You can’t get much closer to the heart of the action at a track than working as a pitlane reporter. Louise Beckett has been working in the role with the FIA World Endurance Championship since 2012, with her both reporting during races, as well as producing features and interviews with those involved in the sport when the cars aren’t on track. I spoke to her about her work in FIA WEC, the highlights of her career, and co-founding LoudSpeaker Agency.
Louise grew up around cars due to her father’s passion, but it was dance that had her heart as a child. “I actually trained to be a dancer,” she said. “Not exactly sport but still a skill that needs a lot of dedication. I was brought up around motorsport and cars because of my Dad and his passion for it…and the fact he used to restore old cars. My family were always very sporty growing up but it was just dancing and running for me.” Another of her interests was media, with her soon setting her sights on a career in the industry. “I knew from an early age this was the route I wanted to take. I didn’t know what capacity, but I knew it was media. To be honest, radio was my first passion and goal but I soon realised I cared about how things looked so I started working in TV,” she explained.
Going on to study Drama and Media Studies at university, Louise spent much of her free time doing work experience and placements, and with interests in radio and TV, she secured work in both. “I worked at a couple of radio stations in London which also led me on to work on some TV shows as a runner. It went from there really… I still today work and deal with some of the contacts I made all that time ago in work experience,” she told me. Louise went on to work for Arsenal TV where she made her on-screen debut. However, this wasn’t planned with her filling in for a colleague. “My first front of camera opportunity came when somebody was sick. There’s a lot to be said about being in the right place at the right time! I was working on Arsenal TV as a live PA, which is the person that keeps a programme running to time and is an assistant of the director. As I say, the person who usually read the club news was sick so I stepped in,” Louise said.
Her first role working in motorsport came when she joined a production company called Image Wizard Television who covered a range of championships from F4 Powerboats to drag racing. With her experience around cars and interest in motorsport, Louise’s role and responsibilities with the company soon grew. “My first motorsport job was as a production assistant and sort of came about by accident, it wasn’t a case that I was looking to work in it. The production company I worked at covered the FIA European Drag Racing Championship and of course I was completely comfortable in the environment as I knew about cars and was used to being around them, so my job just continued to grow from there. I used to stand on the start line interviewing the crew chiefs. If you’ve been to a drag racing event you will know just how loud and explosive that must have been,” she described. However, as she mentioned, combining her loves of media and motorsport was not something Louise had considered, with her adding: “I had never thought about it until that moment when it all seemed to fit together and made sense that I should continue in this way.”
In 2012, Louise entered another motorsport series as she became a pitlane reporter for the FIA World Endurance Championship. “I used to work on the FIA World Touring Car Championship. A lot of the crew were also working on the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, as FIA WEC was known at the time, I believe the team probably suggested me to the organisers. I had a test run at the final ILMC in Zhuhai, China. Then after that, I was taken on as the championship pitlane reporter. I had never worked on endurance racing before so it was a steep learning curve,” she told me. As a pitlane reporter, Louise is there to relay all the goings on down in the pitlane, with her both speaking to the fans at home and the production team. “You have to be the eyes and ears of the production crew as well as asking questions. If I see something happening in a garage, I will let them know that they need to send a camera, or tell the commentators what’s happening so they can report on it as well,” she explained. It’s not just on-camera work that keeps her busy on a race weekend though, as Louise also produces pieces for the broadcast. “As part of my role with WEC I also produce features which can be anything from games and laughs with the drivers to more serious reports on a particular incident. I don’t believe this is always the case with pitlane reporters, but for me, I love the opportunity as it means I can use my production skills as well as my reporting,” she explained.
Nine years later, Louise remains in the role with her still excited to return to the championship every year for several reasons. “Firstly, the team I work with,” she said. “Also, each year things change, whether that’s regulations, different teams, new circuits. It keeps it fresh and each year brings something new. I also love the championship and the people within it so why not go back for more!” In the years that she has been working with the FIA World Endurance Championship, Louise has also covered other series as well as presenting and hosting events both in motorsport and in other industries. In 2013, she worked on ITV’S BRDC F4 Championship broadcast, was a live event presenter for the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017 and has worked in the same role with the MRF Challenge, along with holding the prestigious role of Master of Ceremony for the 2014 FIA Gala Awards and at events since 2016 with FIA Women in Motorsport, with her work outside of motorsport being with companies such as Currys PC World. Speaking of the range of subjects her career has covered, she said: “I absolutely love the variety my job brings. I am very lucky to be able to work on so many different projects.”
As a presenter who often works on live events, it’s the unpredictability of this that can be the greatest challenge for Louise, with her role often requiring her to keep everything running smoothly when behind-the-scenes it is not going quite to plan. “Thinking on your feet and sometimes acting like everything is calm and great, when in your ear you know things may be going wrong (is the biggest challenge),” she told me. However, this unpredictability is also what attracts many people to the sport with the changes in the championship being part of what Louise loves. One of the highlights of her career so far includes an experience with a legendary British racing driver. “Without a doubt being driven by Sir Stirling Moss up the Goodwood Hill in his Mille Miglia winning Mercedes Benz SLR 300 #722,” she said. “I had the biggest smile on my face throughout.”
Last year saw a new opportunity for Louise, as she and fellow motorsport presenter Gemma Scott, founded their own boutique talent agency, LoudSpeaker Agency. “A few years back I was at Autosport International walking around with my friend – Andy Jaye, and after a couple of hours he said to me: ‘do you realise just how many people have come up to you and asked you about helping them to get work?’ That got me thinking. Then Gemma and I were both living in France and became good friends. She covered me a couple of times on jobs I wasn’t available for and we started talking about the possibility of starting an agency and how there isn’t anything like it in the industry and we’d like to help talented people go further. So we thought, why not? We knew between us we had a great pool of contacts to get started so that’s what we have done,” Louise explained. Having worked in her role as a pitlane reporter with the FIA World Endurance Championship for almost a decade, Louise has a lot of experience both in front of, and behind the camera, with her also having worked in production. Speaking of her advice for those who also want to work in the industry, she said: “stay strong and true to you. Treat others how you wish to be treated yourself. It is actually a small community out there and everybody talks, so if you are a genuine and decent person whilst getting to where you want to be in your career, that will be recognised and serve you well…and means people will trust you and talk to you openly!”
Other photo credits: FIA World Endurance Championship