AF: You must have some brilliant memories from the F1 paddock. Can you share some of your fondest memories with us?
LG: So many of my fondest memories revolve around the people that I’ve worked with. I think being part of a team is always something special, be that working for a race team, being Press Officer at Jordan, or working with the ITV team, learning all about broadcasting and how to do that side of things. And so many memories that relate to particular interviews. Getting the first interview with Rubens Barrichello when he won his first Grand Prix – I worked with him as one of my drivers at Jordan. Getting the first interview with Eddie Irvine, for similar reasons. Getting the first interview with Lewis Hamilton when he won his first world title. There are lots of special moments.
I guess another one is being involved – not only in the first two-seater race for Formula 1 cars – but the first ever crash for two-seater Formula 1 cars! I was in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car. It was basically a Minardi PR event; they had built some two-seater Formula 1 cars that they could do passenger rides with, and they had arranged a race and Nigel Mansell was on board as one of the drivers,. Mansell’s deal was that he would win the race: it would work for everybody.
There was a bit of a miscommunication. I was in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car. He was just at beginning of his Formula 1 career. We ended up having Nigel Mansell driving into the back of and over the top of us. In fact, I’ve got the rear wing endplate from that car signed by Nigel and Fernando up on the wall of my office!
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AF: More recently you’ve been presenting British Touring Cars. Jade Edwards has recently announced she’s doing a full season for 2021, making her the first woman to do so since 2007. What do you think that means for representation of women in motorsports?
LG: I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Jade is there on merit. She made her debut in a one-off event last year, as did Jess Hawkins. Jade [has] managed to pull it together, and it’s a difficult job for any driver, male or female, to get together the budget, particularly in the times that we’re living through, to put together a full season of car racing, let alone racing at the premier category in the UK.
So I think all credit to Jade, and she is there on merit. She’s a good driver. I think it’s brilliant on a personal level for Jade because she’s a top girl, she’s worked really hard, she’s great fun, she’s a great personality, and she’ll be a great person to have in the BTCC paddock.
But I think more importantly, the visibility that it gives – it’s that old phrase – you need to see it to be it. Having a girl racing competitively on the touring car grid, you’ll have little girls watching at home thinking ‘okay, girls can be racing drivers as well’, and I think very often that makes a big difference.
Jade got into racing because she’d grown up around paddocks because her father and her grandfather raced. There are quite a few girls who have got involved in racing because there was a family connection. I now run my own media training company, and I work with quite a lot of young drivers, and very often I’ll say to them ‘how did you get involved in the sport?’, and if they didn’t have a family connection they’ll say ‘I went to a friend’s birthday party when I was eight years old and we went karting’. How many people take their eight-year-old girls karting? It just doesn’t happen the same [way], so I think maybe as a result of Jade being in the BTCC, maybe more people will say ‘do you want to go karting?’ to their eight-year-old girls. Maybe eight-year-old girls would say ‘I quite fancy having a go at that, can I go karting?’
AF: You’re also a supporter of the Girls on Track initiative, and you’ve run several webinars and workshops during the pandemic, sharing your knowledge and experience. Why is that important to you and what do you think that’s achieved to get girls more involved?
LG: The FIA Girls on Track started out as Suzie Wolff’s Dare to be Different initiative, and the primary function was working with youngsters and schools to give some insight to the parents, the teachers, and the young girls themselves, of all these different areas that you could work in in motorsport: be it medical, be it media, be it working on the cars, be it the physical education side of things. That was the basis of [how] it began, and then a community that ran alongside it to broaden it out to a wider audience. I think it’s really important to get the word out there – to girls, families, parents, teachers – of the availability and the range of work opportunities in motorsport.
It’s about sharing people’s experiences. I get people contacting me about how they would become a journalist in Formula 1, so I can share my experiences and give them some advice. It’s a mixture of those two things. It’s about awareness of opportunities and girls sharing experiences and giving back to other youngsters who are hoping to do it.
I am aware that I was very lucky to have been given opportunities. I wasn’t aware until relatively recently that [when I] turned up as part of ITV’s coverage – people noticed that, and quite a few girls have subsequently said to me ‘it was when I saw you doing that, I thought, oh wow, maybe I could work in Formula 1; maybe I could work in motorsport’. So that to me has been a very personal experience of the benefits of sharing your experiences with other people; with other girls – I’m very happy to share my experiences with boys as well, don’t get me wrong! – but with something like Girls on Track, what we’re trying to do is balance things out a bit, to get more girls involved in the sport.
I think it’s hugely beneficial. Everybody, no matter what business you’re in, you’re always going to benefit from having a mentor; you’re always going to benefit from having people who have gone before you sharing their experiences, and I think that’s a really crucial, important thing to be doing.
AF: You’ve also had some experience yourself as a driver, so you’ve had a taste of both sides of the motorsport world. What advice would you give to any girls wanting to break into the world of motorsport, whether as a driver, or in media or engineering?
LG: On the driving side, just do it, because it’s bloody brilliant fun! The younger you start the better it’s going to be. Who knows, I could have been a Formula 1 driver if I’d started when I was eight, but I didn’t get into a car behind the wheel until I was well into my twenties, and that came about [from] having a bit more profile from being on TV. I absolutely loved it, it’s brilliant fun.
Formula 1 and motorsport has given me an amazing – not just career – but life experiences as well: I’ve travelled, I’ve seen the great wall of China, I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been so lucky to get those experiences, and that’s come about off the back of my working life. And that’s a working life that’s been hugely gratifying as well.
I think you’ve got to like the sport to start off with, because it’s not a job when you work in motorsport, it’s a way of life. Races are at the weekends; you’re giving up a lot of your own time, so you’ve got to be passionate about it. Having said that, you can’t just be a fan, you’re there to work. It’s a working environment, so you’ve got to do your bit and work hard, and it’s a competitive environment so you’ve actually got to work bloody hard if you want to succeed in it. But I guess that’s the same with [any] profession: the harder you work, the more you apply yourself, the more chance you’re going to have of having success.