Jake Sanson

Interview with the Voice of FIA Karting: on his career and sustainability in karting 

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This year you are commentating on FIA karting (European and World Championship), Super GT and Super Formula. That’s super busy, I would say! How did you start and what route did you take to get here?

I was literally a fan. I just crowbarred my way in, essentially. I was working as a youth worker on the streets of Wrexham, in north Wales. I needed extra money to fund my living. So I went to my local indoor karting circuit in the hope that they would give me a job: sweeping floors and tidying tires. I would have been about 24 or 25 at this stage. I noticed that on Saturdays they ran corporate Grand Prix events. I said, we need to make this more of an event for our customers. We should have a commentator’. And the guys were like, ‘Wow, that that’s something we never really thought about before. Do you know anyone who could do that?’ I said ‘Yes, I can’. I invented the job for myself. I had to be the race director as well, because that’s where the microphone was. So I became a race director and commentator simultaneously. That was very tricky. All of my decisions were based on anything I had seen in racing as a fan. I didn’t always get it right. I had backup from the other marshals in the team. But the commentating was the thing that people really enjoyed, and that’s what people were really engaged with, and really signed up for with me.

Later I did a combination of rallying and Rally Cross. They said, what are you doing next year? We’d like you to come and work for us. I didn’t even realize I would be any good at what I’m doing. I was just amusing myself more than anything else. I wasn’t looking to do it as a career. But I started giving myself targets over time. I think it keeps you focused, guided on a path. In 2012, I managed to pick up enough television work that I had enough to make a show reel. I sent it to every television company and broadcast channel I could think of in Europe. The only one that responded to me was Eurosport. They invited me into their offices in London and we had a 15 minute conversation. They said ‘Right, that’s it, we want you onboard for next year’. I had literally gone from a fan jumping up and down on my sofa, commentating for a hobby at my local indoor karting track to work for Eurosport in a year. I still don’t really know how I did that.

Also, I got in touch with the promoter at Super One, the national championship for the UK. I became the voice of Super One from them up until the end of 2019. And it was about 2018 that I decided I wanted to explore and go outside the UK with my karting. I wanted to do a bit more. So I got in touch with RGMMC (FIA) and they decided to give me a trial run at the IAME winter cup at Valencia. We finished Friday qualifying. We hadn’t even gone on air on the Saturday and they asked me to do the rest of the season. I got the job on the spot, which was amazing. I didn’t really expect to get that. So from 2018 to now basically I’ve been their number one commentator. I’ve pretty much been the voice of FIA karting since. I consider myself more an international commentator than an English commentator. I think I find the motor racing more exciting and more interesting when you go further afield.

I did the Le Mans 24 hours, I did touring cars, I did the Macau Grand Prix, I did rallying, I did some Formula E, a bit of everything. So it’s been really quite a blessing to look at it from the point of view of. I may not have been the permanent choice every time, but I was clearly good enough that they saw something in me that they wanted to explore.

Is there anything you are most interested in or like specific classes?

I guess my favorite has always been IAME. I love the IAME formulas, they’re so exciting. I do love the FIA – don’t get me wrong. It really is exceptional when you’ve got so many phenomenal talents on the grid, guys that have been there for the years. And now we’ve got this great new pedigree of superstars in there. Wow, when you’re in the middle of all of that it’s quite incredible. I love the KZ categories in particular. The OK categories are great fun, and you get to see where the talents of Formula One in 10 years time are going to come from, which is always really exciting. But in terms of the racing, the actual quality of the on track battles, there’s nothing quite like IAME. There’s rivalry, of course there is but there’s good spirit, there’s good sportsmanship. And the racing is just fantastic. If I wanted to go and race in karting full time, I would absolutely do IAME, I wouldn’t consider any other category.

I’ve seen and heard you commentate on racing. How would you describe your own style? Is there any specific way you want to come across in commentating? What do you find most important?

I do now have my own style, I never used to. When I first started in this industry, I never expected to be there for a long time. I certainly never thought it would be a career. When I started, I kind of commentated in the way I felt a commentator should sound, which was very kind of stylized. I would actually say I was more energetic than I was talented. As a commentator, I had to really figure out what my style was, and who I was. It was very easy to slip into motor racing commentator, but I needed to be Jake Sanson, to be my own person. I’m a bit of a dork, I’m a bit of a geek, I’m a bit of a nerd. So I need to play up to that a little bit. I’m very entertained by comedy and humor. So that is in my personality as well. I need to bring more of that out. I’m very much a big kid at heart, I very happy playing video games, I build Lego, I watch a lot of movies, and am very much a fun loving person. I’m not really very calm or mild mannered. And that comes across in my style as well. I still have high energy, but I very much bring my own personality to the table, which is something that I had to work out.

Is sustainability anything that is of particular interest of you? And what do you see in this sport?

I think it’s really important, it’s kind of inevitable. Whether we like it or not, the car industry as a whole is clearly heading in the direction of electric car. I don’t know whether that’s the right answer or not. I think it is one of the answers. There is good arguments to suggest that that could be where the future of road travel is. Whether there’s an opportunity to explore that in motor racing? I think it comes back to Le Mans. We’ve had this thing with sustainability and with innovation at Le Mans for a hell of a long time now. It’s fascinating, I always get really excited when there’s a new concept at Le Mans. Look at when Audi showed up with a diesel. Everyone thought, ‘come on, you really think you’re gonna win Le Mans with that?’. And they did. Then all of a sudden, everybody wanted a diesel. When Nissan turned up with the Delta wing, it was just such a strange concept. Then they converted it into the Zeod RC, and they announced they were going to do an entire lap of Le Mans with electric power. And then they did it. From that moment, people wanted to explore the technology, they wanted to go in that direction. And that kind of thing really fascinates me. And then of course, Formula E burst onto the scene. These cars are actually really impressive. And every generation change we’ve had the Formula E car, it’s got more exciting. We used to swap cars mid race, now the cars go the distance. Then they actually can go ridiculously fast. I’m really excited to see what will happen with Gen 4. Are we actually going to have the plug in battery at pitstops? That sounds really exciting.


