Harminder Rai-Mottram has worked her way through the motorsport ranks, beginning her career in corporate finance support. She moved on to researching for companies interested in acquisitions and MBO deals, before being moving to a role as bids manager for a security organisation. She then took on a great role to manage hospitality for the historic Donington Park, before developing into a corporate partnerships role for the Park. After this, she went to work for a global security firm to carry out the role as the Global Business Manager. Harminder is currently with BAM Motorsports Group as their promotions and partnerships manager. She is also fluent in Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. She is also studying Spanish and Italian!
Dory Brown: What's your earliest memory of motorsport?
Harminder Rai-Mottram: My passion with motorsport started in 2009. I never forget watching my first ever MotoGP race on tv that year which got me hooked on the sound, style and manoeuvres. My husband is a huge two-wheel fan and also rides motorbikes. He owned a Ducati 916 when we started dating. I was always intrigued by how it felt to be on a motorbike. I invested in a whole set of Alpinestars leathers, boots, gloves and a new HJC helmet with a drop down visor. From my first outing on the back of the hubby's 916, I was addicted!
I then started following MotoGP racing, World Superbikes and British Superbikes religiously. TV, social media, web pages and so on. There was a lot to take in but somehow it all made sense. It all came to me like second nature. A passion for motorsport was brewing.
It all came to reality when my hubby and I went to our local race circuit Donington Park for the last MotoGP there in 2009. It was the best experience ever. Even in the downpour of rain the racing was just outstanding!
Then came the British Superbikes round there and also the World Superbikes in 2010. We started following the various series' at different race tracks in the UK and even some rounds overseas. I was completely hooked by now.
DB Who have you found to be most supportive of your career?
HRM My husband Darren and my mum. Both have always pushed me to take hold of any opportunity that came my way. Darren has taught me a lot on the racing side in terms of how every different series' race happens, how drivers and riders qualify, difference between factory and satellite bikes, riders and their past championships and so on.
My mum has always been an inspiration and has always wanted me to achieve and be something. She always tells me how proud she is of me. It's not easy for an Asian woman to step up and try to become successful in a career, especially if it's in an area where it's male dominated, but my mum wanted to see me step up and achieve my goals.
DB How did you get into a career in motorsport?
HRM I came across Donington Park via a different job I was in at the time. It was pure coincidence (and fate) that a sales position in hospitality was available at the time I met with the Circuit Manager for other business matters and I was lucky to have been offered the job, due to my passion and knowledge of the sport, plus my sales and business experience.
I started off managing corporate hospitality for the race circuit for all super race and club meetings. The role included sales generation for hospitality and then the implementation and management of the hospitality areas on the event days and weekends. It was great fun and I met many great people at each event and season.
The events ranged from World Superbikes, British Touring Cars, British Superbikes, F3/GTs, ELMS, classic car and bike events, festivals and VIP events.
I started managing sponsorship opportunities for the park from 2014 and was involved in some great iconic deals.
I parted from the park towards the end of 2014 and joined the MSV team for the British Superbikes Championship to coordinate the podium for each round in 2015. As I followed this series for some years as a keen spectator, and as I looked after many of the BSB guests during my Donington days in hospitality, I pretty much knew who was who in the paddock and the racing teams, which made this role easier to execute. It was a huge honour and pleasure to be a part of such a great series which is growing from strength to strength each season. I have also made some great friends from this series. The BSB is a big family and I loved being a part of it.
I then was head hunted by an agency who came across me for my current position at BAM Motorsports. I manage the sponsorship activation and marketing plans for various drivers and teams across the globe. I also promote our other services such as F1 Paddock Club, MotoGP VIP Village, Le Mans 24Hours VIP packages and WTCC VIP packages. BAM Motorsports is a great business which offers a range of key services to support and promote teams, drivers, VIP packages and Motorsport in general. This role is a dream come true for someone like me who watched racing on TV once upon a time and now lives and breathes the industry every day. I even get to visit major GP race tracks across the globe which I only dreamt of ever seeing such as Monaco, Spain, Shanghai, Imola, Macau, Mexico and Abu Dhabi!
DB What are your biggest challenges in the industry?
HRM Being a woman in a male dominated industry is never easy. Motorsport is an industry where women are successfully now making a mark in various areas such as marketing, hospitality, media and also in racing. However, many women in this industry normally come with a brolly and a pretty face, and it is assumed that all women come with this background and therefore aren't taken seriously but admired for their looks.
It's a difficult one as this mentality comes from many many years ago now and won't diminish overnight. However, there are several women who are involved in racing, the teams and the business side of Motorsport now which are giving us women more recognition for our hard work and gives us the right level of attention and for the right reasons. We need more women out there to make their mark and get involved.
DB What do you love about the industry?
HRM Mostly everything. Two wheels, four wheels, the sounds, the smell of engines, the racing action, the various personalities of drivers, riders and teams, the family orientated industry, corporate brand associations, the different championships and series across the globe and the large spectator following worldwide.
DB What is the stand-out highlight of your career thus far?
HRM As a one off, I had the opportunity to be a pit lane reporter for Donington Park's very own Classic Motorcycle Festival which included celebrity historic champions and riders!
I always wanted to be like Suzi Perry. She's an idol. That weekend, I also had the very honour of looking after and interviewing the guest of honour, Mr Kevin Schwantz! A weekend which definitely won't be forgotten easily!
DB Have you encountered sexism in motorsport? If so, how do you deal with it?
I personally haven't encountered this yet, but I can imagine that many clients and businesses expect to deal with a male instead of a female when we are talking about Motorsport and partnership deals, especially with my current role which involves communicating with businesses in the Asian continent which aren't use to having women dealing with business partnerships in this industry. It's purely a perception which we can diminish with our hard work and efforts. Slowly these mindsets will change for sure.
DB What advice would you give to women wanting to get into motorsport as an industry?
HRM To be appreciated and respected in this industry, you have to work hard and in a professional role to gain that acknowledgement.
It's a great industry to be a part of and if you love the smell and sound of engines, then get up and join this big crazy family! There's plenty of opportunities arising worldwide in this industry. It's all about grabbing the right opportunity.
You can make your dreams come true too, like I did.