"Every big life decision, I made thinking about motorcylces"

Nikolett has done it all: a former racer and now one of the most respected MotoGP™ journalists and photographers in her native Hungary

There are some qualities that unite the #WomenInMotoGP: a determination to pursue their passion, an ability to reinvent themselves in new roles and a desire to become real pillars in the world of MotoGP™. The organiser of this event is Nikolett Kovacs, one of the few people involved in the paddock who is a professional rider, journalist, photographer, PR officer and presenter. All these roles have something in common: the motorcycle.

Nikolett's parents were national rally champions in 1978. “There has always been a passion for engines at home”, she explains, adding that her first motorcycle arrived when she was just one and a half years old. “Today it is normal, but in the early '80s I was privileged to have an electric motorcycle. Then, when I was four, my first mini moto arrived.”

Since that first time in the saddle as a very young child, Nikolett has never let go of the throttle. On the contrary, she has opened it more and more as she has approached the professional world. "My mother started organising competitions for children, there were girls but we were very few, so on track we were busy challenging the boys.” Within a few years, Nikolett reached the Hungarian National Championship in 125GP, a cadet category also represented in the World Championship. In 2005 Nikolett climbed the podium for the first time in a mixed category and in 2007 she had the opportunity to compete as a wildcard in the World Championship at the Turkish GP, something that she jumped at. At the time, she was the first Hungarian woman to compete in a motorcycle Grand Prix.

Nikolett Kovacs, Women in MotoGP

The budget available was not enough to pursue the career as a rider that she would have wanted, but Nikolett has always been sure of one thing: "Whenever I have had to make an important decision in my life, I have always made it thinking about the bike and what would have been the best way not to give up on my great passion. In reality, for me, the bike is more than a great passion, I grew up on it and I can't imagine my life without it.”

But one regret remains: "Brno, for us Hungarians, is a bit like a home race, but unfortunately I have never been able to race as a wildcard there, otherwise it would have been a whole other story. In Brno, I could have had my say!” In 2008, Niki lined up on the starting grid of the Superstock 600 in a mixed category, and in the women's European Championship where she finished the season in third place. The adventure continued in 2011 when she personally committed herself to organising a women's team that could participate in the last round of the EWC Endurance World Championship in Qatar, as a sort of wildcard. For this particular endeavor, she wore the colors of the Qatar Motorcycle Federation and teamed up with Nina Prinz and Paola Cazzola in the Superstock1000 category: “We came sixth” she says with pride.

Having also had the opportunity to attend various circuits as a visitor to the World Championship, Nikolett knew that this would be her world. “In 2004 I started working freelance for specialized Hungarian magazines and newspapers. I don't remember having too many difficulties in proposing myself to the editorial offices because they already knew me as a rider, so it wasn’t difficult to start writing and talking about this world.”

Nikolett Kovacs, Women in MotoGP

It was by starting her career as a journalist that she realised what kind of stories she wanted to tell. “It was a privilege to be part of the paddock so I thought about starting a project to show what the viewers can’t see. This is how MotoGP from A to Z was born, a book where, together with a colleague, we showed and revealed the lesser-known aspects of MotoGP™. Working on this project, I realised that I didn't have any photos to show who were the mothers, girlfriends, friends of the drivers; the lifestyle of those who spend most of the year traveling from one circuit to another. In 2010 social media wasn't as popular as it is now, so finding photos wasn't easy, so I said to myself: I don't have photos? Well, I'll do it myself! I started studying photography and when I went to the circuits I observed some of my more experienced colleagues."

The satisfaction of learning a new job, in order to share with the Hungarian public the lifestyle of those who are apart of the MotoGP™ paddock, has allowed Niki to develop great communication skills, even behind the lens. "Over time, many colleagues began to compliment my photos and I think being a woman is an advantage in this case because we have a different sensitivity that allows us to see nuances that men might overlook." And it is precisely this peculiarity that saw her win a photographic contest organised by Bridgestone reserved for photographers of the World Championship so that they could tell with just one image the emotion of winning the world title. It was 2010 and Jorge Lorenzo triumphed, winning his first crown in the premier class.

Despite having created a new space in the paddock, Niki never gave up on the track and the 2013 Qatar Grand Prix became an unforgettable event for her: "In the same weekend I worked as a journalist, as a photographer and as a rider participating in a competition organised by the Qatari federation in conjunction with the world championship. Once I finished the GP, I was stuck in bed and I couldn't move" she says with the smile of someone who is aware that, in a few hours, she’s carried out three exceptional activities.

Nikolett Kovacs, Women in MotoGP

Along the path, Niki also worked for more than a year as a correspondent for SpílerTV, the Hungarian MotoGP™ broadcaster, learning to communicate also with television, an activity that has always fascinated her. Also, in this case, it was a useful experience to give life to a new project. Speaking an uncommon language in the paddock has its limits: "I am Hungarian, very few colleagues can read and evaluate the work I do", for this reason, Niki has studied other languages ​​such as English, Italian and Spanish since she was very young, once again, in order to combine her passions: motorcycles and TV. In fact, arriving in Qatar a few days before the 2020 Grand Prix, she found herself one of the few correspondents there: "Fewer journalists were there than usual due to the pandemic, so I thought about making videos in English and I posted on YouTube." The break forced by the coronavirus allowed her to study how to edit videos and, in a few months, her channel exceeded eight thousand unique users. "MotoGP™ is also beautiful because every year you have the opportunity to learn and invent something new."

Despite having worked as a social media manager for the Hungarian branch of Yamaha and carrying out numerous collaborations in the world of motorsport, Niki confesses her satisfaction in being part of this world: “I still get very excited when I enter a circuit. I have always tried to remember the emotion I felt the first time I entered a paddock and every time I relive it because I have to and want to remind myself that what I do is not at all obvious.”

Working as a freelance for the main Hungarian sports newspaper, it is not possible to attend all the races: “I attend about half of the appointments so when I am at the circuit, I do all the background: interviews and curiosities. When I work from home I also prepare the race reports. I am proud because I work for Nemzeti Sport Online, the reference site for sport in Hungary."

Nikolett Kovacs, Women in MotoGP

As part of the paddock as a journalist for several years, Nikolett talks about the satisfaction she feels in seeing the riders grow: “I interviewed Marc Marquez for the first time in 2010 before he won the first world title. He was a kid, he ran in the Aki Ajo team and I remember that when I asked him if he had a girlfriend he blushed and looked at Aki to suggest an answer and now look at everything he has done."

Being a point of reference for MotoGP™ in Hungary, Niki often receives messages from girls and boys asking her for tips to be able to join the paddock: “I always recommend to understand what work they would like to do: journalist, engineer, hospitality, at least outline the sector and then try in your own small way to carry out that activity to understand if you can really like it. The Internet has broken many barriers so today it is much easier to get in touch with teams or institutions involved in the championship to apply or to propose as professionals. Knowledge of languages ​​is essential: English is useful but alone is no longer enough especially if one's native language is Hungarian, a country that does not have many representatives in the world."

While waiting to define what it takes to witness the return of MotoGP™ to Hungary starting from 2023, Nikolett continues to tell the World Championship through the newspapers with which she collaborates, the photos that capture the emotions during the GPs and the insights on her YouTube channel, getting ready for a new professional challenge.

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