so happy that we stuck it out. Watching the cars run in the wet is something that will stick with me for a long time. The spray coming off of them was unbelievable – the skill those drivers have is undeniable. I was in awe. This is when the drivers earn their money.
So, as we stood in the now eased off rain, getting sprayed by Lewis Hamilton’s ferocious path, I was more content with the day had ended up. Having walked 10 miles that day, and now being the very proud owner of several blisters, I was very thankful when we reached the warmth of our apartment. But, rest assured, I was damn exciting to do it all again the next day. Just right after I’d had a pizza.
We were at the track by half past seven the next morning and already the queues to enter the gates were long. The atmosphere was fantastic, a sea of red waiting in line to access the autodrome. We got talking to a young couple from Ireland who were somewhat grand prix veterans (already). I was sad not to get their name as they were so friendly, making me excited for my race weekend adventures to come!
At 0800 we were in our seats, to the left of the big TV screen at the second Lesmo. Again, the view was spectacular for the tickets we had. I was expecting to only get glimpses of the cars through the trees, but no. We had a view of the cars as they came out of the first Lesmo and down the straight and then the entrance to the second Lesmo.
The rest of the day was like a dream. A utopia.
The GP3 race was enthralling – I wasn’t expecting the cars to sound as good in person. Being a part of Dare To Be Different, it was wonderful to see fellow a member of Susie Wolff’s initiative – Tatiana Calderon – have an excellent race.
The wait for Formula 2 zoomed past (pardon the pun). We chatted to a couple from the States who were also attending their first grand prix. With them was their five-year-old son who was absolutely dumbstruck at the racing cars. He especially liked the safety car which he called the saviour car. A year on and I’m still certain that the name could stick!
Alas, F2 was brilliant. My dad who hadn’t even followed it until now remarked upon how exciting te racing was. And that’s a fact you can’t deny – the racing the series provides in fantastic.
Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones watching. The crowds in the surrounding seating areas were beginning to get into it, which is good to see. By this point, the everywhere was rammed.
By the time the F1 came around, I was nervous. I was scared that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as what I did watching it in my living room. What if I didn’t like it as much? What if this, what if that.
Now, I can’t believe for a second that I doubted myself.
The sounds and the smells, the vibrations and the atmosphere all left me tingling. I had a buzz inside of me; F1 is a part of me. I smiled throughout the whole race (except when Max Verstappen picked up a puncture in front of us) when I was, truthfully, lost for words.
They were my heroes pushing everything to the limit, right in front of me. I still regularly think about it now – the feeling of elation watching the battles unfold right in front of you. The exact sensation is hard to pinpoint, yet all I know is that you feel exhilarated.
I couldn’t believe it when the race came to an end. I struggled to process that 90 minutes had passed. Immediately, I wanted to rewind and watch it all again.
When we left our stand I was physically shaking. It was the adrenaline, all of the excitement I had been feeling. But, it wasn’t over.
We took advantage of the open track post-race and walked anti-clockwise back to the Parabolica. It was hot, sweaty, but I savoured every second and every step. The track itself was immensely busy with fans and it now had a carnival-like atmosphere. People played music, celebrated and took endless photos.
I left that track having covered 23 miles in two days. I had blisters on blisters, sunburn and hat hair, but I knew that I had just had the best 48-hours of my life. I said to my dad that I was emotional and he understood. He knows what a massive part of my life F1 is.
Being an avid fan that weekend was phenomenal. I cheered, I wore merchandise and never wanted the experience to end.
So, thank you F1 and thank you Monza. You have made a million memories that I’ll have forever more.
Growing up, Claire Williams – deputy team principal of Williams Racing Formula 1 team – spent her weekends knocking the pens from the stationery cupboard at the Williams factory, her father’s place of work. Her and her brother would swing from the chains suspended from the ceilings in the race bays, creating a zip wire from one end to the other. Little did she realise that she would be running the very same team a couple of decades later…
“My dad was very clear that nepotism wasn’t a word in his vocabulary,” Claire says, thinking back to her childhood. “I had no thoughts about even coming into Williams or Formula 1. It was very much my dad’s world and so my parents made that very clear to their children. It wasn’t on my radar that I would end up having a career in motorsport.”
Claire grew up in a world that was heavily orientated around Formula 1, with her father, Sir Frank Williams, being the owner of one of the most successful F1 teams in history. Subsequently, she grew up around the driver, although was still starstruck by Ayrton Senna.
