International Women’s Day 2021 – Interview with Simona de Silvestro (Part 2)

Read 1st part here: bit.ly/2OdD9nN

As part of a series of interviews leading up to and following on from International Women’s Day, we spoke to Simona de Silvestro about her 2020 season and her plans for the coming year. This is the second part of that two-part interview.

Of particular note in 2021 is de Silvestro’s return to the Indy500, this time as part of an all-female team run by Beth Paretta and backed by Roger Penske.

“For her to choose me, and especially with Roger Penske behind it, for me it’s a big honour,” she said. “Hopefully we can fill as many positions as we can with talented females.

“The 500 is really special to my heart. It really made me as a racing driver and really put me on the map, so I’m pretty happy to come back and I really can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of an IndyCar. I’m stoked about it.”

When asked if the team had any long-term ambitions, de Silvestro said, “From the team’s perspective I think that’s the plan. I think they are going to plan to be full-time on the grid next year. For me personally I’m pretty lucky to be in the position that I’m in – I’m works driver for Porsche and them letting me to the 500 is pretty cool.

“But I think that’s the goal for Beth, to grow this team. I think that she has the right tools to do it, and she’s the right person for it as well, so I think it’s quite exciting and I’m excited to be part of it from the beginning, [knowing] that the first time this team turns a wheel at the 500 I’ll be [driving]’.

Photo credit: The Porsche Newsroom

De Silvestro said the team’s decision to integrate women into all aspects of the team and not just the driver line-up was “important”, and that she thinks “with the team really pushing this, hopefully we will get a lot of young talented women coming in, and hopefully the other teams will maybe steal them from us.

“If you look at my career insights, I’ve been doing racing for a long time and it feels like now these opportunities are coming in with the right people around us. We have really great guidance with Team Penske behind us, so for whoever is coming in I think it’s the right place at the right time and that’s what’s really exciting.”

Looking back on her career, de Silvestro says she was always just focused on putting in the best performance that she could, but that she has noticed some changes when it comes to women in motorsport.

“If I look at my career, when I was in IndyCar, I felt at the time that I was pretty quick. We had podiums, we were running really strongly against the other drivers, but I didn’t get that chance to be in a top team, and I think that’s really what’s changing. I’m the first female who has ever been signed by Porsche as a factory driver and that’s a huge achievement, and for them to trust that I can get the job done.

“If a female driver can win races, I think I can open a lot more minds. I think we need this little bit of a push to show that it can be done and hopefully in 10, 15 years it won’t even be an issue anymore, and whoever is the fastest driver or the best mechanic or engineer gets those positions in those big teams.

“I think the platform that Beth [Paretta] is putting together can showcase that, and I think that’s really special.”

As well as the Indy500 de Silvestro is continuing her involvement with Porsche in 2021, although she hasn’t yet revealed which category she will be involved in with them.

“The thing that I can say is that I’m a reserve and development driver for the Formula E programme which is pretty exciting,” she says, “and the rest will be communicated pretty soon hopefully!”

When asked what advice she would give to young women looking to get involved in motorsport, de Silvestro says, “Believe in yourself, and I think a big thing as well is communicating what you aspire to do, because at the end of the day… you always need people around you to help guide you.

“Sometimes you will get no’s, but most of the time you will find some people who believe in the same dream and they will support you to get there, and that’s really important.”

International Women’s Day 2021 – Interview with Simona de Silvestro (Part 1)

From Formula E and IndyCar to V8 Supercars and GT racing, Simona de Silvestro has had a wide and varied career. She is one of the most high-profile female racing drivers and, in 2020, competed in ADAC GT Masters for Porsche. She was kind enough to speak to us as part of our series of interviews leading up to and following International Women’s Day.

As mentioned, 2020 saw de Silvestro take part in ADAC GT Masters as a factory driver for Porsche. COVID-19 saw her build-up to the season look fairly different to normal.

“I had just come back from Australia actually because I finished my supercar racing over there,” de Silvestro says, “and then started my new venture with Porsche. It was really strange because we came away from Christmas and we had all this testing planned and then all of a sudden there was really nothing going on for quite a long time.

“From that point of view it was definitely quite strange because since I was16, everything goes on from March and it gets pretty busy. Having the time and the big break was really strange.”

When asked how COVID affected her training, she says, “It definitely [affected] the driving side. I didn’t get into a car for a long time and I had a pretty big break, but physically it was quite good.

“Luckily, where I am in Switzerland was pretty chilled in the sense that you were still able to go outside and hike and things like that. So I actually felt really prepared on the physical side because I could really just focus on that.”

Photo credit: The Porsche Newsroom

Despite the lack of track-time compared to previous years, de Silvestro still looks back on her 2020 season positively.

“It was good to learn a new car and I think a few races went quite well,” she says. “It was a bit of a mixed-up season but I’m pretty happy that this year it seems like things are starting to get a bit more normal.

“I think all of us got a bit used to it and are a bit more flexible. It’s good to see that everyone is adapting and that things are moving on and pushing on.”

