Jamie Howe: “You have to love it and be prepared for the lifestyle that comes with motorsport”

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.

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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.

twitterHaving 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.

twitter3Having 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.

(all photo credits, unless specified, @ReporterJamie)

Alexandra Legouix: “it’s just a case of knocking on millions of doors, one will open with hard work”

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

(heading photo credit: @worldxseries)

Amy Dargan: “Sport for me, is everything that I really like about life”

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.

IMG_3447Amy 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.

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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.

IMG_3603Having 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.

(all photo credits: Amy Dargan)

Ellie McLaren: “I remember telling my Dad that I’d be one of those people that wore overalls in the pit lane”

Behind the scenes of every Formula One team there are hundreds of employees working night and day to ensure their team perform to their greatest potential. Even once the season begins, there is no rest for those back at the factory who are continuously working on new updates and developments to improve their team’s cars, and therefore their chances of podium and points finishes. Ellie McLaren is a Production Planner at Renault Sport F1 and having worked for Force India has a lot of experience in the paddock, so I spoke to her about working in F1 and how she started working at Enstone.

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Having loved motorsport as a child, Ellie even raced, following in the footsteps of other members of her family. “When I was 11 years old I started racing a Short Oval Junior Rod, following my brothers, father and grandad. I grew up around race cars and most weekends were spent at a race track. I remember telling my Dad that one day I’d be one of those people that wore overalls in the pit lane when watching an F1 race one Sunday afternoon,” McLaren told me. Although the sport had been part of her life for a long time and having always said she would work in it, it wasn’t until her early teens that she actually decided how she planned to do this. “I wanted to be a vet until I found out that motorsport college was an actual thing! I googled ‘Motorsport College’ for fun and I found Oxford and Cherwell Valley college in Bicester, Oxfordshire. I showed my parents and at first, they weren’t keen on the idea of me being so far away, but nevertheless my mum took me to an open day and I started in September 2009,” she said.

After studying for a BTEC National Diploma in Motorsport, and failing to find an apprenticeship in F1, she decided to begin a Foundation Degree in Motorsport at Oxford Brookes University. In her first year she needed to complete 40 hours in a work placement and after contacting many teams, managed to secure work at Sahara Force India. “It was a great experience,” Ellie explained, “I worked in various departments learning about the different procedures. In June 2012, I applied for a Trainee Composite Technician role that became available at the team and I got the job! I chose to leave university and start a full time working career at Force India.” McLaren spent 5 years working with the team, graduating from Trainee Composite Technician to Race Team Composite Support and spending over a year travelling the world with the team. “I travelled for 18 months, visited several races and finally got to wear my overalls in the pit lane! This was a proud moment for me, I’d achieved everything I wanted,” Ellie described.

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Wanting to progress further in her career, McLaren left Force India to join Lotus F1. Although the they were struggling financially at the time, she still decided to take a chance on the team. “In September 2015 I became a Production Planner. It was more responsibility and I felt there could be more opportunities for me to progress my career here. This all paid off in January 2016 when it was announced Renault were going to take over and we would become a works team,” Ellie told me.

“I am responsible for planning the manufacturing schedules for new design releases for the car. My main areas of focus are the front and rear brake drums, the fuel system, the hydraulic system and the engine and exhausts. I process a new drawing and progress that part to ensure build and development targets are reached. I enjoy working to tight deadlines and its rewarding when new parts get to the circuit on time. After an event, I manage the turnaround for my parts, brake drums will need repairing or replacing so orders need to be raised and any race team usages will need to be actioned to ensure they aren’t short for the next event. Every day brings a new challenge and that’s what I enjoy.”

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McLaren’s role no longer allows her to travel with the team, however she hopes this will change saying: “my role as a planner is completely factory based, however I have recently started my engineering degree again so there may be more opportunities in the future.” But for the moment, Ellie’s role as a Production Planner means she is based in Enstone with the off-season being her busiest time of year. “Car build is the busiest period in the whole F1 calendar! My working hours can be demanding and the number of new drawing releases and orders can double in comparison with during the season. The deadlines become harder to achieve, but when the car performs well in winter testing and reaches the track in Australia it makes it all worth it,” Ellie explained.

