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Becs Williams: “I wanted to be the best commentator I could, regardless if I’m a male or a female”

With the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (FIA WRC) season underway, the lead commentator of the championship Becs Williams, with more than 20 years of experience in the industry, talked in depth about her career in motorsport, travelling around the world and inspiring the next female generation.

If you’re passionate about rallies, it’s impossible for you not to have heard her voice at least once: we’re talking about Becs Williams, the faithful lead commentator of FIA WRC since 2002.

“It wasn’t a natural thing for me to work in the motorsport industry,” she tells Females in Motorsport. Nobody from Becs’ family has ever been involved in racing.

Discovering her passion for cars at the age of four, she attended her first-ever rally with her two older brothers.

“I can’t remember much about the rally itself,” Becs says. “Other than the sound of the cars and the fact that I got to wear Wellington boots as we were in Wales and it was muddy and rainy.”

Whilst growing up, motorsport was in the background for the Becs, as she continued to watch rallies and Formula 1 on TV.

She went to university and studied for a degree in Journalism with Film Making as her goal was to be a producer.

“I never wanted to be in front of a camera or even behind a microphone; it wasn’t my way of thinking back then,” Becs says.

After completing her studies, there was only one goal: starting to work and earning money. And she did it, beginning in a chocolate factory based in her hometown!

But for Becs, it wasn’t enough as she wanted to exploit her degree.

“I contacted BBC Wales to see if I could get work experience,” she says. “I worked there for a week in a few departments.”

She got lucky enough to be called back by a producer who told her that there was an opening, so she got weekly contracts starting from the drama department, then moved to the news and ended up working on the sports side.

It was a great achievement but those positions weren’t permanent contracts.

“I searched for a job in Cardiff and I was really lucky to find a sports agency that covered BTCC (British Touring Car Championship), rugby, golf, cricket and crucially, also the WRC,” she says.

Becs went for it and got the job. She got trained to be their reporter and that’s how she started her career in motorsport.

“I started reporting in Formula Ford, Ford Fiesta Zetec Challenge, so smaller championships, then I worked at BTCC and the British Rally Championship and eventually to the WRC, which was where I wanted to be,” Becs says.

Before working in WRC, the Welsh broadcast journalist also covered other sports, including Winter Olympics, Six Nations Rugby and the famous Tour de France.

“What I found in every sport that I covered is that it’s all over very quickly while rallies last three or four days and we’re broadcasting 10 hours a day,” she says. “A big difference in circuit racing is that there’s a lot of preparation for a very short period of time reporting on the race itself.”

In circuit racing, usually, the qualifying day is on Saturday, with the races on Sunday and it was Becs’ duty, who was back in the day working in radio, to report on both days.

“We had BTCC qualifying day on Saturday and that was the busiest day as all the news stations wanted a report immediately about what was happening there,” she says. “Between 12 and five in the afternoon, your hours were completely filled with just going into each individual radio station. Every BBC station across the country had somebody local competing and wanted to know about some drivers in particular so you had to detail your report specifically to the person they wanted.”

Rallies have a different division of the week and it can be really tough for all the people involved in it.

“l normally travel on Tuesday for European events, earlier for International events and my work starts as soon as I land,” Becs says.

At the start of the racing week, all drivers in WRC and other rally competitions do an activity called a ‘recce’. During the recce, drivers and co-drivers get to scout the roads, still open to the public, before the event with normal cars. The recce isn’t counted as a free practice session but it’s really helpful for drivers to understand how the special stages will be and co-drivers can take notes about the road conditions and dictate them to their drivers during the stages.

“I get a rental car and recce the stages myself so I can drive them and I can talk about them with more authority when I’m commentating,” Becs says. “It’s amazing to see the differences when you’re out in the countryside or wherever we could be competing because everything appears different to what it looks like on television.”

Recce days are mainly Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but, from Wednesday evening, Becs’ job officially starts.

“On Wednesday evening we speak to the drivers and team bosses, not on camera, it’s just me interviewing them for my own commentary brain,” she says.

Thursday is the toughest day for Becs during the rally week as the first session, called ‘Shakedown’, starts and she has to commentate on it.

“After Shakedown is complete, I go out to the service park with the cameraman, and I start interviewing drivers for our WRC+ All Live production as well as our post-production show,” she says. “We also look after a number of broadcasters across the world who request a driver in their own language so we’ll interview them in English first and then we’ll switch to the driver's native language.”

In addition to this, Becs also hosts the FIA WRC Press Conference, the eventual local ceremony start event, she also live broadcasts the first stage of the weekend (SS1) and hosts the ‘Meet the Crews’ activity.

The latter is held at the end of every rally day, on a stage at the service park where she talks to the three team bosses (of Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport Ford) and the top-three drivers, in front of spectators.

“From Friday I feel more relaxed as the chaos is over and I can do my job,” she says.

“We start very early in the morning, covering the first service park before we start commentating, we do a little run-around to interview the drivers before they leave. Then we sit down, and commentate on every stage and I normally look after the drivers’ interviews in the mid-point media zone. When they come to the midday service, I commentate in the afternoon and I do ‘Meet the crews’ and it’s all over again the following day.”

Working in motorsport, and particularly in rallies is tough as you’re always travelling from country to country.

In such a case, WRC is one of the best categories as, by being one of the six FIA World Championships, rallies can be held all around the world: from ice to gravel and also tarmac, WRC could race in every nation of the planet.

Becs, who’s been travelling for over 20 years with the championship has, of course, her favourite countries.

“Argentina is always a favourite to me because I love the culture, then I loved going to New Zealand, and Jordan. We went to Jordan a few times with WRC and that was very different or unexpected but I was pleasantly surprised when I came there: it’s a beautiful country with amazing people,” she says.

As a woman in motorsport, Becs never felt any pressure for being a woman in the sport, except when people reminded her by saying: ‘Are you a woman commentating on motorsport?!’

When Becs pursued this career, she was aware of the fact that it was a male-dominated sport but this never stopped her.

“I wasn’t even a driver but I wanted to be the best commentator I could, regardless if I’m a male or a female,” she says.

In WRC and, generally, in all rallies, the presence of women is increasing year-by-year.

“We’re seeing more women which is great,” Becs says. “We have more female co-drivers than anything else but we deserve also a new Michèle Mouton. We need more programmes to support females from the grassroots.”

Becs’ advice for whoever wants to start a career in broadcast journalism is to have a strong passion for it as it requires lots of time and dedication. In addition, she tells us how important it is to do the research and have the knowledge to work in this industry.

“Connections are key in motorsport,” she says. “They’re a bonus because if you, eventually, want to change your path. Motorsport is a small industry, it’s remarkable how many times people's paths cross.”

We asked Becs about her future projects and, as she has been in WRC for a while, she would like to add more challenges to her professional career.

“I think I do need challenges when I feel too comfortable in what I’m doing,” she says.

She would still love to broadcast WRC but also to go back to her roots by working in athletics and the Olympics. Besides sports, she likes writing and would like to complete her first book!

Listen to the ‘WRC Backstories’ podcast, presented by Becs Williams featuring several past and present rally stars including Michèle Mouton, the most successful female driver in rally history.

All pictures are courtesy of Becs Williams.

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