In Conversation with Graham Goodwin

In Conversation with Graham Goodwin

Edited by Dariana Almeyda


We’re the first ones to admit when we don’t know something, and we’re forever grateful for the opportunity to speak with the experts in this community that help light the way with their knowledge and passion. At the final race of the 2023 ELMS season in Portimão, we caught up with series commentator (and infinite fountain of knowledge) Graham Goodwin. After chatting with Graham we know that he's grateful for motorsports return to normality after the pandemic. He's passionate about keeping an open mind when it comes to being a fan of more than one racing series, and, most importantly, he shared his passion for his work and the series he has called home for so many years. We hope you find his love and knowledge of ELMS as infectious as we did.


PF - Graham, we’ve heard from our good friend Oscar that you’re somewhat of an endurance paddock legend! How did you end up in the world of motorsport and how long have you been here? 

GG - So, professionally I have been involved in the world of motorsport for the whole of this century–but the first race I covered as a journalist was in 2001. I ended up here as a lot of people do, through enthusiasm for the sport, and through my son. He was keen to go out, experience things, and have adventures, so we went to races, mainly touring cars, single-seaters, and the odd Grand Prix. Then we found endurance racing and loved it–there’s something about it that had us hooked. When the opportunity came up within my career to do something part-time on the side within motorsport, something that I obviously love, I jumped at it. Things have just spiraled from there.


“It’s a 200 mph pub chat.”


PF - What would you say is your favourite thing about your job?

GG - This. Explaining why quite a niche market in motorsport is awesome to people like you, and your audience. That’s my favourite thing. I’m privileged to be given a microphone at some huge races. 

It's a matter of trying to get people to think outside of the box. People don’t wake up and think “I wanna watch motorsport” but they’re drawn into it. And because the media profile of a series like Formula 1 is so huge, you're more likely to be introduced to F1. But there’s so much more to motorsport–that’s the key. There are some aspects of F1 that are amazing but it's not everything, and if all you watch and follow is one form of motorsport you're limiting yourself. 


PF - Obviously it's the last race of the season this weekend, what has been your favourite moment or storyline to see unfold this year?

GG - The best thing about this season is that we’ve had close racing throughout. Sports car racing if you’re not familiar with it, it’s three races in one. Three completely different cars racing on the same track, at the same time. It's like F1, F2, and F3 racing together and, in this case, for four hours. Which sounds like the potential for motorized carnage. But the skill is making it not that, the skill is that you are dealing with traffic. What that means is anything can happen. 

There are two storylines of the season for me though. The first is a young danish guy called Malthe Jakobsen. Watch out for him – he’s going to be a name in the future. He’s mega!! The second is a project called the Iron Dames. Funded by Deborah Mayer who is now the head of the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission, she funds the programme both here and in WEC (World Endurance Championship). It’s an all-female squad who are going out there kicking ass and taking names. They have the full respect of everyone on this grid. They haven’t won yet but they’ve finished on the podium multiple times. But it feels that the win is coming and it will be a moment that changes things. It will be one of those moments in motorsport where a story truly breaks through. It will be truly extraordinary. For three women to go head to head with absolutely no advantages given to them in an International racing series at this level, for them to come out and take a podium is going to be amazing, and it’s going to happen, it could be this weekend. It’s coming. (PF - Graham was right, it was that weekend in Portimão where the Iron Dames made history by becoming the first female team in ELMS history to stand on the top step of the podium.)


PF - Why is ELMS a cool series for racing fans to get behind and follow?  

GG - It's a great way to get into and understand endurance racing for a few reasons. It’s free and easy to watch globally. It's 4 hours, not 6 or 8 or 12, or 24. Coming into the 24-hour race as your first stab, that’s a big ask. But with the 4-hour race, you get an opportunity to understand what makes this different and what makes this series tick. In our case, what makes 3 different classes of car tick and interact with each other. In terms of coming to watch it, it's free. It's literally free. Most circuits we visit there is no charge to come in, there may be a small charge for certain perks and access, like in Spa, for example, it costs 15 euros to do a pitlane walk and get on the grid. If you want to get close to motor racing and have a bit of the Martin Brundle experience, you’ll get that here for next to no money. And bring your family and bring your friends because for me I think there’s a duty of people who are passionate about anything to take people with them on that journey. A guy who came to Spa with his dad worked out what they experienced at an ELMS race, the same experience at a Formula 1 race would have cost them around 4440 euros. And their day cost them NOTHING. Not one euro.

