Inspirational, Interview, Women In Motorsport

Vanessa Guerra: “I ended up in the world of motorsports by accident and discovered a passion that has since become my way of life.”

It was such an honour to speak to Vanessa for the blog, as I’ve been a fan of her ever since I first heard her story on an International Women’s Day Clubhouse. Vanessa has over thirteen years of experience in MotoGP and an incredibly accomplished resume. Vanessa does freelance work currently but has worked as a TV Host, a Press Officer, a Team Manager, a reporter, and a YouTube host in her fascinating career. In our interview, Vanessa discusses her experience managing a Moto2 team, the day-to-day life of a MotoGP Press Officer, and the highlights of her experience so far. Enjoy! Follow @otpwblog on Instagram for original motorsport posts and more interviews like this!

Vanessa was born in Switzerland to Spanish parents but spent most of her childhood in Madrid, Spain. Vanessa speaks four languages, French, Italian, English and Spanish, a skill that she says has massively paid off throughout her time in MotoGP.

Vanessa’s career in motorsport came by chance, and it all started as being the sister of a rider. Vanessa was just about to graduate from the American University of Paris with a Business major. She had an opportunity to take a communications internship at Chanel, when her brother Yannick approached her for help. Yannick was riding in SuperStock600 (Superbikes), and his team needed Vanessa’s impressive business skills. Vanessa did “management, coordination, and bookkeeping” for the team, and after she graduated college, she turned down the internship at Chanel to join Yannick’s team full-time. She jokes that Yannick ‘tricked her’ into liking motorsport and that it was part of his plan all along.

On her website, Vanessa says of her career path, “I ended up in the world of motorsports by accident and discovered a passion that has since become my way of life.”

Vanessa joined the Holiday Gym Racing team that Yannick raced for, working as a Team Coordinator and Press Officer. She continued in her roles as they progressed to the SuperSport (Superbikes) series. In 2010, she had been with Holiday Gym Racing for 2 years and they were in Moto2. Vanessa had become Team Manager, making history as the first female team manager in the Moto2 championship. Vanessa described this as, “intimidating at first”, as most of the other managers were men twice her age. Vanessa told me that when she walked into the team manager’s meeting room, they asked her, “are you lost?” Vanessa confirmed that she wasn’t, and stated it wasn’t an issue again.

Just one year after Holiday Gym Racing moved into Moto2, they decided to pull out of racing entirely. Vanessa lost her job and spent 2011 working as a freelance press officer in MotoGP.

Vanessa in 2010 as Holiday Gym Racing’s Team Manager.

In 2012, an opportunity surfaced for Vanessa and she took up work as a Press Officer for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Moto2 Team. Vanessa stayed with that team for a year until she got the chance to work for a factory team in MotoGP, Repsol Honda. It was a fantastic opportunity as the team were the previous season’s championship winners. Vanessa’s position at Repsol Honda was as the riders’ press officer, working closely with then-riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.

In our interview, Vanessa described the schedule for a MotoGP press officer from Thursday to Sunday.

“Race weekend begins ahead of getting to the track, in which you establish the media schedule for the riders. You get requests for online media, podcasts, & TV. You decide who you’re going to give access to, and then the rider or his manager and the team have to approve the plan. Thursday’s the media day, and that’s when the riders do interviews or any filming for TV. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when racing sessions take place, I would be watching. Afterwards, I got quotes from the riders, and then I’d write the press releases and compile photos from the photographer. The press releases would have to be approved by the Team Principal, and I would send the release with the images to the media.
I would also update the website and do pit box tours for sponsors and VIPs. Another thing I did was supervising signing sessions that the riders would go to with fans and VIPs. Press officers keep pretty busy!”

Vanessa stands next to Marc Marquez, Six-time MotoGP World Champion and Repsol Honda rider, as his press officer.

After Vanessa’s time at the Repsol Honda team came to a close, she knew she wanted to continue working in MotoGP but didn’t know where. A Moto3 rider told her that Eurosport was looking for a female MotoGP pit lane reporter and that she’d be perfect for the job. Vanessa recounted to me that she’d didn’t think much of it at the time but gave him her number to pass on to Eurosport just in case. Vanessa got the role at Eurosport and worked for the French company for four seasons. In her position, Vanessa broadcasted live on TV and kept up with the news from MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. That’s 85 riders!