One of the defining characteristics of the extended off-season at the start of 2020 was sim-racing. Drivers from any and all categories took part in virtual races to keep fans – and themselves – occupied. De Silvestro was one of those who got involved and she admits that although there were some positives to it, it isn’t something she would be quick to return to.

“I’m actually glad [sim-racing] is not happening anymore because it took a lot of commitment and it’s definitely not the same as driving a race car,” she says, “but it was still quite fun. We did the 24 Hours of Le Mans virtually with Porsche and that was a whole new experience. I never thought that I would go to my first Le Mans virtually!

“I think you just need a lot of patience for it and I don’t really have it, so the gaming part is not so much my thing. But everyone had a go at it and at the end I definitely became much better with computers and all that, so that’s a plus.”

In part two of our interview with de Silvestro she talks to us about her plans for 2021, including a return to the Indy500 as part of an all-female team.

Read 2nd part here: bit.ly/3bs5qQf

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Jennie Gow (part 1)

In her own words, Jennie Gow has covered “almost every motorsport that you can imagine”, from MotoGP to Formula E and Formula 1. Since our interview, it was announced that Jennie will be taking on a new challenge this year as a commentator for the new Extreme E series which begins in Saudi Arabia from 3rd-4th April.

Jennie talks us through her career journey, her preparation for a race weekend, and discusses her Fast Talkers podcast and career webinars which have kept her busy during lockdown.

Alison Finlay: You’ve been very busy during the pandemic with various projects on your YouTube channel, the Fast Talkers podcast and career webinars. Why did you decide to start both projects, and what is the plan for them once things start to return to ‘normal’?
JG: Motorsport has been amazing for me. It’s given me so much in my life, and I wanted to give a little back. I felt that at this point in time there are so many people out there  feeling a bit lost and a bit scared, and intimidated and lacking motivation, and I just thought ‘this is a chance for me to reach out’ – even if it’s just one person who’s at home and feeling a bit blue – or who desperately wants to find a path in to motorsport – and if I can help them, then that’s amazing. I think if you sit around for too long not doing anything, your headspace can get a bit muddled. So, for me, it’s been really positive.

Fast Talkers is a little bit different; that’s more journalistic, and that was led by wanting to stay in touch with the people who have made up my family outside of my house for the last ten years, and the people I couldn’t see because I wasn’t going to the paddock. So, two slightly different things, but it feels like they both have a positive effect in the world, and that’s all I really wanted to do.

I’ve been really lucky to have a sponsor come on board to do the webinars because I was really struggling to be able to justify in a time where I’m earning nothing spending money on putting them together. So that’s been amazing, and the guys at New Channel Media have really stepped up to enable me to continue doing those. And those are the ones that inspire, educate [and] inform people and give a lot back. So that was really important to me and I hope that we’ll be able to carry those on. They might become a little more sporadic as people and lives get back to normal. But I still think, now everybody has Zoom, that hopefully we’ll still do some if I don’t feel that the market’s become too saturated. Because when I started there really wasn’t many people doing them, and now everyone’s doing them, which is great! But maybe it means that possibly I can step back a little bit, we’ll see!

And Fast Talkers: conversations are happening continually about where it goes and what happens with it; if somebody bigger wants to get involved, then that would be really exciting to see it expand out, but for the moment it’s a lot of work. I’m booking all the guests, I’m researching, I’m producing, I’m editing, so I feel there might be a time when I can’t do quite as many, but who knows!

AF: How did your own career in motorsport get started?
JG: I knew I wanted to be a journalist and I actually thought ‘I know what I want to do, I want to be a war correspondent’. I was doing work experience; gaining as much experience as I could, and I’d just done a session court reporting and [as] I was coming home there was a big crash, and I found that very hard to handle. I was one of the first responders: I was first aid trained at the time, so I helped out as much as I could, and after that I [thought] there’s no way I’m going to be able to deal with war reporting and being a correspondent at a war scene because I could hardly deal with that.

So, I changed tack quite quickly and thought I probably want to bring happiness to people rather than be too dour, and for me I’d always found happiness and comfort in sport. I qualified as a journalist and did loads of work experience. At the end I was incredibly fortunate to get quite a few different job offers and I chose to be a production secretary on Sports Personality of the Century. It seemed a good fit for me to learn my trade, and that’s what I wanted to – I wanted to be at the bottom, do everything; learn everything so I could make good choices going forward.

I ended up staying around the BBC and going to local radio. Local radio is a fantastic tool. If you want to be a journalist, a presenter, a broadcaster, I highly recommend going through BBC local radio because you get to do everything. You’re talking about very small teams on small budgets, so you learn huge amounts. And from there, I got into sports journalism and motorsport happened by chance. I was covering a Speedway race down in Bridgewater for the local radio station I worked for at the time and I guy came up and said ‘do you fancy doing some more?’ and that was the start of it really, and I’ve done almost every motorsport that you can imagine since that point. I’ve been really fortunate.

AF: I remember when Formula E first started with you leading the coverage and there were also several female drivers in the first couple of seasons, how different that felt compared to watching Formula 1. How important do you think it is that young women see themselves represented in motorsport?
JG: It’s so important. I was talking to somebody else about this the other day actually and they said you’ve got to imagine a seven-year-old girl sitting on her sofa. And that’s the problem with motorsport, is so many times, that young girl who could be inspired to get into motorsport just doesn’t have the role models out there. They’re not there yet, even now, there’s still so few. So how are we going to change it, how are we going to inspire the next generation to pick a spanner or to want to get into a go kart?

