Jess Shanahan is a Motorsport professional, freelance journalist, former Porsche team boss, runs a business as a mentor for Racers, is the former Editor of a Fashion Mag (Boutique), and an all-round Fashion guru! Needless to say, Jess is a very busy person, but we had a great chat. I hope you enjoy!
Could you tell me how you first got into Motorsport? Was there a moment that piqued your interest or a particular memory that made you decide on following this passion?
I’ve been into Formula One for many years and was tweeting about it regularly. As part of my fashion work, I was invited along to a car launch, which is where I met Rebecca Jackson. She’s a racing driver and television presenter and now one of my longest-standing clients. It was working with her, as well as the recognition I was getting for being sarcastic about F1, that started my career on this path.
How did you get started?
To begin with, I was mostly doing PR for racing drivers and teams but through this, I was getting involved in sponsorship and helped to secure some big deals. My work began to move to the journalism side of things where I was writing about the business of motorsport and the automotive industry but after a stint as a team boss, I realised there was a lot I could do to help racers looking to climb the ladder.
How would you recommend someone gets started in the Motorsport industry?
Work out what you want to do and go get some experience. The big teams in UK motorsport are always keen to help youngsters get some experience as a mechanic and there are plenty of websites that offer experience for budding photographers and journalists. I’d advise people to speak to those already working in the industry to get an idea of what’s required for a certain role. I have a Facebook group for those interested in a motorsport career here. Anyone interested is welcome to pop by and ask any questions.
With my experience as a motorsport journalist, I also set up a course for anyone who wants real advice on the industry – https://learn.racingmentor.com/p/motorsport-journalist
A lot of the aspiring motorsport journalists I spoke to were getting no support or real experience in motorsport from their uni courses. I wanted to create something that was specific to this industry and included accreditation requirements, how to set up a blog, how to find work experience and how to build a portfolio, alongside the usual stuff around how to write a story and conduct interviews.
You mentor drivers, could you tell us about some of the things that you do within that process? Do you find it rewarding?
Each time I coach a driver, I find out what they need and their goals. I work closely with them to teach them skills they can take through their career, be it how to find press coverage or secure sponsorship. It’s so rewarding speaking to these drivers and seeing them progress and reach new heights in their careers.
What’s your daily drive?
I have an Abarth 500.
What is your dream car?
An orange V8 Ford Mustang
What car have you enjoyed driving the most?
I drove a track-prepared Corvette Stingray around Texas, easily the best car I’ve ever driven.
You are a former Porsche race team boss – tell us about that!
That came from working with two drivers who decided to team up for the 2016 season and I just kind of fell into the role. It mostly involved securing press coverage and sponsorship, as well a handling social media, video and photo content at races. It was a tough, glorious job that saw me travelling to most of the races during the season. It was a great experience that definitely built the foundations for my coaching business Racing Mentor.
Have you found any particular challenges in making such a big impact in what has been a traditionally male dominated environment?
Plenty! It’s very hard to be taken seriously sometimes and I get so many comments on my appearance when, perhaps, people should be commenting on my experience or what I’m trying to say/do. I also encounter plenty of men who still see women in the paddock as decoration (like grid girls). Things are changing but you have to push really hard as a woman in the industry.
As well as Motorsport, you are a well-known fashion blogger (named as one of Twitter’s top fashion influencers and editor of the fashion magazine Boutique) – could you tell us a bit about what inspires your fashion sense, and whether you intertwine the two worlds in any way?
I’m inspired by rock stars of the seventies and Noel Fielding. I like to stand out and make an impact as it reflects my personality and makes me feel good. Mostly, my inspiration comes from music and I’m still a punk at heart.
I do try to intertwine the two worlds. I’ve brought a few fashion clients into motorsport and vice versa. A lot of my outfit posts on Feelingstylish.co.uk are shot at race tracks and there’s always a fashion/design edge to the photography I use to promote Racing Mentor. I’m launching clothing for my motorsport brand this year and it’s going to be all biker jackets and fancy hats.
You’ve achieved so much in quite a short period of time, what’s left to do – what are your dreams or what is your ambition?
There’s always something left to do. I always aim high. I’d love to have a workshop/garage/office that’s the home of Racing Mentor where I can educate drivers and people looking for motorsport careers. It’d be full of race cars that I could subsidise to get people on track and working with sponsors, while also allowing young talent to get experience as mechanics/PRs/business development execs/photographers etc. That’s the five-year goal, at least.
How can people find out more about you and your projects?
Racing Mentor can be found at www.racingmentor.com
To find out a little more about me as a journalist, visit www.jessshanahan.com
My fashion blog is www.feelingstylish.co.uk
I can also be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jetlbomb
Thanks so much for your time, and a really interesting chat Jess!