Louise Goodman is one of the best-known members of the motorsport paddock after working in the industry for nearly 30 years. Louise has worked on ITV for 20 years, initially as part of their F1 package and now as a co-presenter of their BTCC coverage. The D2BD ambassador took time after working on the Australian Grand Prix to discuss her career.
When did you decide you wanted to work in motorsport, was it always your aim?
I sort of fell into it to be quite honest. I started out working for a powerboat racing magazine and through that met Tony Jardine who offered me my first job in motor racing at his new PR company after overhearing at a mutual friend’s party that he was looking for someone to work for him. I was looking for something a little less high-pressure so I decided to work for Tony as his first employee. We used to get the accounts from BP, Leyton House’s title sponsors at the time, and that was how I ended up working for that team.
As well as Jardine PR, you worked in F1 for both Leyton House and Jordan, what was it like dealing with Eddie Jordan on a day-to-day basis?
Working with Eddie there was never a dull moment! It was great fun; Jordan Grand Prix was a great team to work for. Eddie subscribed to the “work hard, play hard” theory so it was always entertaining.
You then joined ITV F1 and worked there for over 10 years, what do you remember most from your time there?
I still vividly remember ITV’s first Grand Prix in Melbourne. That was a very daunting experience as I had very little television experience then, only a small amount of Irish TV when working for Jordan. So it was very much “here’s a microphone and off you go”. James Allen was very helpful in giving me broadcasting tips, but I made up the rest of it as I went along.
Who are the drivers you most look forward to interviewing and why?
Probably the driver that’s won the race! Even a driver who you get on with really well, if they’ve had a bad race, understandably the last thing they want to do is tell everyone what’s gone wrong. So it depends on the situation rather than who the driver is.
Having said that, there are some drivers who will happily answer questions in the media scrum regardless of their misfortune, a good example being Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian Grand Prix. I also always enjoyed interviewing drivers I worked with over the years when they got great results like the first wins for Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine.
One interview which stands out is when I travelled to Avignon to interview Jean Alesi when he was at Prost. He gave us an entire day of his time, including inviting us to dinner at his house in the evening. For a driver to be as open and accessible as Jean was very special.
What is your favourite event on the motorsport calendar to cover?
The one that stands out to me these days is the season finale of BTCC at Brands Hatch. It’s always such an emotional and dramatic day. There’s inevitably still three or four drivers in contention for the title, and gradually the story becomes clearer as the day goes on. I love working on the touring cars because it’s such an accessible environment where the drivers are easy to talk to and the racing is so exciting. The emotions run so high that I often have to fight back my own tears and keep a professional head on when interviewing the winner.
You are once again a part of ITV’s team covering BTCC for 2017. What can fans look forward to this season?
I would say it’s going to be another closely fought year. BMW were very strong last year, the Subarus were starting to look good and you can never count out the Hondas. One of the joys of the touring car season is the number of different winners each season – half of the drivers on the grid have BTCC victories. So when you have that many drivers who are proven race winners you know you are in for some close and exciting racing.
How has your involvement in D2BD helped to inspire other women to follow a similar career path to yourselves?
I hope that it has inspired people. I think D2BD is great in opening doors. Firstly, there’s the work we do in schools which not only opens the eyes of children but particularly parents to the fact that motorsport is a fantastic environment to work in, with such a range of opportunities. There is still this perception that motorsport is for boys and that as we know is not the case at all.
Secondly, the D2BD community, a forum for women (and men) who are already involved in the sport or want to get involved, provides a facility to exchange ideas. I’ve had girls approach me who are interested in the media side of things and I’ve answered their questions and given them tips and pointers.
I think you need role models. If women look at motorsport and don’t see other women doing a job then they may well think that’s not for me, so D2BD makes women in the sport more visible, providing those role models for young girls who can then see this as achievable.
Would you say that the paddock is as heavily male-dominated as it was when you started in 1988, or is it clear that women are now more welcomed in the sport?
When I first walked into a Formula 1 paddock, you could probably count the number of women working in there on two hands whereas nowadays there are far more women. In terms of numbers the paddock is male-dominated but this ratio is decreasing and rightly so as I think the gender lines have been blurred. Motorsport is a very competitive environment and teams just want the best regardless of gender.
Finally, what advice would you give to women who are interested in working in motorsport?
When I was starting out, if you wanted to work in the media then you trained within it rather than going to university and getting the relevant qualifications. That has obviously changed somewhat these days so make sure that the qualifications you’re taking are relevant for what you want to do. But the biggest piece of advice is to get out there and meet people. It’s a very competitive environment so the more contacts you make, the more chance you have of when there’s an opportunity available, someone thinking of you and guiding you towards it.