Tag Archives: MotoGP

Why the BBC have made the right choice with Suzi Perry

“I’ve missed it. Haven’t you?”

Those were the words with which Jake Humphrey opened his first show as BBC F1 presenter, off the back of the opening credits to the soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ – the iconic theme tune of the BBC’s Grand Prix programme from the 1980s and 90s – making its return after a 12 year hiatus while ITV held the television rights.

And here we are, nearly four years on from Humphrey’s BBC F1 debut in Melbourne 2009 and Suzi Perry – the former MotoGP presenter – is talking about how much she has “really missed” being away from the grid, having been revealed as Humphrey’s successor; the Norfolk-born 34 year-old is moving on to present BT Vision’s new Premier League coverage.

How things change.

Humphrey: If I had my way I'd be in F1 for the long haul

Humphrey: If I had my way I’d be in F1 for the long haul

Only in May this year, Humphrey tweeted: “If I had my way I’d be in F1 for the long haul.”

Less than four months later, it was announced he would be leaving the sport to “fulfil a lifelong dream of presenting the Barclays Premier League.”

Not that it was any great surprise. Only a week earlier, Humphrey announced to his thousands of twitter followers that his wife, Harriet, was expecting their first child in the New Year.

Jake Humphrey announces he is to become a Father

Jake Humphrey announces on twitter that he is to become a Father in the New Year

And as he explained in his last blog post as BBC F1 presenter, he “wants to be there for them both.”

But as Humphrey contemplates being in “Manchester rather than Melbourne and Chelsea rather than China” what do we make of his four-year reign as the BBC’s face of Formula One?

He hasn’t been without his critics. In fact, within hours of the BBC announcing he would be fronting their coverage of the sport in February 2009, F1 fans logged onto internet forums in their droves to express their dissatisfaction at the appointment of the former children’s television presenter.

But boy he has proved them wrong.

When the fresh-faced 30 year-old appeared on our screens at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, it marked a distinct change in the way Formula One was covered in the UK, which had for many years been anchored by the likes of Jim Rosenthal and Steve Rider.

Eager to make the viewer feel like they were a part of his jet-setting journey following the F1 circus and become the most accessible F1 presenter ever, he certainly achieved his goal in that regard.

Although perhaps initially slightly intimidated by the presence of 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard and former team owner Eddie Jordan alongside him, he rapidly grew into the role.

His blog posts were an instant hit, offering a fascinating insight into what it is like presenting the world’s fastest and most glamorous sport. Whether it be through recording his talk back during post race analysis; revealing what it’s like being producer and presenter or giving fans a guided tour of the BBC’s offices in the TV compound in Budapest, Humphrey truly delivered in giving F1 fans the kind of behind-the-scenes insights they had craved for years.

On screen, the chemistry with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan was equally as popular.

The bike ride to, wing walk over and campsite BBQ at Silverstone have been amongst the most memorable of stunts and features performed by ‘the three amigos’ over the years.

The F1 forum never failed to entertain and inform and the emotion conveyed in the Brawn garage moments after Jenson Button won the World Championship at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix was sensational.

After four years, Humphrey was willing to admit in his last blog post that he has “taken the F1 job as far as I can.”

Some would argue that the three-Top-Gear-lads-style coverage had begun to run its course and was in need of a revamp.

So what can we expect from the BBC’s F1 coverage in 2013 with Suzi Perry hosting the show?

The BBC’s Head of F1, Ben Gallop, said Perry will bring a “real energy and years of experience to one of the biggest jobs in sports broadcasting.” Of that there is no doubt.

For ten years the 42 year-old presented the corporation’s MotoGP coverage with consummate ease and style.

Presenting solo from the grid, Perry held the show singlehandedly – something Humphrey would probably be the first to admit was not a strength of his.

Since they lost the exclusive TV rights at the beginning of 2012, Martin Brundle’s trademark ‘grid walk’ has undoubtedly been the biggest loss to the BBC’s coverage. David Coulthard – who blossomed this year as a commentator – tried his best, but struggled on the grid in the shadow of his former colleague.

With ‘the three amigos’ broken up, however the BBC decide to cover the sport in 2013, it will be different in style and tone to what viewers have become accustomed to.

BBC bosses could do worse than allow Perry to do what she does best: presenting the bulk of the race build-up solo, with an extended grid walk; guiding viewers through the starting line-up, the background stories and permutations, while engaging with drivers and team bosses and throwing to her pundits and roving reporters when appropriate. A new, dynamic, less awkward coverage of the sport may yet emerge from the state broadcaster.

And when the 2013 season comes to a close Brundle’s grid walk may have been all but forgotten, while those who dreaded the break-up of ‘the three amigos’ may find they haven’t been much missed at all.

Can the Circuit of Wales deliver the next Welsh F1 driver?