I think in 40 years’ time it will be a very different conversation, but right now we’re still at the forefront of changing diversity and inclusion, and sometimes to me it feels like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. But actually, you have to look at the positive results, and the way things are changing. And yes, it’s a very large ship that we’re trying to pull round in a U-turn. It’s going to take time, but equally we have to feel like every day we’re achieving something. And it’s our responsibility to make sure we are achieving something every day.

Read 2nd part here: bit.ly/3bsXTRj

 

 

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International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Jennie Gow (part 2)

Read 1st part here: bit.ly/3uZQOzv

AF:What would you say was one of the proudest moments of your career
JG: I did a programme about grid girls for the BBC and I was the impartial voice f the narrative, but we had a really good discussion on the subject of grid girls in Formula 1 and motorsport in general, and as a result of that programme, F1 made a decision to stop using grid girls, and I think that’s possibly one of the proudest [moments] because whilst I think there is an argument that if you want to be a grid girl, you should be allowed to be a grid girl, that’s your choice as a woman – or a guy, however to be a spokesperson for a sport is very different to being a grid girl who’s not allowed to interact or talk to anybody until she’s spoken to. So, for me, the day I heard that that programme had been played out within the head offices of F1 and that they’d made a kind of call to action because of it was hugely significant to me. I was very proud.

AF: In live broadcasting, I imagine things can sometimes go wrong. How do you deal with it when that does happen?
JG: You can make it as good a plan as you want – it’s a bit like childbirth, you make your plan and then at the day you find out that actually, it’s all rubbish and you’ve just got to go with it. Some of the things that you can’t ever get your head around are deaths. Obviously in motorsport, they happen. The first time you have to cover it, it’s horrific. These are people that you may well be relatively close with, and all of a sudden they’re gone, and you have to put your personal anguish and grief and emotions to one side, because you’re the presenter. You’re the one that’s there trying to tell, impartially, that news to people. And the first time I had to do that I found it incredibly difficult. It was on network television, and I was telling the nation at home that a young boy had lost his life. And those times, no-one really tells you how to do that. That taught me very quickly that you can have all the ideas in your mind of what you want to achieve in a day, but sometimes it just doesn’t go that way. That’s the extreme, I suppose, the very worst it can be when things go wrong.

But on a daily basis, things will go wrong. You’re dealing with a lot of people. In Formula 1 especially, you have PRs, you have drivers, every step of the way you’ve got producers in your ear telling you what they want, and everybody has their own expectations. So let’s say that you’re waiting for a Lewis Hamilton interview, he’s just won the world title, you’ve managed to negotiate with the PR that yes, you can speak to Lewis Hamilton, that’s fine. You’ve spoken to network, to say we should have Lewis Hamilton in the next ten minutes, let’s say. And then all of a sudden Lewis Hamilton walks past you, and goes to a phone call with his dad. Nothing you can do! So you have to be realistic about the situation and understand what you can and can’t control. But mistakes happen, that’s live broadcasting, and it’s why you love it, because it’s a constant adrenaline ride. But you have to surround yourself with people you trust, and you have to trust yourself that you’re good enough, and you’ve got enough experience in everything you’ve done to that point.

AF: With initiatives like Girls on Track and support of women in the industry like yourself, it does seem that motorsport is moving in the right direction to get more women involved in different roles. Do you think there is still more to be done, and do you think that we will see women racing in Formula 1 in the years to come?
JG: There’s always more that can be done, and diversity and inclusion is such a hot topic, and I’m so glad that Lewis Hamilton has been able to use his influence to really bring it to the forefront. He realises that to have a healthy paddock, you need it to be mixed: a mix of all sorts of different people. And you still walk into a paddock and it’s predominantly a very white space, and it’s predominantly middle-aged men. And you look at drivers and it’s similar: they’re affluent males between 18 and 35. So that has to change.

I still don’t think enough is being done at grassroots level, and that’s where the change will happen. We do need role models; we do need things like W Series to inspire the next generation to want to even try to be a driver, to go and be an engineer, to study STEM, to want to be a mechanic or a journalist. But at the end of the day it’s a really uphill fight and a struggle but we are getting there. There’s a good network now of people trying to help, trying to make a difference, trying to change things. So I do feel positive, but it’s going to take a long time. I don’t foresee us having a female F1 driver who can really compete, let alone just be in a car with a budget, for many years.

AF: You’ve worn a lot of different hats over the years; are there any roles that you’ve not had yet, that you’d like to try?
JG: I’d love to cover an Olympics, which is a bit random because there’s no motorsport in Olympics, but it’s always been the dream. I’m a people person, so wherever there’s a story to tell about a person, I’m there. I want to be the interface between the paddock and the people at home who aren’t allowed to go, or can’t afford to go, or don’t know enough about the sport to feel like they can go. But I’m at a point in my life where I’m really enjoying it and I still want to achieve more but I’m really lucky that lockdown has been kind to me and us as a family. And hopefully all of the things that I’m doing piece together to make sure that in the future I can carry on working!