“When I was in my teens, dad decided that I could choose one race a year to go to by myself with him, which was such a treat,” she says. “I chose Hungary and I’d gone into my dad’s room in the hotel one night to say goodnight to him. I was in my pajamas and Ayrton Senna was standing in the room.
“First off, I was horrified because I had a major crush on him. Secondly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I rather embarrassedly said goodnight to my dad and scuttled off out. I’ve had a number of experiences fairly similar to that and I am very lucky to have grown up in the world that I have grown up in.”
After studying politics at university, Claire was stuck with what to do. A meeting with the CEO of Silverstone Circuit proved successful and Claire secured a job as a junior press officer. After a period there, she joined the Williams team where she has remained ever since. After managing the communications department, she has now been the deputy team principal since 2013.
In that time, the team has had its ups and downs and Claire isn’t afraid to talk about the situation that they’re in at that moment. She isn’t proud of it – that is evident – but she is optimistic that they will recover.
“I think people feel a state of shock as to what has happened and how and why it’s happened,” she says. “But, there is still a really strong fighting spirit within this team. We’re very lucky in that we’ve got some very clever and hard working individuals here, that all have that Williams spirit – continuing to fight and push, and not letting what is happening on the race track stop their hard work or downplay their determination to turn things around.
“We have to remember that yes we’re in a pretty terrible position right now, but last year we were fifth, the year before that fifth and before that we came third two years in a row. Sports teams go through troughs. If we allow ourselves the pity party of feeling sorry for ourselves, then we aren’t going to get out of this. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and have an absolute focus and determination to resolve the situation that we’re in at the moment.”
Regardless of the results this season, Claire is adamant that the highs make all of the lows worthwhile. In 2014, the team had some of its best success in recent years, and finished third in the constructor’s standings.
“We did an enormous amount of work in 2013 when the team was in really bad shape to turn things around and we left no stone unturned to do it,” Claire says. “And that was my first year in that role, and for whatever reason, it all miraculously came to us. We were going to the podium regularly and celebrating, seeing Valtteri and Felipe up there and that was fantastic. We ended the season on the double points scoring race in Abu Dhabi, where we were still fighting with Ferrari for that third.”
Claire was one of the team principals who voted in favour of the double points scoring system at the last race of the season, a decision that fills her with mixed emotions.
“When I got on the plane, and for weeks before, I was like why on earth did I vote for that now that we’re in the situation?” she says. “If we weren’t in that situation, we would have taken P3 at the race prior to that one.”
“I remember the nerves, I remember feeling sick that we could lose this – P3 is a massive achievement from P9. It was a really big deal for us and we did it. It will only be usurped by a championship win, a race win as well, but that seems very far off these days. I try and keep that in my memory, so that it reminds me how success feels and why you need to keep working towards it.”
While the team aren’t where they’d like to be out on track, they are working hard to ensure that they are supporting females in motorsport.
“When I first started 16 years ago at Williams, there was only literally a handful of us,” Claire says. “Even in the jobs that are traditionally thought of as jobs for girls, a lot of blokes were doing them. Now, we have a hundred or so of our staff, which is a seventh of our team, as female. That’s a significant turn around in what’s been a very short period of time.”
Williams run a number of successful apprenticeship schemes and placement opportunities, and last year, the number of female applications outweighed the number of male applicants they received.
“The only way to keep achieving that, and to keep inspiring those people, is to have role models across all different disciplines within Formula 1 and our team,” Claire says. “We have ambassadors within Williams that go out and talk to girls in school, secondary schools and in tertiary education to try and encourage them to take the STEM subjects required to go to university and then to take the engineering degrees. We take our role in that really seriously.
“One of the initiatives that I’m involved in is Dare To Be Different, which is a fantastic campaign that Susie Wolff set up with the MSA. it specifically targets females and tries to inspire them to think about motorsport as a career. That’s important. We are seeing a lot of success from the initiative. A lot of girls are now seeing and thinking seriously about motorsport as a career.”
In 2014, D2BD founder Susie Wolff made history for Williams when she became the first female to participate in a grand prix weekend since 1992. This was a moment that filled Claire with pride, despite the criticism that the team had received for their decision.
“I actually shed a tear which is very unlike me; I felt really proud,” Claire says. “We had people suggesting that it was a marketing ploy. I’m very clear on that: motorsport is dangerous and we’ve lost drivers in this team. We take our driver safety extremely seriously. I would not put a driver in our race car that I didn’t feel was competent at driving it and driving it safely. That would just be lunacy.
