How I turbo-charged my sportswriting

Motorsport: a Ferrari enters the pit lane

by Nigel Chiu
BA Journalism Studies

When I was 16, I decided I wanted to write about Formula One and motorsport. I love analysing events and sharing my views on motor racing. But I never expected to be paid for it while I was still at university.

It all started with a blog in 2017 on WordPress where I wrote about F1. It didn’t get many views but I enjoyed doing it. After writing a 1,000-word piece every week for eight months, though, I started to lose some motivation.

Then I was contacted by someone from a relatively new company called Motorsport.Radio, who asked me to write for him.

There was no pay involved, but it kept me going and I rediscovered my enjoyment for writing. I treated it like my blog, writing previews and columns on F1 races and plenty of opinion pieces. I also wrote about touring cars and other forms of motorsport.

I asked: “Would I be writing for free?” and the two interviewers said: “No, no – this is paid.” I was surprised and kept my cool – just about, anyway

Nigel Chiu

I spent three years with Motorsport.Radio, who weren’t a major company at all. The highlight had to be the Autosport Show in January 2020, a big motorsport event. I interviewed a three-time British Touring Car champion, and two ex-F1 drivers, David Brabham and Karun Chandhok, due to getting accreditation for the event through Motorsport.Radio.

From the middle of 2019, I also wrote for free for a bigger site called The Checkered Flag. I primarily covered the FIA World Rallycross Championship, with rallycross being my favourite motorsport at the time.

It was more of the same, except there was a bit more urgency to have someone picking up on breaking news or to have someone writing race reports. I’ve always had the opinion of ‘we’re writing for free so we can do as little or as much as we want’.

Nigel holding a microphone forward towards his interviewee
Nigel interviewing former F1 driver Karun Chandhok in January 2020

My big break came during the second year of university. I applied through LinkedIn for a writing role with a site called RacingNews365.

I was going through a really bad period during the first semester due to some personal things and I’d forgotten that I had applied for the role.

They asked me to do an interview in December and I was pretty relaxed, not expecting to get the role at all because they were asking me: “Do you have any contacts within F1? What experience do you have?” I just tried to get around the questions as best as I could, thinking I was nowhere near qualified for the job.

I even asked: “Would I be writing for free?” and the two interviewers said: “No, no – this is paid.” I was surprised and kept my cool – just about, anyway.

I didn’t hear back for a month but just after Christmas they told me I had the role. I was shocked and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know much about the site.

I then found out that RacingNews365 is the biggest motorsport website in the Netherlands and was among the 75 most visited sites by Dutch web users in 2020.

They launched an English version of the website in January 2021 and I’m super lucky to be part of the team.

I really didn’t know what to expect and I feel that a few people were perhaps shocked that some kid was writing for them.

I’m by far the youngest member of the team and I’ve loved every part of it so far. It’s definitely enhanced my writing and I have picked up a lot of little tips along the way, six months into the job.

In a way, I’m doing what I’ve set out to do already and it’s just incredible that I am getting paid to write about F1 while I’m still at university.

I’m no different to other people on my course who work just as hard, if not more hard, than myself so I do feel fortunate and I’m simply trying to enjoy it and not take anything for granted.

My main takeaway would be that if you put some effort into something then you will reap the rewards sooner rather than later – and take any opportunities that you get.

Sheffield is independently rated by the Complete University Guide 2022 as the number 1 university in England for studying journalism. Want to see journalism’s bigger picture? Study with us.

Image by Peter Fischer from Pixabay

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