AF: Finally, what would your advice be to anyone – particularly young women – pursuing a future in motorsport or in broadcasting and journalism more generally?
JG: I think it comes down to your perseverance; how much you really want something, and whatever you want in life, whether it’s a career in broadcasting or whatever it is you choose, just go for it! There are so many stories I’ve heard of people saying ‘my careers advisor told me I’d never achieve anything’ – it’s rubbish – of course you can do whatever you want. There is no limitation. So just go out there, set yourself a little plan, network like crazy, and make it happen! Don’t let anyone say no. Just go for it, you can do it, you’ve got this!

 

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Post udostępniony przez Jennie Gow (@jennie.gow)

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Juju Noda

We are not afraid to say that in last few years, Juju Noda has become a huge name in motorsport – We passionately believe it is not the last time we are going to hear this name. The young Japanese driver is proving that her place is in the highest echelons of racing.

For International Women’s Day 2020, we spoke with Juju. You can find the interview from 2020 here: http://bit.ly/3bWkZPe

Juju got into racing because she had grown up around race paddocks, a result of her father, Hideki Noda, a former Formula 1 driver. However, would she still be a part of the motorsport community if she had not grown up in racing family? Absolutely yes.

“I was influenced by my father, for sure but I really believe that even without my father, I would still have developed an interest in motor racing. I naturally love driving. That is why I would feel very natural for my life to go in this direction.”

For the 2021 season, Juju is joining Jay Howard Driver Development for the upcoming US F4 championship for what is a big step-up for the 15-years-old Japanese driver.

“Everything will be new again for me. The car, the team, the circuits, the place to live… I have to learn and go through so many things. My father and team told me to just take it easy at the beginning of the season. And then, gradually move up to a higher level.”

Although, the upcoming US F4 championship is her only race programme in 2021 and the 15-year-old driver is hungry for more challenges.

“I would like to learn as much as possible during the year both inside and outside the track, as well as bringing my own abilities to a higher level. Any experience I get will make me stronger.”

 

Because of Noda’s age, she was unable to develop her driving skills in Japan, causing her to leave her motherland. The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) regulations are strict and drivers under 16 years of age cannot take part in Japanese championships.

The 2020 season was Juju’s first season in Danish F4 championship (there is no minimum age for participants) – her first in Europe. The best memory from this experience is on her debut race.

“I took the pole position and led the whole race, pole to win. You only get one chance at achieving that and I couldn’t believe how I managed it. I also qualified 100% on pole position in every qualifying session. That was never going to be easy to do, so I was very happy to do it.”

The opening race of the Danish F4 championship was not the only success she was to have. Noda went on to score every pole position and achieve 3 podium finishes (1st race – 1st place, 4th race – 2nd place and 5th race – 3rd place). She finished the season 6th place in championship.

It will not surprise anybody that 2020 changed the entire world. But how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the rising star?

“The effect was very big, and it was obviously disappointing because I was supposed to have 24 races in total and it ended up being only 9 races. I was really confident to win more races and to challenge for the title.”

The 2021 US F4 championship will start on 26th of March at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. It will be the first race week for Juju this year.

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Louise Goodman (part 2)

Read 1st part here: http://bit.ly/3rsX54x

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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Post udostępniony przez Louise Goodman (@lougoodmanmedia)

 

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.

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Louise Goodman (part 1)

Louise Goodman has had a long career in motorsport, from starting out as a Press Officer at Jordan Grand Prix to becoming a familiar face to Formula 1 fans in the UK as a pitlane reporter for ITV. She now presents ITV’s BTCC coverage and has her own media training company – Goodman Media.

In our interview, Louise shares her insights into how the sport has changed over the years and discusses some of her more unique experiences, including becoming the first wo man to take part in a Formula 1 pit stop and being a passenger in a crash between Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell!

Alison Finlay: You’ve had a long career in motorsports – generally regarded as a very male-dominated environment – what would you rank as some of your greatest achievements?
Louise Goodman: I think having a long career in motorsport is probably up there on the list! I was lucky to fall into the sport. It wasn’t as if I set out to work in motorsport, or in broadcasting, which is what I’ve ended up doing. It’s a competitive business, and to have carried on working in it in various different guises; various different roles, I think it’s something to be… well, I applaud it anyway, even if nobody else does! It makes me happy, put it that way.

 

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AF: What are some of your thoughts on how things have changed over the years in terms of participation of women and involvement of women in the sport?
LG:
When I first walked into a Formula 1 paddock, back in the very late 1980s, you could probably count on not more than two hands the amount of women that were actually working in the paddock. It does have to be said that the number of people working in the paddock full stop was a lot smaller. Nowadays the teams have massive great big motorhomes that probably take 20-30 people to set them up. Back when I first started, it was two people, very often a husband-and-wife team, who drove the motorhome from A to B, set it all up, did the cooking and did a bit of everything.

