MotoGP stands for sport at the highest level. It’s where the best riders in the world come together to live their sport, compete against each other and inspire people all over the world with their skills. It’s a racing circus with hundreds of people working behind and in front of the scenes. What is it like to work in MotoGP? How do you get there? What is it like to work there as a woman? I can answer a few questions for you, because I was allowed to interview a great woman – Andrea Schlager, reporter at Servus TV.
1. Racing has accompanied you for many years. Your first point of contact was Formula 1. I grew up near the Salzburg Ring. So Formula 1 has always meant summer, excitement, thrills and entertainment for me. There was always something going on when the racing circus made a guest appearance. But most importantly, it meant a good time with my friends. When I was young, I started as a ticket inspector. I must have been about 15 years old. In the course of time, as a sports enthusiast, you grew more and more into it, and the tasks also changed. Then you always traveled with them in the summer and worked all over Europe. It was a great time.
2. You were able to get to know the two biggest classes of motorsport. You worked in Formula1 and now you are doing the same in MotoGP. Are there differences or also similarities between the two classes? Yes, there are huge differences. I’ll have to elaborate a bit on that. (laughs) Formula 1 is a bit more elitist by comparison. There, it’s not possible for just anyone to get into the paddock. In MotoGP, on the other hand, many more people can get into the paddock. That means MotoGP is more open by comparison. But it’s also possible to establish a connection with the riders and teams more quickly. There is simply a completely different atmosphere. But when you also experience the Superbike class, it’s a completely different feeling. I was able to experience it a few times and I have to say that the Superbike class is more original. There you experience an atmosphere like you imagine motorsport to be. MotoGP is different, but I wouldn’t say that one class is better than the other. Each has its merits and its charm.
3. Were there any moments in MotoGP that made a lasting impression on you? What still touches or inspires you today? What accompanies you in such a sport is the permanent risk. In our first year, unfortunately, the worst happened with the tragic death of Luis Salom in an accident. To witness something like that, how time suddenly stops. How no one can grasp it, although it is omnipresent. It is a sport that is highly dangerous, where each individual plays with his life and then suddenly it really happens. That was just terrible. But then to see how the drivers, the teams deal with the events, that moved me and also made me think. I could understand things that I couldn’t understand before. Namely the “why they continue”, “why they get back on the bike”, “why a Paolo Simoncelli came back and runs his own team”, that I could then understand better.
4. Danger is a constant companion. How do you experience it? The worst thing for me is the silence. The longest for me was in 2018, when Michele Pirro had his bad crash. He stayed down for a very long time and you assumed the worst at that moment. I’m friends with him and then came this moment where it becomes quiet. Then you just know that it’s serious. Often you don’t even realize what’s happening. That’s what happened to me when Tom Lüthi crashed in Brno in 2016. He crashed heavily and I was standing at the command post. Tom was unconscious and everyone came in. Although I saw the crash, I stood in front of his pit box and waited for him. That’s insane how you react to that.
5. What about the positive moments? That with all the competition it’s still extremely fun. At the end of the season, when the celebration takes place in Valencia, everyone is just happy that it ended well. It’s always a lot of fun. On that evening, you’re glad it’s over so that you can look forward to the start of the season all the more. Or after the summer break, when you return to the paddock. Coming back always feels like coming home. It’s the beautiful moments that accompany you throughout the year. You just travel with a big group and you’re just together. Many call it family. I don’t know if I would say it that way, but you are just together. It’s very special and beautiful.
6. Maybe like a school trip then? Yes, exactly. That hits the spot. (laughs)
7. How would you follow the MotoGP? How would you follow the MotoGP? Would you watch it on TV or would you rather follow it at the race track? You should really see it once, how it runs there. Everyone should have been at the race track once. I got to do a cab ride with Randy Mamola once. It was so cool. I have to be honest, I was panicked about going out with Randy. I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff, but I was always backed up. You don’t have that option on a motorcycle. The fear of just letting go, of not being able to hold on, was very big. I didn’t have a good feeling about that. A medical check was done beforehand and there was an introduction. When I got on, everything was fine and the fear went away.
