Women In Motorsport
RENELLE NAIDOO … Interviewed by Deshni
What do I love about motorsport …The unpredictability, adrenaline rush, the smell of fuel, the danger and the personalities.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Hmmm, let’s see – I’m a sports fanatic, I love my job, am a free-spirited person who loves writing and reading, am family-orientated;, an animal-lover, newly-married – I got married last year in Durban to my first love, Kumar Singh, born a Durbanite but my heart is in Joburg.
What drives your passion for motorsport?
I have been and probably always will be a tomboy. I tend to gravitate towards the boyish stuff or rather away from the girly things.
I love playing sports and watching sports. My ideal weekend would be to lay around on the couch watching sport and by sport I mean just about everything football including English Premier League, La Liga, Series A, Bundesliga, F1, MotoGP, cricket, rugby, tennis, athletics and boxing.
So my “like” for cars started early on and it grew into a passion probably in my late teens. I just started taking an interest in cars, models, engines, and supercars. It became a part of life when my schedule (social activities) had to revolve around F1 weekends. Then it got more intense when I was tasked with a full page (broadsheet) in the Daily News every Monday to write a column, reviews, previews and source additional content.
In 2001 and 2002 I participated in a few drag races (won Fastest Woman in KZN – elapsed time: 14’33 over 400m in a turbo-charged Opel Kadett). During the course of my TV career I’ve been privileged to interview Felipe Massa; Nigel Mansell; Ricardo Patrese; Jody Schekter; Emerson Fittipaldi; Murray Walker; Nico Hulkenberg; Narain Karthikeyan and Ben Edwards (now F1 commentator).
What is left on your list of goals?
• Go to two more Grands Prix (Italy & Monte Carlo)
• Go to Italian & Indianapolis MotoGP
• Return to Old Trafford for a big Manchester United game
• Go to a Champions League Final
• Go to Wimbledon or Roland Garros semi-finals and final
• Go to Las Vegas to watch Manny Pacquaio in action
• Volunteer at an animal shelter
How did you make the transition from racer to media personality?
While working at Independent Newspapers, I was involved with the KZN Drag Association. I raced a bit and attended races so I didn’t necessarily move from one to another, but as my career started to kick off, the choice had to be made. While working at Independent Newspapers I was headhunted by LotusFM I joined their team as the Afternoon Drive Sports Reporter and later a producer of their weekday sports show…while at LotusFM, I was offered a job at ETV in Johannesburg and I basically sidelined all hobbies/interests to make my TV career work.
Just three months into my job at Etv I was offered a job at SuperSport (then SuperSport Update Channel, now Blitz – which I am currently in charge of but have had a few jobs in between)…In the media industry – I am regarded as multi-skilled/talented – as I have experience in Print (newspapers and in Public Relations); radio (Lotus FM; KayaFM & SAFM) and TV (Etv; SABC Sport Overnight Channel; SABC 1 & SABC 2 presenting sportswrap – some of which were done in Afrikaans). I have worked as a general sports writer; F1 columnist; now a columnist for Post every two weeks; radio presenter; radio reporter; radio producer; TV field reporter; TV presenter; TV producer and am now the Operations Manager at Blitz.
What advice can you offer aspiring female racers?
You’ve got to have a thick skin; unwavering dedication and passion for the sport and try as hard as possible to get financial backing if you want to pursue the sport as a career – they are lots of egos to be bruised (males and females alike) a fair amount of sexism but always believe in yourself and your talent and the sky is the limit.
What advice can you offer to aspiring female sports journalists/broadcasters?
Grow an insatiable appetite for knowledge; learn your craft; know exactly what you want to do and give it your all; be open to learning, to criticism, pursue your dream with all your might and you will reap the rewards. This industry is often an unforgiving one; you’re only as good as your last broadcast/report/article, etc.
You must always be on toes, willing to make sacrifices and constantly work hard to realise your dreams. If being a journalist is what you’re truly passionate about becoming then it will never feel like work or even hard work – it really is a dream job! I get paid to watch sport…it doesn’t get better than this!
What do you think are the biggest obstacle faced by females in the local and international motoring scene?
Funding/financial backing would be the biggest obstacle in my opinion. Motorsport is an expensive sport and without sponsors, it is not sustainable unless of course you have a wad of money at your disposal to burn! It still is very much a male-sport; male-dominated; male-run and the preconceptions are that women just can’t crack it – maybe women are starting to believe that too which is why there is such a small percentage globally of women participating in motorsport. Earning respect and not just being seen as a pretty face takes time but you get there eventually.
What is the highlight of your racing and media career?
Racing Highlights would probably be beating some egotistical male racers at the Drag Nationals at Margate Airport and Mtubatuba and of course winning the trophy for fastest female, although in fairness there were just a handful of us and we didn’t compete against each other – but I had set the fastest time…Oh and going to the British & French Grand Prix Media Highlights: really tough to narrow down. ’m proud of everything I’ve achieved but I guess interviewing some of the greats in various sporting codes; presenting at SuperSport and SABC (anchoring the 2008 Beijing Olympics for SABC in studio); winning the GSport Women in Media award in 2008 and being offered the position of Blitz Operations Manager less than a year after I rejoined SuperSport as a producer.
What has been your favorite car/bike to drive on and of the track?
On the track: Ferrari 458
Off the track: Audi R8 & Porsche 911 Carrera
Who or what has been your inspiration & how has this guided you throughout your career? I draw inspiration from various individuals – their pursuit of their dreams; tenacity; perseverance; mastering of their craft and constantly remind myself that I am a work in progress – success doesn’t happen overnight – it certainly didn’t for the likes of Anderson Cooper; Oprah Winfrey; Kimi Raikkonen, Rafael Nadal and Valentino Rossi…they have worked and continue to work hard for their success and achievements and that’s what drives me everyday to succeed…
How can our readers follow your career/motoring columns?
I write a column for Post every two weeks giving my take on various sports matters. I’m also on twitter (@renellenaidoo) but must confess that I’m more of a follower than a tweeter – in my profession it’s imperative to be as responsible as possible and I have to abide by certain social media policies…I use twitter as a sports news and news resource rather than one to express myself (although there are the odd occasions where I couldn’t restrain myself, particularly last season when Manchester United were so dismal.