SUZI Perry, 45, was the first female presenter of Formula One on television and has a 20-year career in motor racing broadcasting. She hosts a regular show on BBC Radio 2 and is about to join BT Sport’s motorsport coverage.
Perry lives in Sussex with her husband, cat and donkey, and has a grown-up stepdaughter at university.
Can you remember your first time behind the wheel?
Not behind exactly, but rather beside. I often went with my mum on the road trips she took for her sales job and sometimes she’d let me change gear. I’d do it by listening out for the change in engine sound.
When did you discover your passion for cars?
I always appreciated beautiful cars — the sexy-looking sporty numbers like the Jaguar E-Types or my Mum’s MGB GT. And I loved Bobby Ewing’s Mercedes SL in Dallas. I still walk round classic-car shows and just want to lick anything from the 1960s and 1970s, but motorbikes were my first real passion as an adult.
“I love driving, even if it’s just popping across town to meet friends for lunch”
Are you a good driver?
Yes. Even my husband thinks so, and he’s nuts, a real risk taker. I like driving fast but I’ve slowed down as I’ve got older; I can appreciate the machine without it roaring and enjoy the scenery without it being a blur. That said there are still those moments when you’re listening to a track you love, and you look down and are like, “Whoa, slow down!”
How did it feel to be the first female F1 anchor?
It didn’t feel like that big a deal by that stage because before that I had been the first woman anywhere in the world to present MotoGP, the motorcycling grand prix. When I first walked into the MotoGP paddock there were three women in the entire place but when I went to F1 at the BBC there were loads of women in the paddock.
Are you proud of your car?
There’s nothing better than being in a sleek, special car that people around you are admiring. The cars we choose to drive are an additional beauty we add to our lives. A beautiful car won’t make me feel arrogant or swagger, but I will love it, and appreciate the story, history and design that has gone into it.
What’s an everyday journey for you?
Just like anyone else, it’s taking my stepdaughter to the station or college, going to the shops, driving to and from the airport. But it doesn’t matter what the journey is or what I’m driving, I get everything I can from the car.
Even if it’s just popping across town to meet friends for lunch, it’s still fun. I love driving. And I don’t love driverless cars — I like the fact that tech gets passed down to all our vehicles from those sorts of developments, but I never want to have a car that does all the work for me. Driving is about that link between the engine and you.
“I’m a sucker for a heated seat. Warm seats and a heated steering wheel on a cold morning? Perfect.”
And what has been your most extraordinary journey?
It’s got to be being driven by champions like F1 driver David Coulthard. He used to drive me around quite a lot when we were both presenting F1. We once went down to a track in Italy in a hire car and he complained about the vehicle the whole way there — and he didn’t use the brake once. Being in a car with a real driver like David or Le Mans winner Allan McNish is a sublime experience.
What do you think of today’s motor?
This car is the perfect size for a family and is packed with useful tech — the only thing it doesn’t come with is an eye-watering price tag. If you’d told me 20 years ago when I was juggling an enormous map that I would be able to reach across and touch a screen to navigate, I’d have thought it sounded like Back to the Future. And I’m a sucker for a heated seat. Warm seats and a heated steering wheel on a cold morning? Perfect.
Have you ever driven an F1 car?
You have to be very good at open-wheel driving to drive F1, so no, but I rode round London on a motorbike with Valentino Rossi, one of the world’s great motorcycling heroes, and I went around Donington Park with motorcycle Grand Prix winner Randy Mamola.
Being on a bike is exhilarating, the freest you can possibly be.
Enough about driving, are you driven?
Yes. I push myself out of my comfort zone. I prefer the word “driven” to “ambitious”, which has such horrible connotations if you are a woman — it seems to mean a hard bitch that nobody wants to know. I am not that person.
I also love hanging out with my family and my cat, and I enjoy growing vegetables and making homemade limoncello. Experiencing lots of different things makes me smile.
The content in this feature is editorially independent of Kia.
Read Driving’s First Drive review of the 2016 Kia Sportage here.