MotoGP Interview Series - with Amy Dargan, MotoGP.com Presenter

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Previous interview in the series:

MotoGP Interview Series - with Gino Borsoi, Angel Nieto Team Sportive Manager

MotoGP Interview Series - with Norma Companys, Dorna Event Director

All photos (including featured cover) © Christian Bourget

Subscribers to MotoGP.com’s VideoPass or audiences with access to Fox Sports are perhaps very familiar with Amy Dargan. Every race weekend, she brings the stories in the paddock to fans around the world. During Thai GP on the Saturday evening, we had the opportunity to chat with Amy and hear her own story.

Eyes on the prize, no second thoughts

Amy’s first exposure to motorsport came when she was a teenager, “My friend’s dad used to have a tire garage and he owns two motorbikes. I was always around at their house and quite often he would have BSB, WSBK or MotoGP on the television. My father was always an F1 fan. So I was always aware of it.”

Amy also started working in the paddock at a relatively young age. Since the very beginning, she had always been very determined that she wanted to get into MotoGP. Her path started with being a grid girl, and has been paved with professional training in journalism. “It was probably when I was 16 or 17 I got my first job working in the paddock as a grid girl. That for me was a way to be around motorsport, to work in the industry, gaining experience, meeting the right people, and at the same time I was studying media in college. I went on to study broadcast journalism specializing in sports in university. I was getting experience working for Eurosport as well. I was always kind of in and around it since my teenage years.”

“I was very sure of what I wanted to do at an early age. I knew I wanted to work in motorsport as a presenter. I knew I would work in MotoGP. I think if you put yourself in the vicinity of something you really want to do, opportunities often tend to arise, and you just have to grab the opportunities as and when they come.”

Even though opportunities would come easier when you are in the paddock than at home watching, Amy still worked really hard to create her own opportunities. “Opportunities don’t just fall at your feet. You have to create them for yourselves. I was very good at a young age of understanding how to do that. It didn’t matter what I was working as. I just got myself working in the paddock. Then from there, once I graduated, I used to chase people and say ‘Hey, can I come and get some working experience?’. I remember I went out with a friend and a camera in London. She was trying to be an actress, and I always wanted to be a reporter. So we sat in front of Chelsea football ground and created links with our camera pretending that we were broadcasters. I didn’t have a show reel then, and that was how I put my first show reel together. I sent it to all the producers and senior producers. Then it came off of the back of my work experience at Eurosport that I was invited to go to some of the events with them and made some more professional looking show reels. It’s the same for every industry, you just had to be willing to stay at it and try and push through.“

As someone who has been working really hard to get into the industry, Amy is also warmly welcomed by the paddock. “Since the beginning, I didn’t really face too many difficulties or obstacles. The first paddock I worked in was actually a motocross paddock and I was working there the year before as a Monster Energy girl. So I knew a lot of the riders, I knew the people working for the production company. So everyone was really welcoming. It was the perfect platform for me to learn my craft, because it was a much smaller audience than MotoGP is. It was a really good basis for me to learn my skills and take all the skills I learned in the university and put them into practice. In my final year there, I think it was 2013, it was when I got the call from MotoGP asking whether I would come for a trial at Valencia, the final race of the season.”

“I haven’t really doubted my choice to work in motorsport. Because I don’t really know any different. I’ve never had another job. I’ve always worked in a paddock, and I’ve always worked in the motorsport industry. I’ve never had too much of other stuff to compare it to, so I can’t really think of the top of my head if I had any struggles. I had the same struggle as everybody else getting into the industry.”

Building the craft through every race weekend

For audiences familiar with Amy, they would see her face popping up throughout the weekend. What’s a race weekend like for her? “A race weekend is quite busy for me. I arrive on Wednesday. I don’t do too much on that day besides preparing a few notes on the flight over. Thursday is our media day so I have interviews either for MotoGP.com or Fox Sports. I’d also like to go around to a few debriefs with the riders to see what their coming into the weekend is like. We also have the Preview which looks back at the last Grand Prix and look into the coming weekend. We usually have a rider joining us for that which is quite nice. Then we go into our press conference and I do social media questions. Friday morning I’m in the pit lane doing Moto2 and Moto3 sessions, and in the afternoon we are going to have all the media debrief interviews. On Saturday I switch to Fox a lot more. Basically it’s a lot of interviews!”

