Only a select few have the chance to ride a MotoGP™ prototype but all fans of the sport can see themselves on the track, in the shoes of the fastest riders on the planet, thanks to OnBoard cameras. If this is possible, it is also thanks to the commitment of Noemi Lacasa, who has been involved in this project since 2003. Since then, she has been helping to grow and develop it and, together with her current team, she works hard every day to ensure that this, along with the other technologies they are dedicated to, are increasingly engaging and functional.
Noemi's story shows how passion and dedication, combined with a desire to always surpass oneself, can turn a job into an adventure and a problem into a stimulus to seek new solutions. With a degree in telecommunications engineering, from a very young age Noemi moved in an environment considered to be male-dominated and her life experience holds a valuable lesson that she shared clearly and directly from the start: "There are no men's or women's jobs, there are jobs that you like or don't like."
Noemi has found the key to her career in her willingness to take on new challenges. It is this attitude that has seen her involved in avant-garde projects and which, among other things, has allowed her to grow professionally within Dorna Sports, the company for which she has worked since 2001 and which since 2017 has seen her hold the position of RF manager, the department that manages the radio frequencies and all the wireless reception and transmission systems for the MotoGP™ World Championship.
Determined to move away from the world of programming and closer to the world of telecommunications, in mid-2001 Noemi accepted the offer from Dorna Sports: "I was interested in the job because there was a requirement to travel and this was one of the main reasons why I accepted."
The entry into the paddock was impactful, as Noemi recalls: "I started travelling in mid-2001 and, even though at the time there were a lot less people than today, I think it takes at least a year to understand how this environment works. So the first half of the season helped me to get my bearings and understand how this world worked.
The following year, in 2002, a new opportunity presented itself in front of you: "At that time Dorna managed the rights of the Motocross Championship and I was offered to follow it, which, compared to MotoGP, had fewer resources. It would have been very demanding for me, but at the same time it was challenging, so I accepted."
With one more season behind her, the opportunity that Noemi thought she could only find abroad, was instead offered to her by the company she was already working for: "At the time the OnBoard system was entrusted to an external company but since 2003 Dorna decided to develop it internally. So I was asked to follow this project. And that was the reason that convinced me to stay. Over the years I've grown within the company, so I went on to do a two and a half year MBA because I wanted to make sure I had training in administration and personnel management as well, even though engineering remains my great passion and I'm moving on to do a doctorate in this area."
Committed to constant training, Noemi has found in the MotoGP™ World Championship a top reality in the telecommunications sector: "For an engineer it is stimulating to be constantly involved in new challenges. And Dorna is a company that on a technical level is admirable because it is constantly researching and applying new things to its projects. This is something that the engineers really like because we are constantly experiencing a challenge."
To make this evolution more tangible, Noemi tells us about the development of the OnBoard cameras: "It started as an analogue project, then it went digital and now it is in HD. At the beginning we only had two cameras, but today we receive the signal of four cameras at the same time and the gyroscopic cameras have also been introduced, allowing the fans to see what a rider is doing on the bike at 360°.
Just as the OnBoard cameras were a surprise that has now been normalised, the first female professionals to enter the paddock experienced a similar situation: "At the beginning of this project I was working a lot with data from the bike. In my department they already knew me and I was considered for my professionalism, but when I entered a box nobody knew me and I felt observed because there were few women involved in the paddock and no one involved in the box.
By now there are many #WomenInMotoGP involved in all areas of the paddock and, if this has become a reality, it is also thanks to women who, like Noemi, have shown that professionalism does not make gender distinctions. "I've never felt undervalued because I'm a woman. But at the beginning, above all, I put a lot of pressure on myself to prove that I was good, that I was capable. But when you see that the people you work with trust you, believe in and support your work, then the nerves are released and the situation normalises."
Noemi's Grand Prix weeks begin about a week beforehand when she prepares the frequency plan, a document drawn up with the ministry in charge of the country hosting the event: "Each time we ask for an average of 250 frequencies so that we can work together with all the broadcasters present without having interference problems. When I arrive, I make sure that everything is working properly and during the weekend I monitor the status of the frequencies.”
Antennae are positioned at various points on the circuit to receive images from the wireless cameras and radio communications, and the signal is constantly monitored by the travelling office where Noemi is based. "On Thursdays we go out with all the cameras so that we can send the broadcasters the coverage map where they can see the level of the signal there is at each point of the circuit. As for the track, also on Thursdays, Enrique Sierra, one of the directors of the implementation department, rides a BMW safety bike equipped with a transmission system identical to the one installed on the MotoGP™ prototypes to make sure we get the signal from the cameras correctly."
Once the action starts on the track, Noemi is in constant contact with the IPF department, International Program Feed, the director who makes the images for broadcasters around the world: "We have a meeting with the IPF group on Thursday and another one on Saturday because they know which moments we need to capture and we make sure we set up the cameras in the right place at the right time. For example, for the second round at Misano we defined on Saturday the plan for the celebrations in case Fabio Quartararo won the title. That's what happened and we guaranteed spectators from all over the world an exclusive view of that moment."
During the Grand Prix, Noemi and her team manage the signals of more than 100 OnBoard cameras, adjusting the lights and colours of the images arriving from the track or from the pits in real-time so that the spectators can enjoy every moment of the show to the full and, in the meantime, they test the projects they are working on: "Everything that has to do with radio frequencies passes through my office and if during a Grand Prix the radio communications were to fail it would be a disaster. That is why we are always careful to make sure that everything works perfectly, but if there is a problem we have to intervene immediately to solve it so that the live broadcast is not compromised."
What started as a temporary job has turned into the professional home of Noemi who, after 20 years marked by the rhythm of the MotoGP™ World Championship, keeps her enthusiasm alive: "I am here because I like my job and I am in a company that always wants to be at the top of technological innovation. If you're not passionate about what you do, it becomes complicated. When I think about the effort it takes to start projects like the ones we face every day, I think it would be unbearable if there was no passion and interest in what we do.
Cultivating her passions with dedication has allowed Noemi to undertake the studies and career she wanted, breaking down some of those cultural barriers that, in some cases, condition people's choices: "If you like something, go for it, try all the paths to reach your goal. The gender issue can never be the reason why you don't even try to reach the goal you set yourself."
Committed to the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Noemi is ready to ensure the broadcast of the last unmissable event of the 2021 season: the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana from 12-14 November.