“Women are risk averse, so I am the last person to make that kind of decision. I was enormously proud and I think that she did a fantastic job. Susie is a real trailblazer for women in motorsport.”
If the opportunity came up again for a woman to fill a Williams race seat, Claire “wouldn’t think twice if the woman had the track record”.
Ending on the future for the team, Claire knows the hard work required to get Williams back to their heydays.
“You don’t get to 10th in the championship without having a lot of issues to address,” she says. “We are slowly and methodically working through them to make sure that we repair the weaknesses that we have in the team. We still have huge ambitions within Formula 1. We have to get the team back to where we need it to be and where we want it to be – that’s winning races again and that’s not the work of a moment. We are all realistic.
“Formula 1 is a very different environment to even two to three years ago. It is very difficult to win these days. To get us back to that level underneath the top teams of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, that’s our ambition for the next two to three years. It’s going to be a hard piece of work to get us there. But we will, because we won’t give up. We’ll keep fighting until we do.”
F1 is hugely popular in Europe and we often hear how the new owners Liberty Media are keen to expand it’s fanbase in North America, however this doesn’t mean they don’t have an interest in motorsport. The USA boasts many championships and series in which drivers from all round the world flock to compete in such as IndyCar and NASCAR. Jamie Howe is one of the America’s most famous motorsport broadcasters and so we spoke to her about US racing culture and her career in the sport.
Many people who now work in the motorsport industry often speak of being brought up watching the sport, but for Jamie, that wasn’t the case. “I didn’t grow up around racing and my family wasn’t into cars when I was young,” Howe told us. It wasn’t until later that she became more familiar with the sport she would go onto work in but did admit “once I was introduced to motorsports, the bug bit me hard!” She had actually grown up intending to work in television, a vital part of her role now, though sports TV was never something she considered, having wanted to work in News. “Being in Atlanta I always thought it would be news-based television as CNN is here and I worked with their student bureau in high school,” she said.
Her first role in motorsport came completely by chance when she was coaching a local swimming team. One of the parents worked in the industry and knowing Howe’s interest in TV offered her an opportunity. “A Dad with kids on the team worked in racing television and knew I was going to school for broadcast television. He hired me as a runner to come and work and see what really happens in TV,” Jamie explained. Starting as a runner, Howe worked extremely hard to impress her bosses and over the years managed to earn promotions and be given more responsibility. “I worked as a runner, then a stage manager, then a field producer, then a feature host, then a tape delayed reporter, then a live-to-tape reporter then eventually a live radio/PA reporter then a live television reporter!” she exclaimed. Jamie is proof that getting your foot in the door is crucial to achieving your dreams, especially if they are big dreams.
The way Howe describes her rise through the ranks may seem easy and straightforward, but it hasn’t always been the case. “The early days were the most challenging,” she described, “I was trying to prove myself as a worker and gain respect, all while trying to better my skills at the same time.” Though this journey has allowed her to experience all areas of the television industry including on-screen, production and content creation. Speaking of some of the roles she most enjoyed, she said: “I love the production side of the field and getting to see a story go from an idea to air, that is very rewarding. But there is nothing quite like live television and finishing a show or race with so much adrenaline,” Jamie told me.
Having not had an interest in motorsport as a child, throughout her career, Howe has had to learn a lot when it comes to the series she has worked in. To perform her role to the best of her ability she likes to make sure her knowledge is up to a good standard and believes this helps her when interviewing. “I have learned about each series as I have gone. There is so much behind-the-scenes that the viewer never knows but it’s all important to telling the story the right way. It’s an on-going learning process as the rules change and the technology advances,” Jamie explained to us. Learning as she goes helps, but she also has to study and make sure she has all the notes she needs. “I am a good student, I keep my work organized and take notes. I love talking to people and all of that helps me cover different series in the same season. The vernacular (language) is different but being there and being in the moment helps to keep it straight,” she said.
As an interviewer on site at races, many interesting people are competing and attend to watch the live event. Jamie has been able to speak to many interesting people saying: “I’ve truly loved interviewing almost everyone. If I have to narrow it down, I would say two people: Mario Andretti and Patrick Dempsey, both for the same reason: they bring so much notoriety to the sport but their passion is so clearly evident when they talk about racing. They truly love the sport, its people, and what it has done in their own lives. I get to talk to and interview so many interesting people and feel very fortunate for that,” Howe described.