Vanessa interviewing Valentino Rossi for Eurosport.

Following her stint at Eurosport, Vanessa transitioned to working for Red Bull Motorsports. For two very successful years, Vanessa hosted Inside Pass, the Red Bull Motorsport MotoGP vlog show. In this job, Vanessa conducted fun quizzes and interviews with the riders while also explaining the technical side of MotoGP to newcomers. Vanessa’s mission with the series was to “show the human side of the drivers” as supposed to the trained PR side.

Sadly, this role came to an end last month. Of this, she told me the following;

“From the Spanish GP onwards, Red Bull has decided that the Inside Pass Vlog format would evolve into a documentary style show, not requiring a Presenter or Creative Producer, which were the roles I previously had. Therefore I will not be involved with the new format. Nonetheless, we have had an amazing run in these 2+ years; with up to 40 episodes of Inside Pass, 5 episodes of the series Get Ready to Race and collaborations with F1 teams Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri as well as with Enduro. It has been a lot of fun to be a part of the Red Bull Family!”

Vanessa currently works as a freelancer and is looking forward to her next opportunity in the sport.

Vanessa with Ducati MotoGP rider Jack Miler during her time at Red Bull

We were nearing the end of my career-based questions, and our chat was veering toward two large talking points in the field of motorsport; the danger and the lack of gender diversity.

As for the danger of MotoGP and motorsport on a whole, Vanessa had a very important and rare perspective on the issue.

As I’ve written above, Vanessa’s brother was a rider, and she managed his team early in her motorsport career. She talked about the conflict she faced, between wanting her brother to get good results for the team as a manager and wanting to protect him as a sister. While Vanessa admitted that the risk of injuries in MotoGP is a grave matter, she said that the only healthy way to cope with it is through keeping it at the back of your mind. After that realization, Vanessa decided that instead of constantly worrying, she would push her brother and her team’s riders to succeed. Vanessa recognized that it was the riders choice to risk their lives for their passion and that the best thing she could do was support them.

Vanessa hosting a Women In Motorsport conference for the FIM and FIA

After that, Vanessa and I soon started talking about how I first heard her story this International Women’s Day on a Clubhouse session. I remarked that the MotoGP paddock seemed more male than the equivalent in Formula 1. Of this Vanessa said, “Yes, of course, MotoGP is very male-dominated. However, it has improved since I started working in the series. There are more women but not many in management positions. I don’t know whether it’s because of a lack of opportunities or because women don’t see themselves in those positions. I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I have experienced biases because of my gender, but every time I return to the paddock, less. [In a job selection process], I believe that men are chosen based on potential and females are picked by experience. I think that’s the largest bias.”

On the topic of women in motorsport, Vanessa had some fantastic advice to young women who would like to work in motorsport;

“If it is what you want, don’t take no for an answer. No one is born with knowledge, you need to acquire it, and everyone has a first day. My brother’s mechanic told me, ‘for lack of experience, you make up for it with hard work and enthusiasm’.”

I decided to conclude our interview by asking Vanessa the highlights of her time in MotoGP so far. Her response was the following;

“Experiencing the feeling of a championship win from the inside of a team when I was working for Repsol Honda is definitely a highlight. It was 2014, and Marc Marquez had won. From the outside, everything seems to fall into place, and it’s win after win after win. We had ten wins in a row that season. But, when you see it all from the inside, you watch the hard work and the sacrifice behind the scenes, and you realize that it’s not as easy as it’s perceived. Another huge highlight for me was interviewing Giacomo Agostini on my first race weekend as a pitlane reporter [for Eurosport]. He’s a motorsport legend. Meeting Mr Niki Lauda and interviewing him at the Brno Grand Prix in 2015 on the MotoGP was incredible. Experiencing first-hand his rigour and mentality and the respect he showed us all was something of which I had only heard. To see how passionate he was, whether it was two wheels or four, was amazing to see . . .”

Vanessa interviewing Giacomo Agostini for the first time

A massive thank you to Vanessa for her time and patience. I loved learning about your story and can’t wait to see where it continues!

All photos are credited to Vanessa.

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Watch the Inside Pass series on YouTube