Since Amy is the voice of the fans on Thursday in the press conference to ask fan questions, we asked her about the changes social media brought to the sport. “There is a lot more fan interaction on social media than when I started nine years ago. Instagram wasn’t a thing. There was Twitter around. But back then people didn’t really understand what social media was and nobody was really sure how to use it. Comparing to when Matt (Birt, MotoGP.com commentator) first started as a journalist, there was no social media so you don’t really ever know what the audience back home is thinking. It’s nice to see other people’s opinions on it. It’s definitely changed the way we work. I now consider it part of my job to post stuff. I think social media gives fans more access to see more than what they were seeing before. It also allows us to be more creative and make more features.“

Speaking of her growth in the nine years working in the paddock, Amy emphasized on relationships she’s built. The paddock is formed of a diverse group of people. After all, MotoGP is as much about the bikes as it is about the people in the paddock. “Naturally you learn how to do your job better and more time efficiently. You build better relationships. Here I think one of the most important things is to have good relationships not just with the riders but press officers and the team managers. At the end of the day, they are the ones saying yes or no to the interviews. It might not seem an obvious thing that you think you need to be good at. But it is perhaps the most important thing. That was definitely something I developed. Your relationships in the paddock grow over the years. I think I also got more knowledgeable of the sport. It’s so different watch MotoGP at home, just tuning in for Qualifying and the Race. When you are actually here in the paddock and watch everything progress in the weekend, I learned more about the sport that way.”

Even though Amy has never doubted her choice to work in motorsport, we still asked her whether she would like to try out any other type of work within the paddock. “One of the things I’d like to try is not too dissimilar to what I do now. The kind of features and televisions that Dorna produce, they are so creative, the camera work is all stunning. They put some fantastic documentaries together. That’s not what I work on. I work on more of the race reporting. I would always kind of like to do more work with that documentary, maybe more from a producer’s point of view. There are so many stories which aren’t picked up at a Grand Prix weekend, and you don’t always get to see all of the riders’ personalities or what goes on behind the scenes with the teams. I’d love to do a bit more work from that point of view. Maybe driving the safety car would be quite fun! I’ve never been in a safety car before. Earlier this year I went on the back of a Ducati two-seater around Catalunya, which was incredible. It was one of the best experiences of my life. “

The moving office, and sunday emotions

Thai GP is ahead of the fly-away triple-header, with Japan, Australia and Malaysia coming off of it. For Amy, these races are now more like a normality than when she first started. “I think for the fly-away races you get into the swing of things, definitely for the triple-header. It almost feels like you are in a bit of a bubble. I do like to get home, especially now I’ve been with my fiance for seven years and we are getting married next year. I definitely appreciate my home time more now than when I first started. In your first year doing this, it was amazing because you are going to new countries and new places. You are experiencing new cultures and new food, it was just one of the best experiences ever. Over the years you become more familiar, it became almost like the travelling office. You know all the circuits, all the hotels, all the restaurants. It’s just like ‘I’m popping into that office this weekend’. Instead of other people jumping on a train to go to work, I just jump in a flight. It just becomes normality. We have a pretty hectic schedule now, but when we have fantastic races, you kind of forget about that on a Sunday. “

For all the people passionate about the sport working in the paddock, there are always moments when they are grateful that they work in something they love. It’s the same for Amy. “On Sunday I can find any excuses to tear up. I became much more emotional as I got older. I don’t know whether that’s got to do with my relationship with Sam (her fiance), who’s a mountain bike rider. I don’t know whether that just put me more in touch with my emotions. I’m really empathetic to riders’ achievements or losses. That makes me feel really lucky. Not in every job you get to be that involved with on all sorts of levels. On Sunday I always feel ‘oh this is what I’m paid to do, to get those stories out.'”

“Women are more than just grid girls”

Back when the discussion regarding grid girls started, Amy was pretty vocal saying women shouldn’t be limited to just being the grid girls. This year outside of MotoGP, she was the presenter for W Series in Misano. So we followed up with her regarding what should be done to get more women into motorsport. ” I think the things currently being done to get more female involved are great. I think it’s about creating more platforms and opportunities like the W Series has done. I know some people’s opinion on that championship is that motorsport is a level playing field in terms of physical capability. But you can’t argue the fact that opportunities haven’t risen for female drivers. The W Series basically created another platform for drivers who wouldn’t have a driver’s seat. I can’t see too many reasons to feel negative towards it. As far as I’m concerned it was a great championship and really exciting. Slightly different here in MotoGP. We’ve had females competing in the championship as recently as a couple of years ago, and Maria Herrera is back in MotoE. Ana Carrasco went on to become SSP300 champion (in WSBK). I think people also need to come here to see in the paddock how many females are working in different roles. Those roles are maybe not always camera facing. For example as Dorna, we have a really high number of female employees working in all sorts of areas, from technical department, to logistics department, to TV production department. We are actually quite a large group of girls. The on-board cameras, the technologies behind that is actually a female that heads all of that up. She is the main person in charge for all that which is a massive role, considering all the technologies involved.”

This concludes our MotoGP interview series from Thai GP. We would like to thank Reale Avintia Racing Team for their warm hospitality and tremendous help in the months leading up to and during the Grand Prix weekend. Next month, as the new season of FIA Formula E approaches, we will be rolling out our interviews with Susie Wolff and Simona de Silvestro during Valencia testing.

Follow us on Twitter @PaddockSorority or Weibo @PaddockSorority-围场姐妹会

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