My foray in to broadcasting started casually alongside my racing commitments. It was a case of consuming free tea and biscuits in the commentary box in between my on-track excursions at British track events. It was something I found easy and it generated more exposure for my race team sponsors of the day. At the time I had no aspirations of making a career from television but soon found that people liked my 'enthusiastic' style! Chris Carter, (journalist and top bike commentator of the day), was the first to ask me to join him in the 'box', and Gerry Harrison, (Anglia TV), coached me in camera skills. These two men formed the basis of my life today. Murray Walker later wrote me a job reference as my race career faltered, (somewhat scribbled, but well intended), although I never used it. Then along came an opportunity at Eurosport. I had written to the Head of Sport, Richard Russell, to cheekily complain about how bad the French GP commentary was and he said "well you'd better come in". I did, met with a bearded 'anorak' called Julian Ryder, got to know a wonderfully enthusiastic team, and my timing proved perfect for a new full time career.
Early Days. It's hard to imagine now the way we were back when 'satellite' television first started to show bike Grand Prixs here in the UK. Here's an early studio shot circa 1993. As I worry over the script, Julian Ryder extracts more information from Australian racer Rob Phillis. Sky Sports was a leading bike race broadcaster and has always been based between Chiswick and London Heathrow, so with Suzuki Grand Prix just down the road at Edenbridge in Kent the 'props' were readily available and very much appreciated.
Present Day. Over the years my broadcasting career expanded into four wheeled sport as well as two, and American motorsport in particular. The US motor racing scene has a big following and I worked on Indy Car and NASCAR here in the UK. But my first love is bikes and one of the highlights, where I can mix both cars and bikes, is the Festival of Speed at Goodwood in West Sussex. Lord March certainly knows how to throw a party! My studio guest list was 'A' list. From Formula One; Lewis Hamilton, Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss - From entertainment; DJ Chris Evans, Chef James Martin and Grand Designs' Kevin McCloud. It's a tough job...
Outside Broadcast. A live 'OB' is the best part of any broadcasters life. You get to be at the event, in the heart of the action. You get access to the best interviews, with the best people. It's like being a factory supported racer, the whole team is dedicated to making it the best show possible and you are the link to make all their efforts work. I might be the one you see, but behind me are upwards of 20 people. It's a real buzz, but there's no hiding place; get it right and you feel on top of the game, get it wrong and you are gutted for a week. It's the best job after racing for pumping adrenalin, without the pain, you can take my word for that!
Matching Egos. Finding a broadcasting partner is not always easy, but there are some great ex racers out there with the balls to keep me honest! I once invited James Whitham to join me for the British Superbikes but, after persuading my Producer that James was the man, Whit changed his mind at the last minute and switched to another channel. So, at short notice, I had to find another expert for our domestic bike championship. It's a bit like asking a mate to be best man at your wedding when he knows the real reason you're asking. But Niall Mackenzie is nothing if not a complete professional and he agreed to step in. Job done!
A Bit on the Side. Sometimes I work for smaller independant production companys. Size isn't everything, and the approach is usually a bit more relaxed. I remember working on a series of 'crash and burn' DVDs called Hell for Leather. Based around World Superbike champ Carl Fogarty's marketing potential of the time, the filming location was Daytona during Bike Week. But the real action took place off camera. If only they could have been there when Carl was nicked on the beach for speeding by a cop who had no idea who he was. If you have ever seen Foggy part with money and have his ego burst simultaneously then you'll know how much that experience hurt him! Apart from getting his hand in his pocket, Carl is a Top Man!