There isn’t a single person in motorsport that has a bad word to say about Jake Sanson. He is passionate, truly loves his job and wants to help as many upcoming media stars in motorsport as possible.
This year he has been rewarded with a stunning year that has seen him at Le Mans, hosting the London rounds of the FIA Formula E Championship, as well as appearing on your television screens alongside the likes of Tiff Needell and Jodie Kidd in The Cars That Made Britain Great on Channel 5. I caught up with him to talk about his year in motorsport.
Katy Fairman: Do you set yourself goals for the year ahead?
Jake Sanson: When I first came into the sport, I only had one major target which was to commentate on one of the big three races: Monaco, Indianapolis or Le Mans. This year I achieved that, so I genuinely know what to shoot for next! The thing is motorsport is amazing at every level to me, so whether I’m covering GP3 for Eurosport or the BLMRA Lawnmower 12 Hours in a field in Kent, I love it all just the shame. Next year, I want to continue my TV work and trackside commentaries as far afield as possible, particularly with Eurosport. They’ve been so supportive of my career since they took me on as a rookie in 2013 and to have their belief in what I can do is an amazing boost in my confidence. Any opportunity to work with Tom Gaymor in the commentary box is a treat too, as I have more fun with him in a commentary box than anyone else in motorsport. I also intend to maximise the opportunities for the Downforce Radio team. They all have so much faith in the project and have been incredibly loyal, so it’s only right that in 2017 it’s they who reap the benefits.
KF: What did you find yourself doing in the early months of the year?
JS: Not many people are aware that before I started commentating I was qualified as a youth work practitioner. During the off season I used this to become a supply teacher in secondary schools. It’s incredibly rewarding work as I like to inspire young people to do whatever they can to succeed, and I genuinely enjoy their company, their ideas and their ambitions. Plus, getting involved in the home education of our children is hugely satisfying. Sadly during the racing season it’s harder and harder to be involved, but going home to three amazing kids and the woman of my dreams makes it all worthwhile.
KF: In April you filmed for a programme called The Cars That Made Britain Great which later aired in September. How much fun was that experience?
JS: It was a very surreal and overwhelming experience! I’ve spoken to so many people who have been on a show like that, never at all expecting I’d be asked to appear on one myself. It all happened very fast and I was only on set with Voltage TV for a day but they were a fantastic crew of people, and it genuinely didn’t feel like we were working at all! We were just bantering about cars for two hours!! I loved every second of it and I hope it won’t be the last show of that nature I do. The response I’ve had has been very humbling, having friends, family and supporters all commenting how good a job I did. I think I was reasonably fair and it gave me an opportunity to share my passion and enthusiasm with a new audience but if the show had been about motorsport, then they would never have got me to shut up!
UK readers can watch Jake in action on The Cars That Made Britain Great here:
KF: June saw you take on Le Mans. What did you get up to at the most iconic motorsport event of the year?
JS: I could write a whole chapter on this! It’s an incredible event, and when you go there for the first time it’s incredibly special. But going there for work is completely different. You have an all access pass to everything, and I’ll confess to being very intimidated at first. For a big kid like me, it’s like being in a giant Lego set and the only thing going through my head for the Friday and all the way up to about five hours into the race was ‘I really hope I’m not letting everyone down’ until I realised I was there, and chosen to be there for a reason so I may as well just crack on and give it my best shot.
The grid walk was like a fairytale: bumping into Patrick Dempsey, shaking hands with Jackie Chan and chatting away casually to Brad Pitt were not what I’d be expecting to do this year, let alone in 45 minutes!!! I’m still smarting for not telling my mum about that at the time, particularly Patrick Dempsey!! But for me, the moment I got most emotional was watching Rebecca Jackson in the Road to Le Mans sprint race just before. We’d both started our racing journeys in the Toyo Tires Porsche Championship in Great Britain, and to see her achieve her ambition of racing at Le Mans on the same weekend as my commentary debut there was very heartwarming, especially as one of the first people she saw in the pits afterwards was a fat blubbing commentator who was so in awe of her hard work.
The race itself was a dream: the best battle you could ask for in each of the four classes, and it was non-stop from the tricolore. My only regret is having to leave the circuit early to catch my flight home. We had a ridiculous scene on the Le Mans train station platform as about thirty of us tried to crowd around a fan’s phone as the cruel last lap fate of Toyota unfolded. I was so tired from lack of sleep that I had to ring BRSCC’s media executive Scott Woodwiss to make sure I wasn’t dreaming! I knew he’d be the only one I could guarantee was watching it!! I now love it more than ever and want to go there every year until I’m physically unable to. It really is the greatest race in the world.
KF: You then went all-electric as you hosted the FIA Formula E Championship in London. I watched you present the podiums from the eVillage and thought you did a truly fantastic job. What were your highlights from the weekend?
JS: Everything about the weekend was just astounding. I’ve been to many motorsport events around the world and Formula E does a phenomenal job. The thing that really stood out for me was how much the championship gives back to its audience, and because the technology is new, the racing is on city streets and the fanbase is quite young, there’s a magnificent energy around the paddock.
Watching the finale itself with my co-presenter Abi Griffiths and the Event360 team was quite special, as we were in amongst the fans. We shared the raw emotion of the collision between Sebastien Buemi and Lucas Di Grassi with the fans as it happened. In that instant, there was no distinction between presenter and spectator: we were all mad fans of what we were watching and loving every second of the tension, drama and suspense. That’s a moment I’ll remember for a long time, as I’ve never experienced that anywhere else before.
