The start of a new season and the introduction of a new sporting format meant a busy first race for the MPA team. We caught up with Extreme E account lead Josh Bell to find out more about how the Desert X Prix season opener went both on-site and from home.
MPA: Talk us through your day-to-day on event at the 2023 Desert X Prix.
Josh: The main priorities for me on site in NEOM were looking after the journalists we had in attendance and making sure that they got the best access, the best content, and that they got to see the best of Extreme E.
We’re quite lucky in this championship that there aren’t a huge amount of access restrictions – aside from not being able to go out on course – but the championship provides plenty of fantastic viewpoints for everyone attending. On top of that, all the teams and drivers are very welcome with their time, and there are lots of facets to the series beyond the on-course action such as the legacy programmes, the tipping point talks and partners’ involvement that we can tap into for a well-rounded and exciting experience.
There is also the added benefit beyond the course and the paddock of taking our media onto the St. Helena, which acts as the series floating centrepiece. That’s something unique in the world of motorsport, so taking them onboard and showing how the ship works and how it entwines with the series is something different and interesting.
MPA: With some of the team working remotely, how does that dynamic work?
Josh: The dynamic is good. For this first-ever double-header we had a lot of resource available back in the UK. The team weren’t just supporting content writing but also analysing the articles throughout the week and the tone of the coverage – as well as pitching the fact that Extreme E’s most competitive season was underway.
It’s quite a challenge with the different time zones, and it was so important to be clear in terms of trying to communicate what was needed. We certainly realised that it is easier to be three hours ahead than three hours behind like we were in Chile, for example!
While it does present some obstacles to overcome there are still a few benefits to having some of the team working remotely. There are things that the team might spot that I can’t get my eyes on while running around on-site, so between us we’ve got a good system that covers all bases.
MPA: Was there anything different about this X Prix that you had to adapt to?
Josh: The new sporting format was the biggest change, and the double-header had a big impact on the logistical side of things. We had got into a rhythm of a press conference, followed by a qualifying day and a race day, but having two days of racing meant it was much more action-packed.
It was short and sharp and there was much more to talk about. Not that Qualifying was ever a dead day, but this time we had dived right into the racing which was great. We had two new winners out of nowhere straight away this season and getting those storylines coming thick and fast has a big impact on everything that unfolds afterwards. The content team back home had to adapt to all those stories and get the reports out in good time to give the stories the best chance of being picked up. Pitching to media is a constant effort for us, which starts well before the race weekend and carries on into the weeks that follow.
MPA: What was your highlight of the trip this time around?
Josh: It was great to have two new winners. A lot of our storylines in the build-up to NEOM were about this being the closest season yet for the championship and the first double-header really lived up to that hype. That’s obviously great for coverage, but it was also great to see as a motorsports fan.
The location was also incredible and really delivered. I was on the ground in NEOM last year but that was a very different setting, and this one was just breath-taking. It was impactful in how it promoted the remoteness of the series’ events and what NEOM is trying to do.
Kevin’s [Hansen] story was also a highlight. To come back from his back injury in NEOM last year to get a win at this year’s edition, it was great to see that come full circle.
MPA: What was the most unusual thing you found yourself having to do?
Josh: My weekend wasn’t that unusual – I wasn’t chased by an ostrich on the legacy project like my boss Simon was! Having said that I did find myself in the Vodafone Business Command Centre with media and former Manchester United and France footballer Patrice Evra… I’m still waiting for him to get back to me about playing for my five-a-side team.
MPA: How are preparations for the next race, the Hydro X Prix in Scotland, going?
Josh: It might be our biggest event yet, which is exciting. The series is coming home, and yes, we had the event in Dorset, but Covid-19 impacted media numbers on-site. This time around we really want to show as many people as possible the breadth of the series, and we think Scotland and the location that has been chosen will do just that.
Overall, I’d say the preparations are going well and it’s going to be a busy month ahead, but MPA are more than ready to take it on. The team will be out in force in Scotland as we’re going to be representing a lot of different clients, and we can’t wait!