But as she says, when the team is successful it makes the hard work worthwhile, and during her time at Force India they had a fair amount of success, achieving multiple podiums. “Bahrain 2014 (was my best moment). It was my second race with Force India so still very exciting. Sergio Perez finished the race in 3rd place and the whole experience was so surreal! I can’t explain how happy and proud I was of everyone in the team. Being under the podium having a driver wave and thank you all was something I’ll never forget,” she described.

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Having worked for several years in F1, never giving up is what Ellie believes has helped her to reach her dream roles. “It was a big decision to leave home at a young age and progress to working in a male orientated industry but I don’t regret it at all,” McLaren explained, “some days were difficult but you have enough good days to outweigh this. I don’t get treated any differently to anybody else and feel very well respected in my job.” Having left Force India for Renault, wanting to continue progressing in her career, it is clear that Ellie McLaren has a hunger to get better and improve. She has now returned to her university studies with the aim of completing the engineering degree she left behind when joining Force India, so who knows which job she may end up doing in the future?

Lydia Walmsley: “gender doesn’t categorise you into good or bad”

Karting has always been a popular hobby amongst young boys, but there is a growing number of young girls also taking up the sport and being extremely successful. Among this new wave of female talent is 16-year-old Lydia Walmsley. 2018 will see her graduate to competing in an adult formula for the first time, so we spoke to her about her past successes and hopes for the future.

As with many young people who race, often their love of the sport comes from a member of their family. “My dad successfully raced for many years which meant I was always around a race track,” she said. “I started showing an interest so he popped me in a bambino kart at 7 years old and that’s where it all began.” Her first karting session in this particular kart came at Buckmore Park in Kent where the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button also started their careers. The fact that these British legends also began at the same track, was very exciting for Lydia with her saying: “it was special for me to begin my journey at Buckmore because Lewis and Jenson all kicked off their careers there too!”

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However, it wasn’t until a few years later that Walmsley decided she wanted karting to be more than a hobby. “I competed at Anglia Indoor Kart Centre and our local outdoor track, Ellough Park in corporate racing but it became more serious on Christmas Day 2011 when I received my very own cadet kart,” Lydia told us. That’s not to say she hadn’t been competing before this though, having finished second in her first year. “My first trophy was as vice champion for my first year of racing – losing the championship by a single point at 8 years old! I stood on the podium and puffed my chest out surrounded by much bigger boys – that’s when I truly got the bug,” she explained of her early success.

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We are all aware of the dangers posed when racing in championships such as Formula One and its feeder series’, but karting also has its risks, something Walmsley is well aware of. She broke her leg during a race leading to many months sat track-side, but that didn’t discourage her from pursuing her dream. “I was a little apprehensive to step back into the kart again. It was difficult for me because I had been out for so long due to complications with my broken leg and then having surgery on my eye to remove pieces of rubber from the tyre wall which were imbedded upon impact,” she described. Though it didn’t take long for the nerves to disappear and the adrenalin involved in racing to return, with Lydia saying: “after a few laps, I was back to enjoying the thrill of karting again!”

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Walmsley has had her fair share of success winning both the Minimax and Junior Rotax Championships. “I was the Minimax Champion so it was a natural progression to compete in the Junior Rotax championship,” she said, “however, this meant I would be racing against people who were a lot older than me. The step from a Minimax engine to a Junior Rotax engine is quite large and everyone told me it would take me at least a year until I was up to speed. Despite this, I qualified second on the grid on the first race meeting!” Lydia then went on to win the Championship in her first season, making her Champion in consecutive seasons.

This year will be a new experience for Lydia as she will be competing in an adult formula for the first time when she drives in the Mini Challenge. “I am really excited to race this year! I know I will be one of the youngest on the grid as I have only just turned 16. Obviously, most of my competitors will have a lot more experience in car racing than me, but why should that be a problem? Age is just a number – it’s about who’s fastest that really matters! I know with my fantastic team and my sponsors behind me, we can do really well this year,” Walmsley explained. Although immediate success won’t be expected of her, Lydia is keen to start as she means to go on and impress those more experienced in the category.