Again, cruising a paddock awash with celebrities can be quite daunting, especially when you have to ask Alain Prost of all people for an interview, and I was taken right back to my early days of watching F1 from a TV screen with my dad. He was Dad’s hero, and there I was idly chatting to the four-time world champion on a giant TV screen. This sport throws up some crazy opportunities sometimes!!! But it’s a sport I now can’t get enough of, and with so many cities and manufacturers wanting to get involved in Formula E, I think it will be an amazing spectacle for years to come.
KF: What else did you do over the spring and summer?
JS: Just recently I pretended I was a crystal meth addict!! I should clarify I was acting at the time! But it involved playing the part of a prisoner rioting for a new TV show out next year, which I have to say took a great deal of acting out of my own character!! My mum and wife certainly won’t enjoy watching it! I’ve done a few bit parts as an extra now including for “In The Club” on BBC 1 and for the upcoming movie “The Limehouse Golem” alongside Bill Nighy and Eddie Marsan. It’s not something I’m looking for a long term career in but it opens interesting doors and allows me to do things I wouldn’t normally get the chance to do. Although, those actors that play bit parts in multiple TV shows is the kind of actor I’d like to be if given the chance.
I’ve also joined Trade Price Cars and started a new YouTube series called #MotorMouth, which is basically a one-man “Top Gear” where I drive everything from supercars to hatchbacks. It’s great fun and has been very well received so far, and again it allows me the chance to be more creative with my passions and interests. It’s exciting work and the Trade Price Cars team are amazing people to work with. I’ve become part of their family very quickly.
KF: We also saw you with the Formula E crew at pre-season testing at Donington later this year. What is it about the Formula E Championship that keeps you coming back for more?
JS: I’m one of those people who believes motorsport is a constantly evolving sport, and as times change we need to change with it. People who have said to me that “Formula E isn’t really racing” are being very naïve in my opinion. Motorsport has to be relevant if it is to keep making money and attract new people to it, and when we’re competing against the likes of football, rugby and tennis which are much easier sports for people to follow and understand we need to do whatever we can to keep it interesting for fans, spectators and investors. I think Formula E is the most extraordinary concept for motorsport we’ve seen for a while, and I firmly believe it will outlast the likes of A1GP, Superleague Formula, Formula Masters and the others that have come before it.
The racing is close, the technology is fascinating and the personalities involved are very switched on to social media and youth culture. It is a young person’s motorsport in essence and I love that it’s gathering speed and momentum with every round we go to. Plus embracing the sim racing community is a masterstroke. As far as I’m concerned, sim racing will soon be as big a business as the real deal, so it’s time we gave it the credence it deserves. All motorsports have their place, and Formula E has tapped into the most accessible form of the sport and made it an important element of its future. I can’t wait to see how it develops next and I want to be there talking about it and getting fired up about it with every passing event.
KF: Are there any other highlights from the last few months of the year that you can share?
JS: Downforce Radio has been through an interesting period of transition in the last few months, and I’m pleased to say I’m confident we’ll be stronger than ever in 2017. We’ve always been dedicated to the nurture and development of new careers in motorsport journalism and broadcasting, including of course my own, so it’s very rewarding to see the likes of Tom Brooks, Lester Forbes, Louis Suddaby and Andre Harrison move on to their own projects spurred on by the opportunities given to them at Downforce. I know they’ll be spectacular in everything they set out to accomplish and to have had a hand in that is an honour.
We will still be covering many forms of British motorsport next year, and new podcasters, bloggers, commentators and panellists for our various shows are showing an interest in joining up and creating new shows and opportunities to express their love and passion for the sport. We started just four years ago with one loud mouthed commentator and a dictaphone, so its amazing how far we’ve come in just 48 months.
KF: What have been your highs and lows from the year?
JS: I’ve enjoyed Le Mans and Formula E especially, but I’ve also loved being able to work more with the BRSCC and at club level motorsports. Without club level racing there is no route to the top, and people forget how important the ladder of motorsport really is so it’s always rewarding to still be invited to work there as regularly as I am. I’ve also really enjoyed doing more work with TDI Media, as the Super One Series, Cool FAB Racing and BirelART Racing UK are some of the country’s very best motorsport championships and it’s been deeply enjoyable to continue to add my excitement to the incredible coverage we create.
I’ve had to turn down some pretty big opportunities this season as I always strive to remain loyal to those I make a commitment to and that’s a shame. In a world where being in the limelight is everything, it’s difficult to get the balance right and I’m very aware that it’s important not to bite the hand that feeds you. Hopefully the next few years I’ll be able to get a delicate balance where I can be where I want to be, and keep those who want me around happy. It’s never easy but when the phone call from the Formula Ones and IndyCars of this world comes I want to make sure it’s at the right time for everybody, not just for me.
KF: Any plans for 2017 that you can share?
JS: I’ll definitely still be focusing a lot of my attention on karting in 2017 with Super One, BirelART and now Daytona Motorsport all confirmed, I’ll be doing a lot of work with sim racing companies too including GPVWC, VEC and Simply Race, all of which I’m very proud to work with.
I’m always on the lookout for opportunities for next season and I want to be heavily involved in as many motorsports as I can be. I’ve spoken to some of the big fish in the pond, but I’m also stretching my horizon to cover motorsports I haven’t considered before. To me, every form of motorsport is as important as the next, and my job is to show people how exciting it really is. If I’m excited about it, that gets everybody else going. I love everything from cars to bikes, boats to planes, rallying and rallycross, ovals, sim racing, lawnmowers, you name it, I love it. And the more I can cover in 2017 I’d like to think the more exciting and energetic motorsports worldwide will be for it. Whether it’s Formula One or Reliant Robins, I want to spend as much of my time in 2017 commentating on the best sport in the world as I possibly can.