Interview with the European Voice of Rotax: on his career and electric karting (lees hier de Nederlandse vertaling)
The starting point of my journey wasn’t actually as a commentator, but as a writer. I had this big dream of maybe becoming the best journalist in Formula One, going to Grand Prix, travel the world and all that. But I found it was more difficult than I anticipated. This was back in 2011. I started by going through different paddocks, such as the BTCC, FIA WEC, Formula One and DTM.
I then met Jake Sanson at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham in 2015. I had heard lots about him and we both had a real love and passion for motorsport – it was like my brother from another mother! I later joined Downforce Radio and through that I got the ad hoc opportunity to commentate.
I did Fun Cup UK and races at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. We were commentating live on internet radio, where I was working with him and some others. Then in late 2016, I got a call from Chris McCarthy, who is very well known in the world of karting and now further afield. He asked ‘Fancy doing some karting commentary?” so I said ‘Yeah sure!’. As a result, I ended up doing Rye House and Daytona DMAX for the 2017 season.
Then just two weeks before the first round of the Rotax MAX Euro Trophy, he called again, asked if I wanted to go to Genk – no hesitation needed from me. That began my journey as the voice of European Rotax, which is still the case now and I’m in my sixth season.
Then I got onboard with the world famed BNL Karting Series, which Max Verstappen won twice in Mini MAX. I’ve just come back from a weekend as a circuit commentator for the Formula E double header in Berlin. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be in the TCR UK paddock for the first time, along with plenty of sim racing commentary.
You are not only telling the story of the racing that people see, but also about the people that you meet in the paddock. That is a very big part of it. When the pandemic hit, there were multiple times that I wasn’t there in person. People could hear me, but I was at home, which was quite a difficult pill to swallow.
At that point it was the only way to do work, which honestly didn’t feel quite the same. My style is that I love to tell a story. I am 45 now, always love researching which is very important as a commentator. You need to know some history.
There are two bits of advice that have given to me. My dad said: ‘If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’. And the other one is from David Croft, Sky Sports F1 lead commentator: ‘Don’t give others a reason to tell you no’. Those two statements are quite emotive and powerful. I would describe my style as follows: I am passionate, emotional, enthusiastic and love to tell a story – and I am prepared for it.
Steven Chapman, the head of the team BRP Rotax, had been telling me that I needed to get myself into that kart. It happened at Genk after Euro Trophy Round 1 last year. I have done some arrive and drive rental karting, but not on the sheer scale of being in a proper race kart.
This was my first experience of a Sodi Sigma DD2 chassis with front and rear brakes, with a permanent magnetic synchronous motor behind me, as opposed to a conventional internal combustion engine. It was an experience that I will never forget – it was completely mind blowing!
I wanted not only to test the E20, but further my understanding and appreciation of the circuit in Genk and this helped me with the nuances. There is a funny story: the first time I went out, the battery went into shutdown-mode. I put my foot on the throttle, but I came to a grinding halt. I covered just about 5 kilometres when the battery decided to go: computer says no!
Personally, I have an appreciation of both sides. There are people who have tested electric and absolutely loved it. But there are always those that have the old school mentailty who say: ‘I don’t like it: there is no noise, no smell of burnt fuel.”
It’s going to be part of the future, whether you have a preference or not. It just goes to show that karting is going on that trend. You have various electric karting championships in the UK that focus on kids. I spoke to some of these kids last year and asked them about it – they love it and so do their parents!
There is less financial outlay and it’s a sealed unit, so everyone has the same powertrain. It’s all about helping new drivers develop in their own way. It makes a lot of sense in terms of carbon neutrality in motorsports, which is advancing so much.
And with the way electrification has swept across every single manufacturer in the automotive space globally. They all go electric, because they believe that’s the future. From my perspective, I believe in the electrification in the automotive industry and motorsports.
'I BELIEVE IN THE ELECTRIFICATION IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY AND MOTORSPORTS'
Rotax has this ethos of development, as Project E20 has been in a prototype state for several years. Every single battery used for E20 has gone through 2000 cycles of charging, with no drop in battery performance, efficiency and degradation. Rotax sees karting electrification to work alongside the traditional Rotax MAX Evo ICEs.
But you must consider the other prospect as well: sustainable fuels, which are now incredibly gaining traction especially in the 24h of Spa, the 24h of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship. A lot of manufacturers are coming in with major investments, with the switch to efuels at Stellantis having the potential to remove 400 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in Europe between 2025 and 2050.
The UK for example has emitted 331 million tonnes of CO2 last year, according to governmental provisional estimates. Porsche have just pumped in 75 million Euros of their own money to produce efuels by building a factory in Chile. Not a lot of people know this, but we actually had a weekend of the BNL Karting Series at Mariembourg last year, where all DD2 Masters drivers were driving on 100% sustainable efuels.
Not once was there any negativity about efuel. But the cost to produce them is still very expensive. A gallon of sustainable efuel from Porsche is around $40 USD. Then you look at other alternative technologies in motorsports, such as the ACO Hydrogen GT project. To try and get fuel cell technology has been given a sweep under the carpet. There had been manufacturers test bedding the technology, because you can get a good range on a fuel cell setup. It’s difficult to see what the split will be, so it’s anyone’s guess.
One of the goals now has been fully realised, to do the German speaking commentary at the Berlin ePrix for Formula E – one of the proudest moments of my career. I’d love to be in the Formula E paddock. If I can be involved in some way, shape or form… I love the ethos of the championship. I’d love to commentate on the first race of Ellis Spiezia when he makes it there!
I would like to work in sportscars and touring cars. Another race on my bucket list is the 24h of Le Mans and Spa 24h, plus sim racing is also close to my heart. I want to do karting and Rotax as long as I can. Formula One? Yeah, that would be great but to be honest there is a lot more racing out there. If you shoot just for one goal, you might end up tripping over your shoelaces.