In Formula One’s 63-year history, British drivers have won the World Championship 14 times – more than any other nation.

But since the tragic death of Tom Pryce, from North Wales, in the 1977 South African Grand Prix, not a single Welsh driver has made it onto the Formula One grid.

But could that all be about to change?

The 830 acre site in Blaenau Gwent, where the Circuit of Wales will be built. Published with permission from Good Relations Wales.

The 830 acre site where the Circuit of Wales will be built – published with permission from Good Relations Wales.

There are plans to build a “world class” race track over an 830 acre site near Ebbw Vale, in the Blaenau Gwent area of the Welsh valleys.

The £250m facility – called the Circuit of Wales – is designed to host international events, such as MotoGP, World Superbikes, World Motocross and World Touring Cars.

A new dual carriageway will be built to help access to the circuit and the developers believe they will be able to accommodate up to 70,000 spectators arriving by car.

Circuit developers are aiming to get up to 70,000 spectators through the gates on race day

The Heads of the Valleys Development Company aim to get up to 70,000 spectators through the gates on race day

The project is spearheaded by the Heads of the Valleys Development Company. One of the brains behind the plan is Chris Herring – a motor sport industry veteran, formerly Communications Director of the Honda Racing team.

Herring told me the “first-ever purpose-built Grand Prix circuit in Great Britain” is something that is “long overdue in the UK.”

Why Blaenau Gwent?

There were “opportunities to take it elsewhere in the UK” but Blaenau Gwent was “easily the place to bring it,” said Herring.

Developers plan to turn this barren piece of land into a world class facility by 2015

Now a barren piece of land – developers plan to turn this into a world class motor racing facility by 2015

“Blaenau Gwent council were very helpful, very co-operative in the beginning.

“From a local economy point of view, it will make a much bigger difference than it would have done in any other environment elsewhere in the UK.”

There will be a low carbon technology park adjacent to the circuit; an international karting track; two motocross tracks; hotel and leisure facilities and a leading motor sports race academy and training facility.

“Everyone focuses on this circuit as the sexy bit, but the circuit couldn’t happen without everything else balancing out the cost of building the race track,” said Herring.

“There’s a serious lack of qualified engineers in motor sport, which needs to be addressed. That’s why we’ve engaged with the Welsh universities, such as Swansea Metropolitan and Cardiff.”

An artists impression of the Circuit of Wales - published with permission from Good Relations Wales

An artists impression of the Circuit of Wales – published with permission from Good Relations Wales

“You look at Sepang (the purpose-built F1 circuit in Malaysia) and there’s a race track, a motocross track next door and that’s it – there’s no industry, nothing.

“Here, within a two hour drive you’ve already got a huge amount of motor sport business.

“Within thirty miles of Silverstone is probably 95 per cent of the British motor sport industry. It would be nice to get a little 10 to 20 per cent of that down here.”

Hywel Lloyd, from Wrexham, raced competitively in Formula Renault and British F3 until recently. Now, as team manager for the CF Racing British F3 team, he said the proposed circuit is “quite important” for motor sport in Wales.

“I think people will want to come there and a lot of race teams will want to be based there as well.

“There are a few good race teams in Wales, on their own merits, so it can inspire a lot of people, not just drivers, to get into Formula One.”

The developers claim the Circuit of Wales will “drive change and transform lives” in the area, bringing estimated economic and regeneration benefits worth over £50 million a year to the Welsh economy.

What the Circuit of Wales will look like at night - published with permission from Good Relations Wales

What the Circuit of Wales will look like at night – published with permission from Good Relations Wales

But will it inspire and help nurture Wales’ next F1 star? Herring believes it can.

“Having a circuit is a magnet, it brings youngsters in.

“People need the experience and the know-how. With this facility they’ve got a good chance, in a safe environment, to learn the trade with a lot training and practice facilities that don’t exist all over the UK.”

This view is one echoed by another Welsh racing driver, Seb Morris.

Last year Morris was named ‘Young Welsh Racing of the Year’ by the Welsh Racing Drivers’ Association. More recently, he featured in Sky Sports F1’s ‘Britain’s Next F1 Star’ series.

And although Morris feels the circuit is “probably not” going to help him get into F1, he said the opportunity it will provide is “very promising”.

“The chance and opportunity of visiting a new track that could be built in Wales would broaden Wales’ view of motor sport. I don’t personally think it’s that strong at the moment.

“But if there was a big circuit, with proper venues, that could really create a whole new industry and revenue for Wales.

“I think Wales as a country needs a Silverstone – something big like that.”

The timescale

“It’s effectively a two year build time”, said Herring. “We’re hoping to be on site by June/July 2013 with a view to being finished in June/July 2015.”

As for whether the Circuit of Wales can end a 35-year wait for another Welsh F1 driver, only time will tell.