When I first started out in Formula 1, some of the teams didn’t have a press officer. There was no facility for looking after the media, and a lot less media as well. And in marketing, there would be maybe two people in the commercial department, and that would be it. So marketing, media, those are areas where we’ve traditionally seen more women. I think more recently what’s been really good is the increase in numbers of women working on the technical side as well.

I think there is still work to be done to open people’s eyes to the fact that there are so many roles in the various different areas that motorsport encompasses, obviously the engineering side being one of those key areas. [Teams are] competitive across every level: they want the best engineers; they want the best candidates. They don’t really care whether they’re male or female, but the pool from which they are drawing has a lot more men in it, so inevitably, there’s going to be a lot more men coming through.

It has to start at the bottom. It starts in school, it starts in education, with encouraging a broader spectrum of people from different genders and different ethnicities to go into the subjects that will ultimately lead towards people having careers in motorsport.

AF: You were the first woman to take part in an F1 pitstop. Can you talk about how that came about and what that experience was like for you?
LG:
When I was part of the ITV Formula 1 presentation team, we were always looking for different ideas for different features. I was standing in the pit lane at one of the Grands Prix watching – I think it was Honda at the time. They were doing their pitstop practice and Alastair Gibson, their chief mechanic said ‘you should have a go at this!’ and that sowed the seed for the idea.

I trained with the team. I had to take part, understandably, in a lot of pit stop practice to make sure that I was up to the job. The plan was that we would film two pieces that would go out as part of our coverage at the British Grand Prix. The week before the Grand Prix, I took a phone call from Gil de Ferran, who was the sporting director of the team at the time, who said ‘I’m really sorry Louise, but we’ve had a meeting and you’re not going to be able to do the pit stop’, which I was immensely frustrated about. So [we] were left with a hole in our feature material for the British Grand Prix.

I put in a phone call to Andy Stevenson who was at Midland at the time. We had known each other for a long time I said ‘I’ve got this problem, I’ve trained to do this’ and he said ‘fine, no problem’. And I said ‘well, do you need to check?’ and he said ‘no, there’s no point telling the engineers about it, is there? they always get too uptight about this kind of thing’. I obviously then had to go and do some pit stop practice with their team, which scared the bejesus out of me, because I then discovered my job was rear left wheel off, and there was a very particular movement that you had to do on the Honda car and it was slightly different on the Midland.

I was incredibly nervous about it.. I really was going to have to muck it up in a monumental style if I was going to have an impact on their pitstop. But my heart was still in my mouth when it happened, and I felt like I’d just won the Grand Prix when it all went successfully!

Ironically, Jenson Button’s car with the Honda team never made it to his first pit stop, so had I stuck with the original team, it would never have happened! So it was big thanks to Andy, who I discovered afterwards had literally told his engineers ten minutes before the start of the race that I was going to be on the crew doing the pit stops.

Read 2nd part here:bit.ly/3c9pN41

Rinus VeeKay: “We are ready for the 500”

Rinus VeeKay image courtesy of IndyCar

The first time I took notice of this young Dutchman, he was leading the F3 Asian Winter Series competing with the likes of Williams test driver Dan Ticktum and F3 heavy-hitters David Schumacher and Ye Yifea. I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I was mightily impressed with his performances ultimately dominating the championship twenty nine points ahead of his nearest rival.

Now, he is starting fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the highest placed rookie.

It has been a whirlwind twelve months for Rinus VeeKay to say the least, a name he adopted after coming to compete in the US, his real name: Rinus Van Kalmthout. Since his incredible performance in the Indy Lights series he has been catapulted into motorsport stardom with the Ed Carpenter Racing team for the NTT IndyCar series for the 2020 season.

For the Netherlands, it is a seismic moment. The first Dutch driver in top tier American Open wheel racing since Robert Doornbos in 2009. Doornbos and only four other Dutchman have ever raced in IndyCar including two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyundyk Sr, his son Arie Luyundyk Jr, Cornelius Euser and Jan Lammers.

Having waited so long for another star in the IndyCar series, they were treated to a miraculous sight last Sunday, seeing Rinus blasting through turn one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway clocking in at just over 240mph. One of the fastest unofficial speeds ever recorded at the Indy 500.

The previous day he knocked many big names out of the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout, including the likes of Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso to name but a few. This is no mean feat. However, rather than let the pressure get to him, he put in a fantastic four-lap average (230.704mph) during the ‘Fast Nine’ to start on the fourth row alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchliffe.

I was fortunate to sit down with Rinus on Wednesday 19th August, four days before he is due to take the starting grid in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in the World’. The aim: to get an insight into the nineteen-year-old Dutchman, to reflect on his fantastic performance so far.

Adam (Q):

Hi Rinus! How are you feeling? Are you OK?

Rinus VeeKay (R):

Yeah, I’m feeling great. It’s been a crazy few days, but I’m very happy with the result and it’s been a crazy weekend, but it’s also been the best weekend.

 Q:

So Rinus, first of all, congratulations on such a magnificent performance at your first Indy 500. Through to the ‘Fast Nine’, starting fourth, the highest placed rookie. That is the highest starting position for a Dutchman in 21 years since the 1999 Indy 500, which was your mentor, Arie Luyendyk, who started on pole that day.