But why should people come to ELMS? ... for the fantastic racing. It doesn’t quit. And from the point of view of someone who wants to watch trackside, you can walk anywhere around this circuit, there’s no extra charge. It would be interesting to hear what you have found in terms of people's willingness to share information and their passion for this series with you…


PF - It's been great and so far everyone's been super welcoming! We were talking about this earlier actually, even speaking with the other photographers and media here, everyone is saying the same thing, the access is unmatched


“It’s like F1, F2, and F3 racing together and, in this case, for four hours. Which sounds like the potential for motorized carnage. But the skill is making it not that, the skill is that you are dealing with traffic.”


PF - We’ve heard the atmosphere at the 24 hours of Le Man is pretty incredible. What makes that race so special? 

GG - It’s the great race. It’s an event on a completely different level that retains a remarkable amount of accessibility. For instance, we have just had the ticket prices for next year's Le Mans. It's 100 euros, and if you turn up by train or hybrid / electric car it's 10% off because it's a green ticket. The ticket gives you access to a vast amount of real estate and a vast amount of different views and experiences at that event. Compared to other motorsport events, you’re not buying a seat, you’re buying access to Le Mans. You don’t go to Le Mans by yourself. You go with your family or your friends and you have an epic time. People have been doing it for decades. My first time was in 1995, when my son was 7 years old. I have been every year since, and worked it every year since 2001. At some point, I will retire from what I do but I will always go to Le Mans. I don’t think I will go to many other races, but I will go to Le Mans. It's a fantastic race, but it’s a fantastic party. Forget motorsport and think of the truly great events you’ve been to in your life, think Glastonbury. Le Mans has that iconic status, and you don’t need to be a motorsport fan to appreciate and enjoy it. It’s the greatest motor race in the world. 


PF - It sounds pretty epic and the general consensus from everyone we've spoken to in the paddock this weekend has said we MUST get to Le Mans next year, so see you there!! Okay, if you weren’t a commentator and you had to choose to do a different job to do in the paddock what would it be? 

GG - I wouldn’t. I love what I do. I pinch myself. I'm so lucky. So lucky that it just so happens that luck and opportunity handed me a chance to do what I now do professionally. I love what I do. I love that time before you put the microphone on your head when you get the opportunity to talk to people both on and off the record. And the key thing about that is understanding context. It's understanding what’s happened or what’s going to happen and why it's happening. It's that depth. When you peel back the layers of anything it's never what you think it is and the more you ask questions the more you learn. The only other job I will do when I eventually stop doing this is I will write books about it. A very old-school answer. 


“Forget motorsport and think of the truly great events you’ve been to in your life, think Glastonbury. Le Mans has that iconic status, and you don’t need to be a motorsport fan to appreciate and enjoy it.”


PF - What would you say is your career highlight?

GG - That’s a tricky question. I don’t think I’ve been asked that before … I think it's the dramatic moments you become a part of. Without a shadow of a doubt the first time you do the big race, Le Mans. The first time I was asked to do Radio Le Mans that was a major moment for me. Then to go on and be asked to do the TV coverage for Le Mans as well as some other big races such as the Bathurst 12 hours in Australia, they were special moments. 


PF - And finally, Graham, can you sum up just what makes the ELMS paddock such a special place? 

GG - When you say something is a family it can sound a bit parochial. And it’s not quite a family, there are a variety of nations in this paddock and I don’t share a common language with very many of them haha. But there is a shared passion. I have a lot of friends here and they trust me. It’s a 200 mph pub chat. I have become what the guy who got me into this was; I can’t walk from one end of the paddock to another without stopping or being stopped 4,5,6 times. There’s always something or somebody to talk to. It's a sport and we’re here to win and lose. It’s a passion. And then there’s of course the human factor, I have so many friends here, we’re all mates. There’s a massive social aspect to it, and that plays such a huge part in why we do what we do and why we love it.

“If you want to get close to motor racing and have a bit of the Martin Brundle experience, you’ll get that here for next to no money.”

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