Having worked her way up from a runner to her centre stage role now, Jamie was keen to share her advice for those hoping to work in the sport. “You have to love it and you have to be prepared for the lifestyle that comes with it,” she advised. “Being on the road is not for everyone and if you don’t think you can handle that or you don’t love it, then move on to another passion you have.” Jamie Howe is one of the US’s leading motorsport reporters despite not having an interest until early in her adult life. She is proof that you can work your way up the career ladder having started from the bottom as a runner. She fell into motorsport but has taken every opportunity and from those a successful career has blossomed. She is an example to everyone that getting your foot in the door can make a world of difference.
Amna Al Qubaisi. This name be beginning to sound familiar, for a number of reason.
Not only is the 18-year-old making a name for herself on the race track, but Amna holds the accolade of breaking down stereotypes as the first female competitive driver from the United Arab Emirates.
Currently, Amna races in the prestigious Italian Formula 4 Championship for the prestigious Prema Powerteam. This is her first championship in racing cars after karting and she is already racking up impressive results.
At the latest round at the infamous Monza, Amna secured a P16 and a P17 after starting 27th on the grid in both races, showing her speed and ability to overtake.
Females in Motorsport caught up with her to see how she was fairing in her first season of cars and where her drive comes from.
Today’s race wasn’t too bad. Race 2 from P27 – P16 Race 3 from P27 – P17 Overall I enjoyed driving in Monza for the first time 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/fXLjqsG5ur
Amna, how are you preparing for the rest of the season?
Unfortunately, I didn’t race at Paul Ricard, however I’m always ready. I do lots of training in the gym. Then there’s some testing at my home track (Yas Marina Circuit) to keep the rhythm and the feeling of the car fresh in my mind.
Before taking to the Italian F4 grid, Amna raced in the second round of the UAE X30 category Seniors and in the Dubai O-Plate category Shifters finishing in third and fifth position in the races.
The 2016/17 season saw Amna competing in various countries and in various categories of karting: Italy, Arab Emirates and Germany. Amna scored a spectacular podium in the 5th round of IAME X30 and in 11th round of UAE RMC in Yas Marina Northern Circuit.
Back to cars, Andria was her first round competing in a single-seater.
Adria was your first race in the Italian series. You had a 12th and a 16th place finish with over 26 cars on the grid, how did you find the weekend?
The race weekend was very good since I had the pace and I was forth in Rookies and second before I ran out into the run off area at a fast corner. However, I was on the podium too. It wasn’t expected, but Adria’s results gave me an extra boost, experience and confidence for the next one.
You come from karting: how it’s been difficult to drive a kart, then a racing car?
Comparing the kart to the car, it took me a while to adapt to the car, because it’s a whole new world. Moving up from karting to single seater is a natural shift in motorsport and I’m enjoying every moment behind the Formula 4 wheel.
Why did you choose an Italian championship as your first car experience? You are driving for Prema PowerTeam: how did the agreement come about?
Choosing the Italian championship was a big decision, since it has the biggest grid, but it came naturally. Italian F4 visits some of the most prestigious circuits, so it’s brilliant to race there.
Abu Dhabi Racing and Kaspersky Lab have a long term partnership and I would like here to thank Kaspersky Lab for giving me the opportunity to make it from karting into Formula 4. Prema is the best team in the championship and I am so blessed and honored to have the chance to drive for the team.
Although you’re the only girl in the championship, what is the relationship like with your male colleagues?
It’s quite normal to be fair and I haven’t been treated differently. We get along very well and I’ve got used to being the only girl in a race track.
You’re also the first female driver of your country: how do you feel about that?
It’s never happened before so I feel so proud and I’m completely satisfied and happy to make this step as the first and hopefully not the last.
They said "you drive like a girl" I said "if you drive a little faster, you can too"
It’s all come from my dad, supporting him in his races, hearing him talk about different race tracks around the globe and meeting different drivers was a complete awe inspiring to me. Now I live and breathe it!
Final question for you, what is the goal for this season?
The goal is to always keep the pace since it’s my first time and to always finish in a good position.
Many people grow up dreaming of working in motorsport, hoping one day to make it to whatever their desired series may be. However, for some, they fall into the sport through other career paths. Alexandra Legouix never intended to work in racing, but now wouldn’t change it for the world. She herself says working in the sport is “pure fluke” so I spoke to her about her career and her interests outside of motorsport.