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To reach her dream series, Walmsley will have to continue her previous success. Speaking of her desired championship, she said: “I would love to make it to the British Touring Car Championship! I have watched the races since I was very young and have always liked the competitiveness of it. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend the BTCC Snetterton race meeting last year in the hospitality of Laser Tools Racing and Aiden Moffat. It was an amazing experience with a fantastic atmosphere – it made me realise how much I wanted to get to the top!” She is well aware that it will not be easy, but it is clear that she has the determination and fight to try and reach her goals.

Despite her aiming to race touring cars, Lydia’s racing role model would be a driver from a very different series. “I feel Jenson Button is very professional and positive in whatever situation he’s in and conducts himself well, both on and off the track,” she told us. “I think he’s a great role model for anyone in motorsport,” Walmsley said of the former British F1 World Champion. Although still early in her career, Lydia has had to overcome many challenges and so is looked up to by many of the younger drivers and racers she knows. Her advice for them would be: “don’t worry about being in a sport which is predominantly male because gender doesn’t categorise you into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Get to your local track and have a go!”

Having had success in several categories at an early age, it is clear Lydia Walmsley has immense talent. However, this season will be very telling for the young racer as she will compete in an adult series for the first time. She won’t be expected to have the immediate success she has had previously, but this will mean she goes into the season with little expectation on her shoulders, allowing her to concentrate on her own race, and possibly surprise everyone.

(all photo credits: Lydia Walmsley)

Dakota Jane: “I lived and breathed motorsport, before I even really acknowledged that I was.”

Working as a journalist and pitlane reporter in F1 can be hard work but that’s nothing compared to what their equivalents do in other series of motorsport. Dakota Jane predominately works in the Blancpain GT series and spends her weekends running up and down the pitlane and leaves the track in the evening filthy after getting up close with the drivers, teams and cars. So, I asked her about her role in the series and the reasons behind her passion for motorsport.

Having grown up in Monaco, Dakota said she “lived and breathed motorsport” before she even acknowledged her ambition to work in the field. Her parents being fond motorsport fans, but not actually in the business, attended many Grands Prix and Rallies with her as a child, meaning her first experience of the sport was at a very young age.

But the story behind how she actually ended up working in the sport is quite an unusual one in that she applied for a job that didn’t exist. “I knew my now-boss ran the television production for SRO motorsport. I took a stab in the dark and I sent him a video interview of myself,” she explained. “I shared with him my passion for cars and all things motorsport as well as my upbringing and ambitions.” He replied, saying ‘come for a race to see what it would be like’. As instructed, Dakota attended her first Blancpain GT race at Brands Hatch in 2016. She described how she was thrown in the deep end of live TV and after her first live interview with circuit owner Jonathan Palmer, she became a part of the television crew. “Since that day, I have worked there ever since.”

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@DakotaJane11, twitter

The Blancpain GT series may be unknown to some, so I asked her how she would describe it. “Well, I would say it’s the highest level of GT racing in the world,” Dakota said. “We have four classes, PRO, PRO-AM, AM and Silver Cup, all classes are as competitive as the other. We have 10 races a season, spilt into endurance and sprint races”. She not only works on Blancpain GT but also for the support races such as Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Blancpain GT sports club (for gentlemen drivers).

Although her job may sound similar to F1 Presenters, she was keen to explain the differences. “I don’t just do the presenting for the series, but I also help produce the entire program from top stories to all the action in the pitlane,” she told me. “When I am not interviewing on the grid or at parc fermé, I floor manage for my co-presenter/commentator John Watson. This consists of setting up the next interview with the drivers, cars and teams so that the live programme can run smoothly.” This is quite different to F1 as Dakota helps out in all areas of the production.

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@DakotaJane11 Instagram

Another reason Dakota Jane loves her role with Blancpain GT so much is the high level of competition between a broad range of manufacturers and drivers. “What makes me want to go back every season is the nail biting competition. There are so many good drivers in the series, the Blancpain GT grid is truly spectacular,” she said, adding: “in qualifying it’s not surprising to have 1st to 20th place within 0.5 of a second!”

Many of those who start working in motorsport have an ultimate aim of moving up the series to Formula One. Although she said she would love to work in the series, Dakota really enjoys the freedom and cars in GT racing. “There’s so much action and I don’t really like how in F1 there are so many rules. Her ambition is to work at some of the other big GT Racing events such as the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24hours, FIA Macau GT World Cup and the Super GT series in Japan. She also explained how she would like to one day branch out and present in other global sports such as the Olympics and Para-Olympics, as well as Red Bull events.

