Simon Patterson travels the world with the rest of the MotoGP paddock as a sports reporter for Motorcycle News. We spoke to Simon to find out what inspired him to get into racing, advice for people wanting to get into the industry, and his predictions for the rest of the racing season.
What inspired you to get into the racing scene?
My earliest memory as a kid was at the North West 200 road race, and my great-uncle sponsored Robert Dunlop for most of his career, so there’s always been a family team and a reason to go racing. I grew up in the racing scene and I’ve more or less been involved ever since.
What did you do before you were a MotoGP reporter for Motorcycle News?
From a young age, I’ve been interested in bikes and have always been around them. So naturally the next step was to photograph them. Throughout high school and university I was photographing races every chance I got, and started doing some work for Stephen Davison, the road racing photographer. Through Stephen, I got to know some people at MCN who were able to put in a good word for me, and I landed my first job as a Web Producer. I then did three seasons as a British superbike reporter, and now I’m in my third season reporting on MotoGP.
This is your dream job, what are the best and worst parts about it?
I’ll start with the not so good parts. It’s a huge amount of time away from home. I did 200 nights in hotels last year and about 60 flights. I miss family and friends, and occasions like birthdays, too. All of that is hard work. But then every few rounds a friend or a family member will come along to a race, and I’ll get them a paddock pass and we’ll walk around the paddock, and then it hits home what a good job you have. They can’t believe it when Valentino Rossi rides past on a scooter and says “hello”! Those pinch-yourself moments definitely bring you back down to earth. And of course, travelling the world with the premier class motorcycle racing series is never dull!
How do you cope with being away from home for so long?
There’s around 1,200 people involved in MotoGP with permanent paddock passes, so it’s like a travelling village and one big family. Everyone knows everyone, and you have breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day. It makes up for the amount of travelling because you have one family at home and one family here, and that’s the nicest part of it.
You’ve interviewed some of the best racers in the world. Who’s been your favourite?
That’s a tricky one. Rossi is always good value and you get excellent stuff from him, he always has something new and fun to say. But he’s difficult to get time with, and rarely does one-to-one sit down interviews so I only get to speak to him properly once a year. I’m also lucky to have a good relationship with Cal Crutchlow, which means I can always speak to him on the phone or text him. I ask different types of questions and it’s a different interview as a result, but equally as good. And then there’s jokers like Danilo Petrucci, who is so fast with the one-liners!
Considering what Ana Carrasco is doing in World Supersport 300, how long is it until we see a woman MotoGP rider?
It’s just a matter of time. The argument that women aren’t strong enough is rubbish. Look at Dani Pedrosa, he’s the best example of why a woman can obviously be fast on a MotoGP bike. He’s small, doesn’t weigh much and hasn’t got the same physical strength as some of the bigger riders. The main issue at the moment is cultural, women aren’t seen to ride motorbikes. But it’s great to see that there are some fast women in the likes of the Spanish CEV Championship and some of the other feeder series. So it’s definitely coming.
What bike are you currently riding?
I have a bike licence, but I don’t actually own a bike because I’m never home long enough to warrant owning one! But when I fly into a circuit, I find somewhere to rent a scooter which is my transport for the weekend, which is ideal as it lets me ride, and I can get a pass for it allowing me to ride straight into the paddock. I carry a fold up Knox back protector and a pair of lightweight gloves which go everywhere with me, and I can store my luggage in the big under-seat storage compartments which most scooters come with. It’s perfect!
What advice would you give someone looking to get into the motorcycle industry?
It’s not impossible to get into the industry. Go to events, go to races, help out a team, help someone write their press releases, and volunteer where you can. Just get to know people, because it’s all about contacts.
Finally, who’s going to win the 2018 MotoGP, world superbike and British superbike titles?
In MotoGP, Marc Marquez is looking very strong, especially considering his wins at Jerez and Le Mans which are historically tracks he hasn’t gone that well at, but it’s a long season and there are plenty of riders who can win every weekend. Jonathan Rea looks dominant in World Superbikes, he has everything under control, so I can’t see him not winning it. And BSB is wide open after Shane Byrne’s crash at the Snetterton test, which could swing things Leon Haslam’s way. Brad Ray’s doing a great job, too, and hopefully we’ll see him in Moto2 next year!