Having grown up watching F1 and preferring to play with cars over barbies, Alexandra always had an interest in the sport, but never to the extent that she would class herself as a fan. “I also grew up riding horses and competed to a professional level in show jumping and I was a performer. Until I got to 18 and became more interested in boys and going out, I just assumed I would always be a professional horse rider or West end star,” she said. Although now motorsport is a passion of Legouix’s, as she said there was no intention to work in the industry, with her saying: “I never imagined a career in it or an involvement that extended further than a Sunday snoozy F1 watch, so it is fairly random to be so heavily involved now.”
However, her first presenting role came in an industry that is very different to her role now. “I had a phone call from Liz Fuller who owned the Miss Great Britain franchise. She had called and asked me to enter the pageant in the past but I had declined as that had never been my cup of tea,” Alexandra said. Though this wasn’t the nature of the call with Fuller actually offering her the opportunity to host the final of Miss Great Britain to be broadcast on TV. She accepted, despite having no presenting experience and so her career started. A year later, McLaren’s technology centre was looking for a presenter for their tours and Q&A sessions. “I auditioned and got the job,” she said. There was a lot of learning for her to do, which prepared her for future roles, as she had to learn everything from the carbon fibre process, to gear boxes and wind tunnels. “The people I was presenting to were mostly stereotypical motorsport chauvinist types who hated the fact I was a woman educating them and so I was grilled on a daily basis,” Legouix explained, meaning she had to know incredible amounts of detail, in order to prove to people she could do the job.
Whilst working at McLaren, she produced and wrote a documentary showing what it takes to be a professional driver. After speaking to people such as Rob Collard, Andy Neate and Tom Onslow Cole for the project, she had learnt a lot about the World Touring Car Championship, which came in very handy for her next role. At the end of 2013, following stints in several UK club championships and World RallyCross, she approached the Head of Production for WTCC, who were conveniently looking for a presenter. She jumped at the chance and began presenting the championship.
She first watched F1 as a child, and has worked in the series a little, though her other commitments limit this. She has previously presented the driver’s parade, as well as coverage on the big screens around the circuit. “Calendar clashes cut out my F1 fun this year sadly but I’ll go and watch a couple of races. It’s a fascinating paddock and an entirely different world to WTCR. I enjoy it when I work in it so if the opportunity arose then I wouldn’t turn it down,” Alexandra described. But she has managed to do a few related events in the recent years, having worked with both Formula Student and F1 eSports. “Formula student is fantastic, I love working on that. The talent of the students is insane and the machines they create are so impressive. It’s great to meet the engineers of the future. F1 eSports was another great experience. Again, the talent of the racers is remarkable and the whole concept is good,” she told me.
This year, she will be working in the World Rally Championship for the first time and is already enjoying it, with her saying: “It’s a whole different world in every way to anything I’ve done. The job itself is very different as I act as anchor of the live show so I’m not running around the Service Park interviewing, but the team and my co-hosts are a lot of fun. I don’t claim to be an expert in rally at all so I had an awful lot to learn and am still learning each time. I love it so far and cannot quite get my head around the courage of the competitors.”
Although motorsport hugely dominates her time, Alexandra also has several areas she enjoys working in outside of sport. Her original aim was to work in the West-End, and music is still a massive part of her life. “I probably sang before I could speak and danced before I could walk,” Legouix explained. “Music is one of my biggest passions and it dramatically affects my mood. I perform with my band ‘Al and the Sunflowers’ and only wish I had a little more time to do gigs these days.” She also presents festivals and shows of varying genres allowing her to get close to fans and what they are passionate about. “You can’t beat the energy and atmosphere of a music festival so that is always great to be part of,” she said, “The boat shows are always great fun. The pet shows are the cutest things ever, and I enjoy motor festivals because you get to meet so many passionate petrol heads.”
Alexandra Legouix’s route to working in motorsport was by no means conventional. Intending to work in the entertainment industry, her first role came by chance with an events company, and she’s been hooked on the sport ever since. Although many people use social media as a pathway, for Legouix this doesn’t hold a huge appeal. “I feel that the vlogger world is saturated now so it’s hard to make an impact and very tough to make a living that way. I think from a TV presenter angle you still cannot beat a more conventional route of contacting the production company involved in whichever championship and sending in a showreel proving your worth, passion and knowledge. Then it’s just a case of knocking on millions of doors, one will open with hard work,” she explained. Her interests outside of motorsport have been pushed aside, but this year she is determined to sing more, write more and race more.