Unlike some others in the same field, she also likes to race herself saying: “I would like to get more involved in the driving part of the sport. I love driving, there’s a secret racing driver inside, but its not really a secret. Before I do a race, I do all the sim (simulator) work for that track. I learn all the corners, breaking points and stats. I think it helps me when I’m interviewing, I can really put myself in the driver’s shoes. I have a lot of respect for them and what they go through on a race weekend.”

As a female working in motorsport, Dakota Jane felt it was important to be a part of the initiative ‘Dare to be Different’. Talking about the number of women in the series she explained: “in my television team, I work with a majority of men and occasionally another female, I don’t mind at all, the men do not segregate me but include me as part of the team like anyone else. In Blancpain GT there are other women who work in the offices, pitlane, grid, garages and with the teams. This is not a huge amount really, it is definitely male dominated but this fact shouldn’t discourage women from joining the sport.”

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However, Dakota wanted to be honest with her opinion of the organisation saying: “I wanted to join Dare to Be Different because I thought it was going to be a way that I could connect with other women in motorsport. I thought they could use me as an ambassador to encourage other women.” She felt disappointed that this was not the case, adding: “the reality is, they haven’t used me at all. It’s been a great way to connect with other girls in motorsport but I just don’t really feel a part of the community, although I still value the concepts they are trying to encourage.”

To finish, she gave her advice for those females wanting to work in the industry. “Don’t be discouraged by men,” Dakota advised. “To any woman who is trying to pursue a career in motorsport, I would say you have just as fair chance as the men do, go for it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! I don’t really feel like it comes down to the gender most of the time. I just personally don’t think there are as many women who are in general interested in motorsport, but maybe with organisations such as ‘Dare to be Different’, this will change.”

Being young and already working in a prestigious series of motorsport means Dakota Jane has her eyes firmly set on the future. Working in the Blancpain GT series means she has to deal with constantly changing situations, a part of the job that she loves. She has had a passion and ambition to work in motorsport since her youth, and hopes this desire and success will continue long into the future.

(heading picture credit: Blancpain GT series)

Julia Piquet: “I’ve always had a strong character, which I think comes from my Dad”

The Piquet surname is one well-known in motorsport, with Nelson Sr a 3-time F1 world champion and son Nelson Piquet Jr having raced in F1 and winning the inaugural Formula E championship, in which he still races. However, they are not the only members of the family working in the sport, with daughter/sister Julia working with Motorsport.com. I spoke to her about growing up at racetracks and working in a constantly changing media age.

Julia’s father had retired from Formula One before she was born, but with her brother 7 years her senior, she spent most of her childhood supporting him. “I was always following Nelson’s career, so from when he started back in Formula 3 in Brazil and then the British Formula 3 Championship,” she said. “At that time, I was living in France with my Mom so would go to every race and we’d go on so many trips up there (UK), and I’d spend time around the track with Nelson. I’ve got so many relatives in motorsport that I’ve always been around it. My interest grew with it, I always loved being around everything.”

british f3 winner 2004

As she grew up, and her brother’s career took off, more people would recognise both him and their father. Although to most children this would be unusual, for Julia it was normal. “When you’re used to that at an early age, it’s normal to you. It was definitely cool though,” she explained.

Julia was no stranger to racing herself when she was young, participating in friendly go-kart events. “When I was about 10, I started go-karting a little in Brazil. Nelson always organised go-kart sessions with his friends and I was always quite good. I liked going fast, I was never scared and was very determined in my driving. He said to me: ‘you should start racing!’ so I did a few karting coaching sessions and I was doing well, but to be honest my Dad wasn’t sure about it, it made him too nervous,” Piquet told me. “Funnily enough, two years ago when I fell off my horse in competition and tore all my ligaments in my right shoulder, Dad told me the worst mistake he ever made was not let me race go karts. ‘Horse riding is a much more dangerous sport’ he said.”

