There’s very little closer to the action than life as a pit-lane reporter – which is exactly what Louise Goodman has been doing for the past 22 years. So what advice does she have for aspiring motor journos?
An award-winning broadcaster and journalist, Louise has been working with ITV as a pit-lane reporter for more than two decades, across both F1 and British Touring Car Championship Coverage (BTCC)
She started her career in journalism as an editorial assistant for Powerboat and Waterskiing Magazine, before going into motorsport PR. She now also runs her own media training consultancy, Goodman Media.
In short, it’s fair to say she knows a thing or two about about broadcasting and motorsport. We caught up with Louise to chat about how race weekends begin, what she always wanted to do, and the proudest moments in her career.
My race weekend begins at home…
When I’m working at the touring car races, before I go to the event, I’ll spend time at home doing my prep.
That involves going through all the press releases from the previous event, alongside the previews..
I make a reference document for myself that I update on a race-by-race basis; it’s my sort of ‘bible’, something I can always refer back to. I find if I write things down, it goes in – I’m a visual learner.
I’ll head to the circuit generally on a Friday and spend some time speaking to people and catching-up. What you read on a press release and what’s actually been going on are not always the same thing! Press releases are a good source for facts and figures but it’s always good to speak to people first-hand.
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Saturday is a slightly more fixed schedule. I’ll often be doing interviews for the feature piece that will go in at the top of the live show on Sunday, so I could be getting there any time after eight o’clock for that.
There will [also] be practice sessions for the touring cars to watch, alongside races for some of the support championships, so I need to be across what’s happening in all of those.
In the afternoon we broadcast the touring cars qualifying session online so I’ll do a couple of interviews that will go into the top of that show before sitting down to watch qualifying.
Then I need to get my skates on and run around doing interviews; some of those will be used live and others will be recorded and used in the qualifying report that will go into Sunday’s race show.
A typical day starts early…
I’m up at six o’clock and my make-up artist arrives at my hotel room at 6.30am – I’m very lucky to have a great lady called Shari Rendle who does my hair and make-up on race day because it is a long day and it’s a live day. When you’re on-screen, you do have to look half presentable! We leave the hotel at 7.30am and get to the circuit for about eight o’clock for breakfast with the crew.
After that I’m off out and about. The day is pretty full-on with very little time for breaks. If I’m not sitting in our backstage area watching the races I’m running around talking to people or interviewing drivers after the races. We have a schedule for who will do those post-race interviews, so sometimes it’s me and at other times it’s my co-presenter, Steve Rider.
It’s a live programme though – and a live event as well – so things can change. You’ve got to be on your toes the whole day. By the very nature of motorsport, there are accidents, incidents and delays. It’s a buzz and I love it, but it can also be very challenging at times.
Obviously if there have been injuries, you want to find out as soon as possible what the situation is. You have to be very careful that the information you are giving is mindful of the sensitivities of the driver and their families but also keeping the viewers abreast of the situation. It’s all down to knowing the right people, having the contacts and having years of experience as well.
We generally go off-air around 6pm after a seven-hour show… which can be an eight hour broadcast at the season finale… so it’s definitely a full-on day!
I always thought I would be…
When I was a youngster, I wanted to be a doctor until I started studying physics and chemistry and rapidly decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore! But I didn’t have a clear idea of what I did want do.
I kind of fell into journalism after meeting the editor of a powerboat racing magazine out in the US and I learned the business on the job, working my way up to being editor of the magazine.
It was a happy landing because, despite never considering a career as a motorsport journalist, it’s been a great industry to work in.
The town where I grew up, Alresford in Hampshire, was also home to a guy called Derek Warwick, best known for being a Formula 1 driver. There was no particular interest in motorsport in my family but I would read about Derek, back in his stock car racing days, in the local newspaper.
I also walked past the family business, Warwick Trailers, on my way into school every morning and lusted after a rather gorgeous orange Ford Capri that was parked outside! I always enjoyed anything with wheels and an engine – a lot of my ‘misspent’ youth was spent on the back of motorbikes.
If people wanted to follow in my footsteps…
I’ve always said it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know too. It’s about making contacts, gaining experience, either in motorsport or other sports, and in different areas of journalism too. That will make you far more attractive to potential employers.
It’s very easy to say “I’d love to work in F1” but you need have to have the relevant skills that you can bring to the job. For sure, you’ve got to enjoy motorsport to in order to work in the business; it’s a way of life and not a 9-to-5 job by any stretch of the imagination. You can’t just be a fan though. Yes, you’ve got to enjoy the sport, but you’re not there to be a fan, you’re there to work.
I got the job because….
My current role in the BTCC came off the back of being part of ITVs Formula One presentation team… and that came about when I was happily working as a Press Officer for Eddie Jordan’s F1 team.
ITV were taking over the contract from the BBC to broadcast F1 but there was no facility within ITV Sport to take the production in-house. They put the production contract out to tender and I was approached by one of the groups who were putting together a bid for the contract.
This weekend’s defending #AustrianGP champion is… (drum roll please!) 🥁
Valtteri Bottas! 👏👏🇦🇹
— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) June 28, 2018
I was approached by them because of my knowledge of the sport and my contacts in the paddock rather than because of my broadcasting abilities.
I guess ITV could have gone one of two ways; they could have taken somebody who knew about broadcasting and taught them about F1 or they could take someone who knew about F1 and teach them about broadcasting.
Luckily for me, they decided to go down the latter route.
The thing I am most proud of…
For most of my first Grand Prix with ITV I was largely somewhere between very nervous and terrified – I was very much in the deep end. But there were some good bits to remember too.
[For example], I did a grid interview with Eddie Irvine. He was sitting down on the grass and, because I knew what he was like from having worked with him as his Press Officer, I squatted down alongside him rather than asking him to stand up.
Afterwards, Neil Duncanson, the programme editor and one of the bosses of the TV company said “That’s exactly the kind of thing that we wanted! It’s a different style, sitting down on the grass with the driver and chatting to him”.
I was [also] determined having worked with Eddie Jordan as his Press Officer to get the first interview with him when Jordan Grand Prix won their first race, which happened at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. [Similarly], I was also determined at ITV’s final F1 broadcast in 2008 that I would get the first interview with Lewis Hamilton if he won the World Championship.
How fab are these?! Painted especially for Steve and me by @artiF1ed: Adrian Newey’s 1990 Leyton House (my first #F1 team) and Steve’s favourite #BTCC moment (Donington 1998). Thank you so much Ollie. Love it!! pic.twitter.com/5sUwJR8sG2
— Louise Goodman (@LouGoodmanMedia) September 28, 2019
That was a battle royal as the way that the reporters worked back then wasn’t as prescriptive and organised as it is now; everyone stands around a ‘pen’ these days and the drivers are bought to you. It was a bun-fight back then though so it was definitely a case of having to get my elbows out to get to Lewis first.
Another proud moment was one of the features we did for our British Grand Prix show back in 2006. I had come up with the idea of showing what was involved in a pit-stop. As part of that, I worked with one of the teams and became the first woman ever to take part in a pit stop during a Grand Prix so that was a nice little first for me. I think I’m still the only woman to have done it.
I have a pretty lively social life with friends, going out, eating, and drinking as well as cinema trips and visits to the theatre – all the usual stuff. I’ve also done a little bit of motor sport myself, which is always great fun.
I’ve competed in rallying more than racing… including finishing third in class at the British round of the World Rally Championship which was a great event to be part of. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot with my work but there are still plenty of places on my bucket list that I haven’t visited yet.