Motorsports commentator Ben Edwards and his wife Belinda talk to Track Talent about their careers, their plans for 2010, and their motorsports company Entreprix.
Q. Since 1987 you have had your own company called Entreprix. Can you tell us what your company does and what is involved?
A. The company is involved in the organisation of motorsport, from championships to individual events, and in putting across the excitement and understanding of the sport through top class commentary.
Q. Was the idea of setting up your own company something you had both been thinking about for a number of years or was is it something that you both started through circumstance?
A. Belinda – I set the company up back in 1987, initially to try and find sponsorship for drivers, and then switching to championship administration when invited by Honda to put together the Honda CRX Challenge for 1988. The way that the company has evolved is a combination of planning and circumstance. Ben was operating as a self employed commentator for many years, but in 2006 we decided to join forces under the Entreprix banner so that we could look at combining our talents on some joint projects as well as continuing the roles we already had.
A. Ben – Through Entreprix, Belinda was doing all of my administrative work for many years, and when we sat down and thought about how we wanted to develop things in the future, it made sense to work together more completely and so I joined Entreprix.
Q. How have you promoted your business over the years and what tips, if any, can you give to potential entrepreneurs who are thinking of setting up their own business?
A. Belinda – Most of the work that comes through Entreprix has been via contacts within the motorsport business. It’s a small world, and you find yourself working with people who you last worked with a few years ago in a different role! We are not the sort of company that is looking at a large database of customers. We have specific clients who want a particular role fulfilled, so promoting the business tends to come through word of mouth from satisfied clients. To set up a business in motorsport, it is important to get out to events, talk to people and keep your face about, and also to do a decent and honest job; there are too many people that come into the sport attracted by the so-called glamour who just want to make some quick money. They are usually found out pretty fast and don’t survive.
Q. As a company run by a husband and wife; Ben, can you tell me what qualities Belinda possesses and what she brings to the role?
A. Belinda is amazing! She has incredible amounts of energy and self motivation, and she is brilliant with people. She has the ability to juggle all sorts of issues at the same time, organise them into specific areas, and communicate what needs to be done in a friendly and fun manner. She’ll work all hours of the day and night to get things done, but is able to have a laugh about it at the same time. She’s an inspiration.
Q. Belinda, can you tell me what qualities Ben possesses and what he brings to the role?
A. Passion for the sport, knowledge and phenomenal commentary skills, and his ability to communicate with both the layman and enthusiast without being patronising. His experience as a driver helps me in my organisational role as well, because he can see things from a competitor’s stand point.
Q. (To Belinda). Your early career was based in marketing and advertising, what made you decide to then focus on the motorsports industry?
A. Sheer chance really; I was going out with someone who was involved in club racing but who had friends throughout the business, and suddenly an opportunity appeared that I just couldn’t turn down, and then suddenly there I was involved in motorsport.
Q. When people hear the name Ben Edwards, they associate it with motorsports commentary. Your career started as a Formula Ford mechanic and then progressed to racing driver in Formula First. Who were your influences in your young career?
A. The strongest influences on my career were 2 brothers, Rob and Chris Creswell. Rob had raced Formula Ford but then switched to running a successful team, while Chris was a quick driver and an instructor at Brands Hatch. I started out as a weekend helper to Rob when he was running the likes of Andy Ackerley, Karl Jones, Rick Shortle and Chris Ringrose. I learnt so much from all of them, and then Chris got me the opportunity to start working at the Brands Hatch racing school, and then helped me buy the Formula First car with which I won the inaugural championship.
Q. You are seen as one of the best commentators in the business, but have there any been any occasions where it has not gone to plan?
A. Plenty of occasions! Such as losing the pictures while commentating on a Champ Car race at Mid Ohio and having to commentate by guess work; or losing power to the microphones in Brazil for F1 and having to share a telephone with John Watson; or being thrown out of Magny Cours for having the incorrect pass and only being allowed back in to carry on my work a few minutes before the start of the DTM race there. Usually things work out OK, but it can be nerve racking at times.
Q. Ben, do you have any new projects or roles in 2010?
A. It looks like 2010 is going to be a season of consolidation. I’ll be doing BTCC again for ITV and quite a few Superleague races for Endemol TV. I’ll also be doing Porsche Supercup highlights and Formula BMW Europe.
Q. Belinda, do you have any new projects lined up this year?
A. Yes, I am now working with the GT Cup Championship, coordinating the series on behalf of Bute Motorsport. I have to say I’m really impressed by the number of drivers that have signed up, and despite the difficulties in the economy, it just shows that people want to go racing in an affordable yet fun way.
Q. Last year saw the launch of Formula 2 and this year sees the launch of the GP3 series. With new formulae being started when there is a financial downturn, do you think the industry is sustainable in its current form?
(Readers may want to read our article ‘Too many formulae‘)
A. Ben – I believe that there are too many championships fighting for the same piece of ground, particularly when it comes to the top level single seater series. As a commentator, I attempt to keep up with the talented drivers that are coming up through the ranks, but there are now so many ranks that it is impossible to assess the true quality of the drivers that win titles at F2/F3/GP3/Masters level. I would love to see a simplification of the ladder to Formula One, but while there are drivers out there looking at different options for different amounts of money, and organisers quite happy to take that money, I can’t see it changing.
Q. Ben, you are part of the ITV team that provides excellent coverage of the British Touring Car Championship. What are you looking forward to seeing this season?
A. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the same from last year! It was a superb championship battle and I hope that there are a few last minute deals put in place to ensure we have the likes of Turkington, Plato, Neal and maybe Giovanardi going at it hammer and tongs. I’m also keen to see how the new generation engine performs in the hands of Andrew Jordan in particular, as despite a tough season in 2009, I still feel he has huge potential for the future.
Guest question from James Mappin. Q. You have been commentating in the BTCC for a number of years now. What would you regard as the best BTCC race you have commentated on?
A. It has to be the last race of 09. The title changed destination many times during that race and it was just brilliant to see the way that Turkington dealt with the pressure to emerge triumphant.
Q. The first time I (Andrew Calder) listened to your commentary was when you worked for Eurosport on the CART series with Jeremy Shaw. Is there a distinct difference between the organisation and atmosphere of a race in America and a race in the UK?
A. Yes, there is a difference. I was lucky enough to commentate on Champ Cars at a time when the series was at full strength, and drivers such as Zanardi, Franchitti, Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti were at the height of their powers. Despite the level of competition, there was a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in the paddock. Drivers in the States tend to talk to each other and to the fans more than they do in Europe, and although you can’t compare directly because the sheer intensity of fan interest is less in the US than over here, it was still a very pleasant place to be.
Q. Ben and Belinda, have you ever thought about running your own team in a championship or is this something you do not wish to do?
A. Both: No, it’s not something that we would want to do. We have both seen how difficult it can be to do well, and neither of us have the car preparation skills or knowledge to want to go down that route.
Q. Away from the world of motorsport, what do you like to do in your spare time?
A. Spending time with each other, away from a race track. We both love being involved in the sport but because we both work in it, it is good to switch off and go for a walk, or a weekend away. Belinda enjoys art and design and is getting more and more into yoga, while I enjoy doing some karting in my free time or tinkering with classic cars.
Track Talent: Thank you for taking the time to speak to Track Talent and have a good 2010 season.