There’s still a lot of ICE out there. But what I see from companies like P1 fuels, for example, and what they’re doing with motor racing, in bringing complete 100% drop in fuel. That’s an incredible game changer for me. We’ve seen it in karting and in terms of the speed of the karts, it hasn’t changed a thing. Give it two or three years of technology. That’s how we look at sustainability in motor racing, that’s where the future actually lies for me. I love the technology in electric cars. But in terms of the future of motorsport, I genuinely think that you know, zero emission, neutral carbon drop in petrol, that’s the way to go. That’s the way to make it the most affordable, the most cost effective. Le Mans could make the change next year. You’re not having to make adjustments to the engines or anything with the oil or whatever. If it’s just a pure synthetic fuel that’s completely 100% sustainable. That’s huge. It’s absolutely huge.


What we need for the future? I think the hydrogen fuel cell is the answer. Will it happen in my lifetime? I don’t know. That’s quite hard to say, you know, give it 20 years, then maybe we’ve got a better answer. The technology is coming and I’m quite excited to see what direction it goes. I think on the road, electric is the answer. On the racetrack, carbon neutral drop-in fuel.

'I had literally gone from a fan jumping up and down on my sofa, commentating for a hobby at my local indoor karting track - to work for Eurosport in a year'

Do you feel you have your yourself a role in making the general public more aware or enthusiastic about sustainable development?

That’s a good question. Do I have a platform to make change? Or give opinions for that? I’d like to think so. But it very much depends on who you work for. A lot of what we do as commentators, we have set guidelines and boundaries and we’re towing a corporate line. There are certain things I can talk about, and certain things that I want to talk about, but I never would. My place is to make the sport entertaining, to shine it in its best light, to keep the enthusiasm sky high, and to keep people interested in it. Do I have a part to play in the education and sort of the selling of that? Yes and no. I mean, I think one of my issues with being a commentator is that I hate working alone. When you work alone, you do start looking towards opinion. Opinion is dangerous as far as a promoter is concerned. If you give an opinion, it’s seen by the viewer as fact. So you have to back that up with fact. I completely understand, that’s the way it’s meant to work.


At the same time, having watched motor racing evolve since 1992, as a fan, and then gone and explored how it has changed and adapted and evolved since 1894, I’m fascinated by it. I was never a historian until I really got into motor racing. I love looking at how Grand Prix racing has developed, how safety has evolved, how sustainability has become a big argument, how gender equality has suddenly become a massive talking point within motor racing. I am absolutely intoxicated by the conversation. How much of a role can I have as a commentator? I can support a good train of thought, I suppose. And I can certainly tell a good corporate line. I’m always fascinated in a commentary box when I’ve got somebody with me, who’s either a technical expert or a driving expert, because then you can have your opinions either validated or quashed, but you can have an amazing conversation. That’s for me, where the fan really wants to engage. So, yes and no, it’s the quick answer. I do have a role to play to a certain extent. But I’m very aware of the fact that I still want to have a job next year, I want to make sure I say the right things. But I do still want to stand by my opinions. If we start incredible conversations about different areas of where we make the technology better, whether we make sustainability better, whether we make gender equality better, I’m all for it.


What would be next for you in the future? What would you like to do?

When I started in commentating, I had a goal that I set for myself. In my first year, I wanted to get onto television. I managed that in my first year. It was kind of a real surprise. I got the britcar job and that was presenting. Then I wanted to commentate for television. Later that year, I ended up doing Super One for karting. So now I want to work for a big network. Then Eurosport came along a year later. So right, well, what’s next? Next what I want to do is I want to do one of the big three races. I want to do Monaco, Indianapolis, or Le Mans. It took a few more years, but in 2016, I got to do Le Mans! Now I’d like to see if I can do Formula 1. I did the British Grand Prix for F1TV on their pit lane channel. I’ve had landmarks that I wanted to do. I wanted to do the motorsport games. I did that last year. The next big goal for me, I want to be the full time FIA voice for a major Car Championship: World Endurance, Formula One or Formula E. But it’s about being in the right place at the right time, you have to make sure you shake hands with the right guy on the right day.


You’re always doubting yourself. I came into this sport, with no money, no prospects, no friends in racing. What I have done in such a short space of time with no agent, no representation, no money, and just sheer bloody determination. I’m so grateful for what I’ve actually managed to accomplish in such a short time. So as much as I’m ambitious, and as much as I really want to progress and move forward, I also have to remind myself you’ve done a hell of a lot with very, very little. So that’s also something that I’m very mindful of. There’s this great scene in the film Cool Runnings, where the coach turns to the driver, and he says, ‘You know, winning a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, then you’ll never be enough with it’. That really resonates with me. As much as I want these incredible trinkets as much as I want these incredible things like Formula One and Le Mans, I also have to remind myself that if I’m not good enough, if I can’t cope with not having it, then I don’t deserve it in the first place. I’m 37 so I still got so far to go. You know that fabulous closing sequence of ‘Night at the museum’ when he says ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do tomorrow’. And the guy turns to him and says ‘How exciting!’. That’s how I see it. It’s terrifying. It’s exciting.

Website: jakesanson.com