That must be something you are immensely proud of. How do you reflect on such a fantastic debut performance?

R:

Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Of course, I did not really expect it. Of course, I knew we had a good car, but the Hondas were looking strong and I was really happy to make the ‘Fast Nine’. But then, yeah, having such a good qualifying run; that almost front row was possible was amazing.

Q:

Absolutely and you’re the only Chevrolet powered car through to the ‘Fast Nine’, which is incredible as well. Many have commented on the lack of speed by Chevy and that you guys were running a low downforce set up in order to negate the power of the Hondas. However, you hit 240 miles an hour going through into turn one.

My question has two parts here. One, what was it like running at such an incredible speed? Have you experienced anything like that ever in your career?

And secondly, would you be running a similar low downforce set up during the race? And what can you expect to get out of the race with that?

R:

Well, it was amazing touching 240 miles per hour, that’s kind of a dream come true. It’s amazing speed, of course, I had a bit of a tailwind. It was cool, turning in to turn one staying flat to 240 miles an hour. Never experienced that before, but this definitely is my land speed record.

For the race, you need more downforce to run in traffic in the race, and the tyres will not last if we keep it on that low downforce. So yeah, we will go for more downforce on a kind of race trim that everyone will be on. And yeah, we have a really strong race car. I know that. And we are ready for the 500.

Q:

Fantastic. You seem to have had quite a lot of success at the Motor Speedway. You came third here at the Freedom 100 in Indy Lights and you seem to done well at the road course in both Indy lights and IndyCar. What is there about the Motor Speedway you find so special?

R:

It’s super special, it’s like the racing mecca. The feeling driving here, if you just drive through the gates, it’s just like heaven.

It’s amazing and I really enjoy driving here. Of course, you need a bit of luck to be successful, but I love the speedway and of course, also the IMS road course has been amazing this year with my highest IndyCar finish so far.

Q:

Some of our readers may be hearing about you for the first time, but they will be eager to learn a little bit about your amazing journey into IndyCar. So, you know, I’ve got a list here of some of your accolades.

  • Second in US F2000 National Championship (2017),
  • Second in the BOSS GP series (2017),
  • Third in  the MRF Challenge Formula (2017),
  • First in the Pro Mazda Championship (2018),
  • First in the F3 Asian Winter Series (2019),
  • Second  in the Indy Lights Series (2019).

Some may be wanting to know why you chose to go round the US motorsport route rather than the European circuit and follow people such as Max Verstappen going to Formula One.

What was it that drew you to America? And I have heard that there are some perceptions that it’s more down to talent in the US. Is that a fair assumption?

R:

Yes, that’s quite fair to say. The Road to Indy is known for their scholarship program and I won the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship and because of that I had the funding to go to Indy Lights. Then it just all happened from there on. So actually that win in 2018, made possible, by The Road to Indy, just made it possible for me to drive in my car eventually.

it’s been tough to go this way. It’s not always been easy but it’s been a great few years and to make it to IndyCar in this rapid way is great.

 Q:

One question I had from one of our contributors was about your time in the BOSS GP Open series. He wanted to ask. It’s one of the more lesser known categories, one could say, but it hosts so many historical sports cars. It sounds like such an amazing series to be a part of. Did you learn anything in particular in your time in that series? And what benefits did you find in doing it?

R:

Yeah, my goal to do that was, I was 16 years old, when I did that. I did a few races there I didn’t do the full season. But to get experience at that young age with, well, I had 680 horsepower. Wow. That’s something very educational. And it’s something important to master when you’re younger. And I think that’s really helped me getting used to high power, high breaks, high downforce when I was only 16 years old.

Q:

Fantastic. Do the likes of people like Max Verstappen, Robin Frinjs in Formula E, Nick de Vries who is F2 Champion, and of course yourself. Does that give you hope that motorsport in the Netherlands is on the rise? It seems like Dutch motorsport is in a really good place right now.

R:

Yeah, it really is. We have some great drivers. Robin Frinjs who is a great driver in DTM and Formula E. Nyck De Vries who is a great driver in Formula E. Max Verstappen of course and then on the other side of the ocean, it’s me in IndyCar. It’s great to have so many drivers in the top categories of open wheel racing, and it’s just great to be part of it.

Q:


It’s like you said, you don’t get many Dutchmen in IndyCar. What is it like trying to get the attention of motorsport fans from the Netherlands to watch you in IndyCar? Do you think that you have a lot of attention right now from the Netherlands?

R:

Yeah, the attention is really getting better and better. Of course, it’s been a little tough because everyone was super ‘Formula One minded’. Now they’ve seen my qualifying performance and of course now with the internet, Twitter, everything, it rolls like a snowball. Everyone starts to get really excited. I think most of the country is going to watch the 500 next weekend, so it’s going to be really cool. I think especially the attention towards IndyCar is really on the rise now.

Q:

It certainly has been with my family we’ve been sat around the whole sofa watching it for the past few weeks. So you’ve provided some fantastic entertainment, especially during lockdown.

