Introducing our most recent guest blog post from aspiring motorsport journalist Jess Fisher.
Like most youngsters, my early memories of motorsport revolve around casually following
Formula 1 weekends with my dad and religiously watching the highlights that would be on all
day, with interviews, fun film reels and silly challenges.
This casual interest soon turned into a slight obsession. Suddenly, I am watching the races and
asking, is that Jenson? Or, is that the guy who wrote on Jake Humphrey’s shirt?
Then, I’m following all the drivers, teams and presenters on social media, reading news articles and getting up at three in the morning to watch the season-opener in Melbourne.
It was around this time that I, as many teenagers do, began to struggle with anxiety which led to weekly counselling sessions. It’s difficult to pin-point the moment my mental health began to control me, but throughout this time, motorsport was my safe haven. No matter what life would throw at me, motorsport was always there.
I would look forward to the weekends, gaining interest in Formula 1, F2, F3, Formula E, W Series, WRC and even taking an interest in two wheels.
The passion wouldn’t stop there. I would visit events such as Autosport and Race Retro, spend the day wandering around my local track; Donington Park taking in all the sounds and the smells, go-karting or even visit museums (this is where my interest in Motor Racing history really began to take prevalence).
Motorsport became like a second life to me. The more I understood, the clearer the evidence of male domination. Yet there were figures that stood out: Susie Wolff, Claire Williams, Danica Patrick, Ann Bradshaw; changes were clearly afoot.
I look up to female journalists in motorsport: Lee McKenzie, Natalie Pinkham, Rachel Brookes and Nicki Shields. They became my role models. This was when I knew I had to pursue a career in motorsport. Having a keen interest in media, I decided that a course in Creative Digital Media would suit my aspirations perfectly. The course would enable me to specialise in motorsport and require me to create my own magazine: combining education with my passion, who wouldn’t take that option?
A few months into my college course, whilst attending the Autosport International show in 2019,
I discussed my desires with a few journalists promoting the show, speaking about their passion
to increase female representation and how important it is to gain your own specialist niche.
Roll forward to Autosport in 2020, whilst listening to an interview with Chris Ingram on the
Autosport stage, a niche presented itself. Chris was the first British European Rally Champion in
52 years, with him and his co-driver Ross Whittock becoming the youngest ever team to win;
surely a foregone conclusion for the WRC the following year. However, his struggle to secure
funding struck a chord; how can such a clear and obvious talent be struggling for a seat?
After the staged interview, my dad and I began chatting with the amiable Chris who agreed to let me interview him in the future for my course magazine. Chris suggested that we attend the Race Retro event at Stoneleigh. With its strong historical theme, Race Retro was indeed an event, we would and will continue to enjoy post-Covid. I had never interviewed anyone, and here I was - 16-year-old suffering from anxiety and undergoing counselling - about to interview a record-breaking champion.
How I did it, I can’t say, but Chris was amazing. He answered my questions in a thoroughly professional manner, whilst I sat there trying to look like I wasn’t about to pass out not even registering that Rally legend Didier Auriol was sitting next to me listening to the interview the whole time. Thanks, Chris, I’ll be eternally grateful that you didn’t point that one out.
Whilst carrying out the interview, my dad began chatting with the show organiser, Gary Axon about my career aspirations and my anxiety. Unbeknownst to us both, he arranged for me to
meet the show host Gemma Scott, another high profile journalist covering F1, FE, WEC. Gemma was amazing, giving insights into interviewing and how to overcome nerves. Since this day Gemma has been and remains a massive influence.
Having started out on a high, 2020 looked rosy. I had my first interview, my magazine had already commenced and it was highly likely my internship at Mallory Park would soon start. And the 2020 season was almost upon us, but then came Covid. No one could take on interns with a
national lockdown and the season was cancelled.
I had pinned a lot of hopes on the potential Mallory Park placement, so the news of it not going
ahead hit me and my aspirations hard.
Yet out of bad situations, good things emerge. I was contacted by Australian journalist Joshua
Wells enquiring if I would be interested in contributing to a new sports website entitled ‘The
Inner Sanctum’. I leapt at the opportunity; to write about my passion was easy enough,
but to do it officially and have my work published was an early dream come true.
It’s easier to hide your anxiety when you are dealing with written words, and many will also
understand how a national lockdown can provide a lot of hiding places. Although my career was heading in a positive direction, my anxiety was growing. Imagine my horror when Josh told me ‘The Inner Sanctum’ was launching a podcast and I was to be a major part of it. I had to tackle my anxiety head-on. Things haven’t been easy, but little by little my confidence has grown.
This new-found confidence has enabled me to take steps I could only have dreamt about: having interviewed European champions, international W Series drivers, senior track marshalls and record-breaking Red Bull F1 pit crew members - a big step for a young girl who was scared to answer the front door.
Motorsport has not only given me enjoyment, passion and aspirations, but motorsport has enabled me to tackle an illness many struggle to overcome.
I owe motorsport an awful lot.
Whilst studying for an undergraduate degree in Communication and Media, I will continue my work with ‘The Inner Sanctum’ and the ‘Getting a Grip’ podcast, whilst welcoming opportunities the motorsport environment may offer.
Motorsport has given me a lot. I hope I can give some of it back one day.
We would like to thank Jess for her openness in sharing her journey. It is wonderful to see her achieving her dreams!