From Wimbledon to F1 and the Olympics... Suzi Perry has done it all
In a career that has spanned more than 20 years, Suzi Perry has weaved her way into the fabric of motorcycle racing. Having interviewed riders from Carl Fogarty and Mick Doohan to Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and everyone in between she oozes credibility given her clear understanding and unwavering passion for the sport.
Her career, which started back in WSB’s heyday with Sky Sport, has also seen her present F1, Wimbledon and the Olympics for the BBC – but since 2016 she’s been back in her spiritual home of bike racing, anchoring BT Sport’s comprehensive coverage of MotoGP.
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She’s also spent decades shattering stereotypes and paving the way for more and more women to play key roles within the MotoGP paddock.
"It all started when I went to Donington Park and interviewed some riders and put together a tape, which to be honest was a bit rubbish, but it was what you did back then to show your interview skills. Although I didn’t think it was very good, it did show the passion I had for motorsport and it was something I did completely off my own back," she told MCN when we caught up with her at the British MotoGP weekend.
"I managed to speak to Martin Turner at Sky and after telling him I was a no one, but a big bike fan, I asked him why they didn’t do more helmet-off features with the riders, showing their personalities and the way they think. He invited me in for a chat and that was when I showed him the tape I’d made. He told me it was pretty average, but we chatted for over an hour and at the end of it he offered me a job as a reporter.
"My first ever show was a live six-hour broadcast at Brands Hatch. The riders were Foggy, Chili, Kocinski, Scott Russell, Neil Hodgson. It was a fantastic era of WSB and I became part of it. It was a very special time and I look back at it so fondly because they were party times as well – a paddock that had everything going on! I cut my teeth there and I learned a lot and I went on to start writing for magazines – MCN Sport, Superbike and The Telegraph.
"That was back in 1997, it was a different era and there were no females in the sport. When I first came to GPs in 1998 I think there were about five women working in the paddock and there were no female reporters and no presenters.
"If you look around now it’s between 30 and 40% women. I became the first woman to be interviewing riders on television. And it was a coup and the broadcasters knew that. God, I had a lot to learn but I was so up for learning and getting better.
"Throughout my career I jumped in and did everything that came my way – I never said no to anything, I just went out there and learned my trade. And to start with it was all done with SKY, which wasn’t mainstream – it wasn’t the BBC so I was able to make my mistakes. I watched every broadcast back through gritted teeth and cringing, but it was the only way you can learn and self-producing turned out to be a great skill to have. I identified things that I would never say or do again, plus I had good producers that helped and suddenly I’d developed a style. But I’ve had to change that style through my career – like riders change their riding style.
"Your style can easily become old fashioned and also as I got older I’ve hopefully become more sophisticated. When I started I was 27 and the same age as the riders so it was a different relationship compared with now. Now, apart from Valentino, they are all young enough to be my kids!"
Suzi Perry's big career moments
First gig in WSB Suzi was welcomed into the paddock mid-way through Carl Fogarty’s reign and at a time when WSB was booming – especially in the UK. It was an amazing time for her to learn her trade as a reporter and presenter.
Move to GP Being a woman in GPs made her unique and she was soon able gain access to the biggest names in racing. Even Mick Doohan gave her his seal of approval saying that "she asks good questions".
Three years in F1 Suzi fronted up BBC’s big budget F1 coverage anchoring the programme alongside Eddie Jordan and David Coultard while establishing a strong rapport with the drivers.
MotoGP with BT In 2016 Suzi joined BT Sport, heading up the highly knowledgeable team of Neil Hodgson, Michael Laverty, Gavin Emmett and Colin Edwards. Using her skill and contacts she continues to deliver interviews that nobody else can get.