In the lower categories, you had a competitive rivalry with the likes of fellow rookie Oliver Askew. You two alongside Alex Palou and Dalton and Pato will be going for the Rookie of the Year title on Sunday. Do those sorts of things motivate you as a driver? And will competing well against the likes of Oliver be an extra bit of motivation for you come the race on Sunday?

R:

I’ve had a long rivalry with Oliver. He’s a great driver and he’s always been a benchmark whenever you go to the track. We have a lot of quick drivers in IndyCar now so Oliver is a quick rookie but also Alex, Patricio, Dalton Kellet, they are super quick here. We’ve got some really strong rookies this year and it feels good to be kind of the best rookie and so that gives me a huge amount of confidence.

Q:

How would you rate your IndyCar season so far? You’ve had a few unfortunate accidents here and there but on the whole your performances have been really positive and certainly the qualifying here at Indy 500 surely should give you confidence for the rest of the full IndyCar season. So how would you reflect on the season so far and your hopes for the future? 

R:

Yeah it’s been a weird season. Of course with COVID to start off with and then my first race at Texas was very immature, very rookie, but I really learned from that. It was one of my biggest lessons in my career. And then from then on, as a driver I made huge steps.

Of course after that we had Indy IMS Road Course where I had my first top five finish. That was great with a great strategy. And then at Road America we struggled a little, I also had some engine issues in the race so that was unfortunate. And in Iowa we were on our way possibly to a victory in race 1 until, well you know what happened with Colton. That was very unfortunate. In race 2 we had some pit lane issues so it’s not been the luckiest year. But, well let’s hope we can make a turnaround from here.

 Q:

For all your prospective fans out there as I am sure after this weekend you will have many. What can we expect from you come this Sunday?

R:

I’m gonna just give it my all. I know we have a great race car. Of course a lot of the race is about strategy, so that will be important, a lot of thinking. But I think we can make the people at home, make then sit at the top of their seats and enjoy the race. I really want to make sure that this year, when there are no fans, they still really enjoy it.

Q:

And that’s another good point that there will be no fans this year at the 500. Does that feel a little bit strange do you think that’s going to be weird come Sunday?

R:

It feels a little strange yeah. You are so used to having so many fans here at Indy. The fans make the event what it is and you miss that. You can feel that the atmosphere is not like that. Of course, it’s still the 500, you still have the speed and the sensation but yeah the fans are a gift when they are here.

Q:

I mean I’m sure that even though they are not going to be there there’s going to be thousands more at home tuning in watching at home live so don’t worry there’s going to be lots of people supporting you back at home.

I think that’s pretty much all we have time for that’s the fifteen minutes. So thank you so much Rinus it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for giving up some of your time to speak to us. We wish you so much luck for the race on Sunday and we really hope you have a good turnout and a good result come this Sunday?.

R:

Thank you very much. I’ll make sure everyone will enjoy the race, and me too and hopefully drink the bottle of milk at the end!

 

 

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Sophia Flörsch

  Sophia Flörsch has what promises to be an exciting season ahead of her. The German racer is making the step up to FIA Formula 3 with Campos Racing, as well as entering several races in the European Le Mans series, including the 24h of Le Mans. She’ll be part of an all-female line-up, sharing the car with Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon. We asked Sophia her views on the season ahead, as well as talking budgets and her aims for the future.

Alison Finlay: An exciting year ahead for you Sophia, with an all-female Le Mans entry and Formula 3. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Sophia Flörsch: I’m looking forward to each single race I am able to do to be honest. There is no difference for me between a FIA Formula 3 race or an ELMS race. For me it was really important to be racing FIA F3 this year. The F3 car is great and all 30 drivers are one of the best in junior formula classes. The complete starting grid is very close together. It will be a great season with a lot of learning and fighting for me. Each race weekend has something special. It’s always on F1 weekends which is something new to me. The tracks are great and some are even new to me, like Bahrain or Sochi, for example. As the Red Bull Ring is one of my favourite tracks, I am looking forward to that one in particular. The atmosphere in Austria is one of the best. On the other hand I am going to do ELMS in an LMP2 with Richard Mille Racing and 24h of LE MANS! It will be a new and different challenge for me as it’s endurance racing but it’s going to be great. Of course Le Mans will be amazing. I am really thankful to be able to race there this year. That’s definitely a dream come true. 100 million TV viewers worldwide – wow. This one week will for sure be one which I will never forget.

AF: You’ve tweeted recently about the costs of the junior series. Can you describe the barrier this creates for young drivers?
SF: Well, I think everyone knows that motorsport is really expensive. Even in F1 you see teams having different budgets performing differently just because they do not have the same possibilities. That’s pretty much the same in junior classes. If you are lucky, and your parents can afford the yearly budgets between 1-2m, without any problems, and even pay for you to go testing or keep racing during the winter period, then that’s amazing. You are a privileged driver because of more and better testing and possibilities. But if your family is not able to afford it, you need people to believe in you and support you. Already when you start with F4 people spend up to 800k per year. That’s a big bunch of money. The higher you get, the more expensive it gets. F2 is more than 2m a year, F3 in a top team more than 1.3 to 1.5m. The most expensive cockpit I heard this year is 1.9m – don’t know if it’s true. The [team’s] experience, their race engineers and so on – the better it is, the more expensive it is. So there is a reason why parents are paying the highest price. The struggle is that not having the money you need to perform well [means having] to find people to give you money to race. But to perform well you should be able to go testing as much as the others, or at least drive in a team where you can do good races just because the car is quick enough. But for that you need money… so it’s kind of a circle which you need to try to get out of by having good races, fighting, showing people that it really is your dream and that they are the ones making it possible to live my dream and achieve my goal.