18th birthday

Having moved to the US when she was 19, Julia studied at the University of Miami, earning a bachelors in Management and Economics, after which she went on to get her MBA (Master of Business Administration). 6 months into her course she was offered an internship at Motorsport.com, and after impressing her bosses, was presented with a job offer. “I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought about motorsport as a career before because it was something I really enjoyed and I knew a lot about. One thing led to another and here I am and I’m really happy.”

Julia spent several years working towards a degree in Economics, but that doesn’t mean she no longer uses the skills she learnt despite now being in motorsport. “When you attend a great school like the University of Miami, especially the Business school, it prepares you no matter what area you go into. I think more than anything you take the different tools and lessons you’ve learned along your life, because when you start working for a company it’s about not just what you are able to do, but how you deal with people and how you present yourself,” she told me.

Now working at Motorsport.com, Piquet is responsible for developing online news content such as the Fast Track podcasts and Motorsport Report episodes. Speaking of her job, she explained: “Motorsport Report is released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a focus on 2 or 3 major headlines. The show is in video form so you have graphics that help support the story you’re telling. With our Fast Track Podcast, it’s more like you want to hear the biggest racing headlines in 3 minutes. The podcast is released weekdays, and we typically feature 12 or 13 headlines – so it’s just a different way for our audiences to absorb motorsport news. I write the scripts every day, taking the most important and relevant news segments from our website, and then our editor does a fantastic job reviewing everything before we air.” Although Motorsport Report tends to be more F1 focused, the Fast Track podcast covers a variety of motorsport categories, meaning Julia must have a good knowledge of many series. Luckily, her childhood has prepared her for this, as she has been learning about several forms of racing since her youth.

south american f3 brazil

These online episodes often include Julia interviewing drivers and those involved in the sport, something she really enjoys doing. “It’s always nice to have someone in (the office) and research about them and then get their view point on different subject matters. I tend to get a bit nervous, but for me that’s normal. It’s hard in Miami because we’re in an area where there aren’t that many drivers compared to somewhere like London or Switzerland,” Piquet explained, adding: “one of my favourite people that I interviewed was Kurt Busch, just because he was very enthusiastic, extremely friendly and I just got a very easy-going vibe from him.”

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With a family involved in the sport, Piquet has had to interview people she knows very well. “I don’t get nervous or anything when it’s my brother, but he doesn’t really like interviews so I try to keep it short for his sake,” she said giggling. Having spoken to many interesting people, there are still 2 drivers on her list of those she’d love to interview. “Realistically, Helio Castroneves,” Julia explained, “just because I know he lives in Florida and we’d all like to know a little bit more about what he’s going to be doing in the upcoming years.” However, speaking of her dream interview, she said: “I’d really like to interview and just get to know Max Verstappen. He’s quite the Formula One sensation. I also come from a Dutch background, my Mother’s Dutch and I have a Dutch passport. Also, I have a bit of a sixth sense when it comes to people, and he seems like a great guy.”

Working online can be challenging with media and fan engagement constantly changing. This means sites such as Motorsport.com must also adapt to keep up with their competitors and keep their fans interested. “We’ve got lots of big plans, but it’s all dependant on a series of things in the company,” Julia told me, “we definitely have ideas for new shows, and really what we’re trying to do is engage with the younger F1 audience. Nowadays with the declining attention span of online users, people want to watch short entertaining videos, so our goal is to produce content that’s fun and that people can watch on our website as well as social media platforms.”

Julia Piquet is at the forefront of a new way of interacting with motorsport, providing podcasts and online episodes to racing fans around the world. With her childhood spent around circuits and cars, there is really no area she was more destined to work in. When asked about her advice for those wanting to work in the industry, she replied: “if you happen to have contacts, don’t be afraid to use them. Even if you don’t, shoot someone an email, connect on LinkedIn – don’t be afraid to TRY! The worst that can happen is you either you get declined or don’t get an answer. Also, most importantly, always be true to yourself. F1 and motorsport are male-dominated environments that require you to be sharp and on your game at all times. I’ve always had a strong character, which I think comes from my Dad, and it’s allowed me to never back down from what I believe in and never be afraid to give my opinion.” A strong female working in motorsport, Julia is a great role model for those wanting to follow in her footsteps.

(heading picture credit: motorsport.com)