She was looking for stability after years of work as a freelance event organiser, she found that job security in 2006 at Dorna Sports. 16 years later, she was one of the key figures behind the success of a World Championship put in serious danger by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are talking about Norma Companys, director of the MotoGP™ Championship events. We dedicate the last 8th day of the month in 2020 to her so that she can tell us how she managed this season and it is also a way to pay homage to the courageous decisions she has made in recent months, helping to make us forget, albeit for a few hours, the situation in which we are living and allowing us to get excited in front of the screens as we watch our favorite sport.
"2020 was a challenge for everyone. When we were isolating at home, we met for hours and hours every day to find a solution and to try to outline possible scenarios without yet knowing when we would leave the house," says Norma. "We lived in uncertainty. Carmelo and Carlos Ezpeleta spoke constantly with all the promoters so they were updated every day on the situation in each country. As soon as the conditions were right, we immediately created the contingency plan from which the safety protocol was born to protect and safeguard the health of all the people involved in the paddock."
"It scared us all. We had to find a way to make the circuits a glass bell. So we asked the teams to move as few people as possible, we were about half the normal paddock," she specifies. "Furthermore, all those who traveled underwent a test every week and when there were consecutive races they stayed in the hotel to minimise the risks. Organising the medical part was one of the most challenging aspects because it was also new for the laboratories to work in this way but luckily, despite having had some cases, the situation has always been manageable."
Accessing the paddock has become a new experience even for those who, like Norma, know the environment well: "We created an app where the result of the swab was sent and, if it was negative, you could access it. But not only that, inside the paddock we had to maintain social distancing, insert the panels, buy the masks that were approved and sufficient for everyone. The circuits found themselves without an audience, it was also challenging for them, and, having no fans, they made available space in the central structures so that we could work safely while respecting social distancing."
All these aspects were handled by the working group directed by Norma, which is the first Dorna Sports department to come into contact with the circuits and promoters: "We are a very demanding structure, therefore, our task is to advance requests for everything we need when we travel. And this year we have come to terms with new needs and expenses that were unthinkable until a few months earlier."
Normally, organising a Grand Prix requires at least three months of preparation, but Norma explains that this is the minimum margin and that it depends on the different realities: "We have been collaborating with the owners of the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto for many years, so usually it takes a couple of months to bring the event to life. This year, they hosted the first two Grands Prix of the season and, despite the situation, they did an exceptional job, especially because they were the first to experience a new reality, the one envisaged by the contingency plan. But this year the way of working was new for everyone and now I can say that every single event in 2020 was a success, we were able to plan the whole Championship in record time."
After talking about the successes of a season that was anything but easy to complete, we rewind the tape to go back to 2006, when Norma joined Dorna Sports as an events coordinator. "I was passionate about motorcycles but I didn't know the company well at the time but they had published an ad, so I applied. My profile turned out to be of interest to them and after two interviews the job was mine."
After graduating in art history, until that moment, Norma had dedicated herself to the organisation of cultural events such as exhibitions, film festivals before, all of a sudden, she found herself catapulted into the adrenaline-filled environment of MotoGP™: "The impact was strong, the way of working was very different from what I was used to. I used to create events in a few weeks or days, here instead we spent months working for a single GP."
But what made this new adventure even more attractive to Norma was the opportunity to travel and become familiar with different cultures, an aspect that continues to fascinate her after so many years. "When we organise the Japanese Grand Prix, I notice how different our lives are. We always communicate through translators, whom we have known for years, but in addition to the linguistic aspect there is also the organisational aspect, we have very different ways of doing things."
Over the years, Norma's duties have changed and her responsibilities have increased: "When I started there were six, today my workgroup is made up of 11 people." Her professionalism meant that she was rewarded by becoming a manager and then director in 2016: "At first I was in direct contact with those responsible for maintaining the track, I took care of equipment rentals, then from 2014 I started traveling alone, to do some inspections on the tracks during the winter break and from 2017, together with Carles Jorba, senior operational director of Dorna Sports, we go to the circuits that would like to host us to introduce ourselves as a company by explaining to them what our needs are in order to organise a Grand Prix. I find this aspect of my work very exciting, I like to see how the tracks evolve."
Traveling is an intriguing aspect of her job, but spending weeks away from home, at an ever-evolving pace, can also cause moments of distress: "The human part is sometimes the most difficult to manage because I become a teacher, a mother, a psychologist to my traveling companions in a short time, but being away from home for so long, sooner or later it becomes difficult to manage the fatigue."
While dealing with time zones, a working life organised to the thousandth of a second, turning her gaze to the past, to when she was still a newly graduated student, Norma observes her present with pride and extreme satisfaction: "This wasn't precisely my career goal but I have always been so committed to what I do and I am proud of what I have achieved and of the role I cover."
The women involved in the paddock are still a small percentage of the total number of people involved in the Championship, but Norma claims that the presence of women in this environment has been normalised. So, if there are more and more girls and women who dream of making their entry into the MotoGP™ paddock as professionals, it is also thanks to Norma who, with commitment and professionalism, has been facing challenges and difficulties with optimism and tenacity for years because like she says when faced with unexpected situations: 'It is part of the live broadcast'. And while taking the time to reflect on what did not go according to plan: 'The most important thing is to react'.
After completing the 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship, Norma will finally be able to take a few weeks off before then returning to her #WomenInMotoGP life in 2021.