credit © Dutch Photo Agency

AF: How are you preparing for the 24 hours of Le Mans? And how exciting is it to be part of an all-female entry?
SF: Well, we are racing the ELMS as well which will be two race weekends before Le Mans already. It’s just going to be 4h races but of course that’s already going to help to get a feeling for endurance racing. I will for sure do a lot of simulator preparation to get into the rhythm and focus on long stints. Watching videos and some 24h races from the years before to learn. A lot of contact with the team and the other two women. It’s an huge honour to be racing 24h of Le Mans and also with an all women line up is super cool. We want to perform – that’s our goal to 100%! To get the possibility thanks to Richard Mille and FIA Women In Motorsport is amazing and we will make the best out of it. Of course in an endurance race everything can happen and there are more things you have to take in account, but the luck will be on our side.

AF: Are you happy with your performance in the F3 test? What are your aims for the season?
SF: I am only happy when I am winning a race or I am P1. That’s 100% sure. But to be realistic it was the first time for me back in a formula car again since Macau 2019. Not a single test day during the winter season. No experience on new tyres. And to understand the Pirelli tyres is really important. In those three test days at Bahrain my main goal was to develop myself, work together with the team and get in a rhythm with the car again. I think I ticked those boxes in Bahrain. In testing you never know where you really stand because everyone is doing different tyre strategies and everyone tries different stuff. Free practice and quali will be the sessions when we really realise where we are. As it’s my first season in F3 and as I did not prepare during the winter in F3 there are no high expectations. This season will be a year for me to learn, to get used to the car, to enjoy, to get better as a race driver and to have good races. If I am ending the season with Top 10 finishes and also well performing [well in] quali then I think it should be a good starting point on which to build up for 2021.

AF: What does the future hold beyond 2020 for you, and is it dependent on performance this year?
SF: The plan is to do FIA F3 again in 2021, and after that, two years of FIA F2 with strong partners and an equal backing would be great. That’s how my next years should look. I want to sit in a race car as much as possible. When I make it to be highest class of formula racing, either F1 or maybe than Formula E, I want to be a proper racing driver who has had enough preparation and years in the junior classes. Of course performance is always important. I want to show that I am the quickest. In motorsport this key factor does not just depend on talent. Money and the budget you have for every single season is probably even more important as I mentioned before. To be able to go testing during the winter, or maybe even do another series during the winter, and to race with a leading top team, you need money. That’s what I need to be able to perform and to reach my next goals

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Juju Noda

   Juju Noda has a lot of pressure riding on her young shoulders.

The Japanese star – who turned 14 last month – has received a lot of international attention over the past few years as a result of driving various single-seaters in her home country despite her young age.

By the age of nine she had already tested F4 cars, holds the F4 lap record at the Okayama International Circuit, drove a Formula 3 car at the age of 12, and competed in a Japanese category called Formula U17, which uses F3-spec cars, when she was 13. Bear in mind, Max Verstappen was 16 when he first drove an open-wheel car.

Unable to progress any further in Japan until she is 16 due to minimum age restrictions, Noda has moved to Europe for the 2020 season, where she will be competing in Danish F4, and was kind enough to speak to us for International Women’s Day here at The Pit Crew Online.

Jenny Rowan: How would you reflect on your 2019 season?

Juju Noda: It was a very good season. I managed to drive F3 hard and I even managed to break lap the lap record of F3N Class (Dallara F312 with Volkswagen Cox engine) at Okayama International Circuit. I also won all four races of the season.

JR: There has been a lot of hype surrounding you and your career – how do you feel about the attention you’ve been getting and how do you deal with it?

JN: I think it is something necessary if you want to be competitive and professional. If you cannot deal with it, that means you are not good enough. To be honest, sometimes it is a bit hard to handle but I always do my best.

JR: Do you see your age as an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to competing against drivers who are potentially several years older than you?

JN: In the future it will be an advantage but right now it is not. Instead, there are many limitations regarding what to drive and where to drive and it is a bit inconvenient.

JR: Have you already tested the car you’ll be driving in Danish F4 and, if so, how did it feel?

JN: Yes, I drove it in Spain in January and February. The car is quite heavy and not very forgiving but I must get along with it if we want to be competitive. I feel like I want to be friends with it and get along well!

JR: What ambitions do you have for the 2020 season?

JN: I want to learn and enjoy the season as much as possible. Hopefully towards the second half of the season I can be competitive. But I don’t want to be impatient.

JR: What are your ambitions more widely regarding your career?

JN: I want to be one of the best drivers in the world and reach places like Formula 1, Formula E, Le Mans, IndyCar or NASCAR. I will do my best to succeed!

Featured image courtesy of  Sergi Garcia”