During MotoGP Thai GP race weekend, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dorna’s Event Director Norma Companys. In the hectic morning with the rain delaying FP3, we really appreciate Norma’s time in sharing her experience as a someone working in the paddock for over a decade. Without her, the races wouldn’t be on and championships wouldn’t be decided. Ahead of this season’s triple-header, let’s hear the behind the scene preperation of MotoGP.
All photos © Christian Bourget
Paddock Sorority: What are your responsbilities as an event director/manager? What’s a typical race weekend like for you and what prep you do before going out to the track?
Norma Companys: We take care of all the preparation and execution for a MotoGP race weekend. We make sure all the facilities are in place when the teams and Dorna officials arrive at the circuit, including all the structures and offices, proper parking areas, and so on. Our team work with local promoters to make sure the preparation on their side is ready for our arrival.
PS: Does your job change if it’s a fly-away race like in Thailand?
NC: In Europe we have our equipment on trucks. We move everything in trucks throughout Europe. When we fly here we bring things on four cargo flights. For example, in Europe even our offices are in the trucks. Here we have portable offices, it’s a different set-up.
PS: How did your job change as you move up the ranks through the years?
NC: I started as a coordinator, taking care of the facilities and rental equipments. Then I started to take on more responsibilities. Now, with the help of my team working on all the production of the event, we try to have everything under control.
PS: Does your job also involve interacting with the sponsors and fans?
NC: Not directly. For the sponsors we have a commercial department, for fans and spectators it lies more on the circuit’s side. But in the end it’s a matter of having a good and successful event. I’m aware of what’s going on on their side, cc’d on their emails and involved in the conversation.
PS: It’s raining today, and sometimes other things might affect the schedule. What’s your job’s relation to that aspect of a race weekend?
NC: We also prepare the official schedule of a MotoGP weekend, including events like pitlane walk. This morning because of the rain we have to cancel events and delay track action. Then we need to move everything and talk to people to make sure things still happen properly. Our job for a race starts months in advance. We keep in touch with the circuit to prepare for everything. We have more than 2000 people travelling for each race, that’s a huge structure, a lot of things need to be taken care of. When we arrive at the circuit, we usually get here a week in advance, we set up everything from Sunday or Monday through Thursday. We make sure everything is on site. From Friday it’s a different job, we need to be aware of what is happening and whether everything is working well. It’s also time to be more relaxed, sitting in front of the computer to prepare for the next races. We have Japan, Australia, and Malaysia coming up, we are still in touch with all the promoters via email.
Then, Sunday race day is completely different. We help on all starting race procedures, security, Podium, to make sure we are on time. As we are in TV live broadcast, we must ensure that everything is on time and in the safest possible conditions. When all finishes, then it is time to pack everything for next race.
PS: Speaking of the triple-header, do you have the team split up for those comparing to when you have two weeks between races?
NC: No. We are still working as one team. We work more days without a break or only with short breaks like a one day break. We may have team members rotate to take breaks, but we don’t have different teams working on different races. We try to rest a little bit, but it’s hard because it’s three weeks in a row. Even with days off in the middle, there is not much time to relax.
PS: So obviously the job can be exhausting, you must also be passionate about motorsport. What was your first exposure to motorcycle racing or just motorsport?
NC: Yes I’m passionate about MotoGP. I always like motorcycle racing, I always like watching it on TV. When I was young I may have been to the circuit in Barcelona once. But I’ve never had contact with this kind of work in the sport until I get this job. I studied history of art in the university, so I was doing cultural events, like art, cinema events. Then I started working here at Dorna, it’s really passionate work.
PS: So first few years must have been exciting.
NC: Yeah. At the beginning when I started working and I was like ‘let’s see how it works’. It was really interesting, it was a new work, and different kind of jobs. It was always in my mind then ‘yeah maybe I should go back to cultural events’. But now I really like it. It’s not just about the bikes, there are many other things to do during a race weekend.
PS: Motorsport is pretty male dominated, throughout your decade long career with Dorna/MotoGP, how do you think the situation has evolved for women working in the paddock?
NC: When I started in my department, it was a small team but I was the only girl. I never felt like there is discrimination for being a woman. Now maybe because we are getting more exposure, like this interview, or like the Women in Motorsport conference in Finland, we are being more visible, so I think there are more women in this world.
PS: What’s your takeaway from the Women in Motorsport Conference held in Finland? Any initiatives that excite you?
NC: It was interesting to hear all the stories, there were riders/drivers, women in executive positions and other different roles. It will be a good start. I think we should have more female riders or women working in different roles in motorsport. One thing that surprised me in the conference was that the riders at the conference said they don’t want an exclusive category for women. They want to compete with men. This is good to know.
PS: What do you think should be done to encourage women to participate in motorsport in any area?
NC: I think more visibility is definitely the start. Then we will have more women in different places of this motorsport world, and that will inspire even more women. This will be a healthy cycle. I think for young riders, having more female rider selections will help us find new female talents.
PS: There are obviously a lot of different work in the paddock, have you ever thought ‘yeah I should also try that!’?
NC: In my job there are so many things to do. I’m always renewing my job, and there is always new things to learn and do. There is always new things to take care of. So the job is still challenging and exciting for me. I’m still learning.
PS: We are now approaching the end of the season, but like you said preparation for the races starts months before. So how does your winter look like?
NC: When we finish in Valencia in November, we have maybe one month to go to the office in Barcelona, and close everything, invoices, reports and stuff. Then Christmas time is when we really have a break and holiday. We don’t have to worry about emails. In about mid January we come back again to the office. I will do winter travels to different circuits to have pre-season meetings in January and February. Every year we travel to Japan, US, and some European circuits as well. These meetings are really useful because we can talk about many things about the next race at the circuit. My colleague of take care of organizing winter testing.
After Thai GP, Norma’s team moved on to Motegi. As many F1 fans were worrying about Typhoon Hagibis interrupting the F1 race in Suzuka last weekend, Norma and her team were worrying about it potentially affecting the set-up in Motegi. Obviously Norma’s competent team got everything under control. Now let’s enjoy the race weekend in Twin Ring Motegi!