Thursday, January 27, 2022
HomeInterviewsToby Moody - Eurosport's MotoGP Commentator and Huge Cycling Fan

Toby Moody – Eurosport’s MotoGP Commentator and Huge Cycling Fan

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He’s best known around the world for his engaging commentary for over 16 years of the MotoGP races, these days for Eurosport, and this year has also been covering the British Touring Car Championship for ITV Sport – but not many of his ‘petrolhead’ listeners and viewers realise that super-busy Englishman Toby Moody was a racing cyclist in his formative years and remains a huge fan of the sport.

We spoke to Toby as he made best use of a rare day off to catch up on his DIY jobs around the house, and he put his paint brush down for a couple of hours to chat about his own experiences, the current mess in Pro Cycling, and a bit of motorbikes too.

Toby Moody
Toby (r) at a round of the BTCC.

You likened the 200pmh pack to ‘a peloton’ when you were commentating on the MotoGP round at Motegi, Japan – so you know a bit about cycle racing?

“Yes, I’ve followed the Pro cycling scene for a long time, with a bit of a lapse in the mid-naughties when it all became a bit predictable.

“I’ve been paying more attention to it for the last few years though, and particularly recently.

“My heroes were Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault, guys of that era.”

You used to race yourself, didn’t you? 

“Yes I did, but it was a while ago.

“I was in the Worcester St. Johns CC and raced as a schoolboy and junior, mostly time trials.

“In fact, I was told recently that I still held the club junior record for 10 miles: 22:20, and that was when I had only just turned 16 in 1988, so I would have been on an 87” restricted top gear. Of course the guys these days have tri-bars and disc wheels but back then you just raced on your road bike.

“I got under the hour for 25 miles as a youngster a few times too.”

You’ve clearly got a good memory for statistics and numbers, but how much do you remember of that record day?

“Yes, I’m pretty good at remembering numbers, and [my co-commentator at Eurosport] Julian Ryder is amazing at remembering quotes, so between us we make a good team!

“I can remember it was a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-September, but afterwards there were mutterings that the course at Severn Stoke was short… but it was re-measured not so long ago – and is indeed the full distance!”

Did you aspire to progressing through the ranks and maybe one day turning Pro?

“Nope, not at all.

“I loved riding my bike purely for the speed element; I loved the release, the freedom…

“And it was the first thing I was any good at, I wasn’t clever at school, so it ruled out going to university really.”

You worked as a youngster for the Benetton F1 team?

“Despite not going into further eduction, I was always determined to do well and apply myself at whatever I was doing. My folks used to race cars, and so of course I got into them too, and applied for lots of positions in that industry.

“I got offered a part-time job at Benetton in 1989 and I remember I used to ride to work on my lovely Brian Rourke roadbike.

“The following year, 1990, I changed jobs and worked at ProDrive, in their Banbury office. They raced a BMW E30 M3 with François Chatriot, and I was seconded to him; eighteen years old and working for a guy who was winning international rallys – just superb. I even remember the reg. number of the BMW: D116 POV!

“I used to visit my pals who went to Uni and spent their entire grants and any spare time on the usual student pastimes – they reckoned I was lucky, but I felt, even back then, that I wasn’t lucky so much as I was seeing what happens when you worked hard and networked hard.”

But you ended up commentating rather than being a race engineer – how come?

“I remember it well, it was September 1992 and there was a Hill Climb competition for specialist cars at Shelsley Walsh. My dad was an official there and was doing the public commentary on the races.

“I said to him that I ‘would quite like to have a go’, and he was a bit reluctant at first, but agreed to put me on the microphone for some of the practices, nice and low-key. I was anxious but got into it pretty quickly, and from then on I did a fair bit at various races for a couple of years.”

Toby Moody
As well as commentary, Toby has been writing for the online version of Autosport magazine since 2007.

 And then the big break?

 “Yes, in February 1996 I was out working at my other job – woodworking and cutting logs, and got a message that there was someone asking for me.

“Turns out one of the other freelancers that I knew was working in a rally team and took a call from a chap from Dorna [the owners of MotoGP] to say they were  looking for a commentator.

“At that time I had a home office setup with my own fax machine and so on, so I faxed him my CV as requested, then I went back out to cut some more logs.

“My dad came out to find me after a couple of minutes to tell me ‘that chap from Spain wants you to call him’.

“I was to fly to Spain and do a test, so I crammed as much motorcycle-related information into my head from VHS tapes and magazines as I could, and went over.

“They put me in a booth with a pair of headphones, a mic, and a monitor showing an old race – one of the 500cc races from the previous season – and I was just told to commentate on it. After a few minutes a fella came in and said ‘OK, that’s fine.'”

So you were flung in at the deep end?

“Really, yes. I was on a six month probation period, sort of an apprenticeship, but the first race was the MotoGP in Malaysia and off I went.

“And 17 years later I’m still at it.”

What’s the best bit about your job?

“The adrenaline buzz I still get every time I watch and commentate on a race.

“I’m racing with them; in the bunch, braking, accelerating, overtaking, crashing, living it.”

And the worst?

“Well, watching someone lose their life, live, as you commentate – as with Marco Simoncelli last year, is just awful.

“It’s how things are these days, the immediacy with live sport, Twitter and streaming though, and we have to deal with it as best we can.

“When my dad was commentating at a race at Silverstone in 1968 someone handed him a note that simply said ‘Jim Clark dead’. That happened at Hockenheim in the F2 race. Dad just read the note and had to carry on talking, without missing a beat.

“Even though we all know motorcycle racing is a very dangerous sport, and thankfully fatal accidents are not that common, it’s still very difficult for everyone.”

Toby Moody
Chatting to Marco on stage was an absolute pleasure for Toby.

The paddock really pulls together at a time like that?

“Yes, it’s a very small world.  It’s strange though – there are people who, although they believe that it’s happened, they simply can’t get their head around it, can’t accept that it’s possible.

“We’ve all had to come to terms with it in our own ways… it’s not as if I was socially very friendly with Marco, had his number on speed-dial or anything like that, but we liked each other and there was a respect there – we had a ‘professional friendship’, if I can put it like that.

“Marco is very sorely missed, he was the type of rider  every other rider wanted to be like; driven, of course, but impulsive, inspirational, truly in love with his job.”

 Did you ever feel the motorbike racing bug nibbling at your heels?

“No, not at all, but I do have a competitive urge that I satisfy with my own Hill Climb car that I bought with a pal four years ago. We’ve improved the engine and so on, and set a few records, so that’s enough for me.

“I won’t take unnecessary risks, for example there’s one Hill Climb course I just will not do, I don’t think it’s worth it. Too dangerous.”