8. How fast were you going? On the straight line it was 270 km/h (168 mph) and it just takes your breath away. It was in Barcelona and I know the track very well. But the straight line seemed endless to me. I just kept wondering when the first curve was finally going to come. Randy was also very good at judging what he could and couldn’t do. He notices people quickly and also follows them, so you also have a good feeling there. It was really cool and I can only recommend it. If you have the chance, you should do it.
9. You often hear that there’s a rough tone in male-oriented professions. Is that also the case in MotoGP? I would say there is a different tone in sports in general. I don’t know it any other way, since I come from the sports sector. You can’t be squeamish there. There are a lot of women working in MotoGP. Often you just don’t see them. You have female reporters or presenters at all the stations now. There are female photographers, press officers or even team managers. There are great women on the road, so I’m not alone there. But what you do notice is that when you’re on the road overseas for three weeks, you’re also very happy to take some time off. In recent years, I’ve always taken a few days with a good friend in Bali. You’re glad to be without the boys for a while. I love them, but sometimes it’s just too much of a good thing.
10. So the image has changed a lot in the last few years? Yes, I think so, too. But globally, I think it’s still the beginning. The door is open now for now, it has to grow. Now it means that women have to prove themselves. The important thing is that you get the job because you can do it, not because you meet a quota. It’s counterproductive if you don’t deliver then. Then it’s bad for everyone, because what has been achieved is then unfortunately invalid. It’s a difficult issue.
11. The women’s quota? It’s a very tricky topic, because you’re often labeled as a mare’s bit. But that’s not what it’s supposed to be at all. I would like to see more women go down this path and fight their way through. It’s still a struggle, but it would be nice to see more and more good women coming along. There are still not enough of us to drag lesser good ones along. I’m 38 years old now and when I think back to my early days, there’s a world of difference when it came to acceptance as a woman wanting to get into the sport. I was also told unpleasant things once or twice and I put it away with a smile. At that time I often thought “We’ll see about that”. I’m glad I dealt with it that way back then, because otherwise I wouldn’t have made it. Many of the statements one encounters are also not meant in a bad way at all. It was just the generally prevailing image of a woman in sports back then. I think that situations always separate the wheat from the chaff. You have to fight your way through it and then it also becomes clear whether you really want the whole thing. If you go the way with all the challenges, then you really wanted it and are also with the fullest heart. Maybe you can take that as a reference for yourself. If you stand behind it like that, then you don’t give up. Sports reporting is also connected with hardships and you should stand behind what you do. Either you have a huge knowledge or enough euphoria, it is not enough to be just a woman to reach your goal.
12. What does your race weekend look like? Thursday is our media day. We do interviews, get sound bites and talk about a lot of things. The day always goes by quickly because there’s always a lot going on. On Friday, I’m usually in the TV compound, because that’s where you see the most on the monitors. Or I’m in the pit lane with the teams, so I can see a lot there, too. On Friday there is also a media scrum and then we start preparing for Saturday. Saturday starts with technical checks to make sure everything fits with the live gear and then I do my grid interviews for Sunday. Saturday evening we always have our broadcast meeting and I prepare for Sunday. Sunday is then racing and live coverage. That’s my race weekend.
13. Motorcycle racing is very hectic and noisy, how do you balance it out? Mostly with a lot of sports. I have a horse and train dressage. I also play tennis and try to meet a lot of friends and spend my free time with my family. During Corona, of course, a little more limited. The balance is important to me. Especially after stressful weekends in MotoGP it is nice to be in nature and to be able to switch off. Just not to have any noise around you and to be in nature.
14. What do you think makes a good sports presenter? For me, a good sports presenter is one who is passionate and euphoric about what he or she is doing. But he or she also has to take things seriously and be well prepared. But you should also not take yourself too seriously, that is also very important for live sports, because you are far from perfection. You should be with yourself.
The interview with Andrea was not only a lot of fun and gave me an insight into the working world of “MotoGP”, but it also gave me the opportunity to get to know a great woman. She is one of those women who, with her performance and her manner, have broken new ground, asserted herself and paved the way for future women. For a long time, women in MotoGP were decorative accessories. Today, they are reporters, photographers, riders, press officers and team managers and have changed the way many people think.
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