With a worldwide fanbase, motorsport is one of the most popular areas of sport. However, it is more than just cars, with several forms of motorbike racing being just as popular as the famous car racing series. Amy Dargan has been a reporter in the Motocross World Championship, Speedway and MotoGP, so we spoke to her about working with bikes and how a young girl from a football household became one of the go-to presenters in MotoGP broadcasting.
Sport was always popular in Amy’s family, but her love of motorcycle racing came from a friend. “My passion for bikes came from my friend’s dad. He owned a tyre garage in Nottingham and he was really into it. He had 2 Hondas in his garage and would watch the World Super Bike Championship, MotoGP and British Super Bikes. That was really where my first contact came with motorbikes,” she told us. However, her first contact in-person with any of these championships came when she was in her late teens, and in order to get closer to the sport, she became a grid girl. “I decided the best thing for me to do was work around it and try and get involved. I was getting to meet the right people, and it was an opportunity to be where I wanted to be in the end,” Dargan said.
Amy went on to study Broadcast Journalism at university, with a particular interest in sport’s journalism, citing Suzi Perry as an idol of hers at the time. “Suzi Perry was a big inspiration of mine. When I was younger I thought she was really cool, she knew exactly what she was talking about, and just the way she carried herself,” she explained of her fellow MotoGP presenter.
Following her studies Dargan continued to work as a grid girl, and her first proper role in the sport actually came through this. “My first job came off the back of one of the companies I used to grid girl for, Monster Energy. Their main series was the World Motocross Championship, where I was working as a ‘Monster Girl’ and the woman who did the reporting moved to the US. It was all quite last-minute and they found themselves without a reporter and about 1 month to go until the start of the season. It was suggested that they should consider me because I had a broadcast journalism degree and that was what I was looking to go into. I knew the series and the riders and that’s how it all started really,” Amy explained.
After 3 years working in Motocross, in 2014 Dargan began working in MotoGP. This year she will cover MotoGP solely and will no longer work with Speedway after covering the series for the 2017 season. “Last year I was doing Speedway and MotoGP. I had a pretty hectic schedule, but this year I’ve got some breathing space and can focus on MotoGP. When I’m there, my role is reporting for FoxSports, and also for MotoGP’s rights holders, Dorna, so I get the rider interviews after the sessions, film features and on a race day I do a preview of what to expect,” Amy told us. An important part of her role is ensuring there is a relationship and trust between herself and the riders as this allows her to do her job to the best of her ability. “I think the important thing is I always try and be as empathetic as I can be, and the best way to do that is to put yourself in their shoes,” Dargan said, “normally if you show empathy, and you both celebrate and commiserate with them, that gets you on side with them. They know we’re not trying to set them up and that our job is to get the information from them, but I don’t think you can build relationships with the riders if they think you’re trying to lead them down a path to say something.”
Amy will this year go into her 4th season of MotoGP and she’s still fulfilling a dream working with one of the riders. “One of my main targets was that I just wanted to get a job in MotoGP before Valentino Rossi retired. If he had and I hadn’t managed to interview him, I would’ve been so disappointed,” she said. But one of her favourite interviews has been with another motorsport figure, this time from 4 wheels. “I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Webber twice now when he’s come to MotoGP. I watch Formula One and he was always someone that I really liked. He’s got a fantastic personality, and it’s fantastic that he’s into bikes,” Amy added.
Having originally grown up in a football household and her starting aim being to work in football journalism, Dargan would still like to work in other sports. “If I carry on working in MotoGP until I retire, I’ll be happy because I absolutely love it. It almost feels like it’s a part of me now. I would also really love the opportunity to cover different sports like the winter Olympics. Sport for me, is everything that I really like about life. I really like celebrating other people’s triumphs, and also then when you see the raw human emotion. I just love sport in general,” Amy told us.
Having studied Broadcast Journalism at university and being involved in motorsport even before her studies, it was always clear for Amy Dargan which direction she wanted to go in. Despite the recent debate over the use of grid girls in motorsport, it is unlikely Amy would be in the job she has now without having done this role initially which helped her to meet the right people. “I would say get in there any way you can and just be around the sport,” Dargan said of the advice she would offer those wanting to work in the industry. “It’s always best to have a good idea of what area you think you might like to have a go at. There’s so many roles from marketing to data analysts and engineers, all the hospitality crew, it’s a massive industry with so many different opportunities.” This year, Amy’s full focus will be on MotoGP so the features and interviews she will work on this year will surely be bigger and better than ever before.