When I told the readers of Jalopnik that I was heading to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to cover the Arctic X Prix, one of the main questions I received was: how does the media cover this event? Are they sitting in tents, like you see the crew members doing on television, or can you actually watch the event? I’m about to draw the curtain back on the glamorous world of motorsport coverage.
Most journalists who attend races don’t actually cover them sitting trackside. We usually sit in the media center no matter where we’re at. If you’re lucky, the media center has a window that looks out onto the track. Most of the time, though, you’re sitting in a windowless building watching the race on television. You show up in person to do interviews and get quotes for your stories in press conferences. It’s pretty rare for a motorsport journalist to actually watch cars on track for an extended period of time.
Extreme E was fairly similar, though in this case we had a media tent instead of a permanent building. There are a lot fewer restrictions on an XE event due to the nature of the series; there aren’t barriers everywhere, and the atmosphere is much more relaxed because the only people at the event site are people working the event. There aren’t fans or VIPs hanging around, so you could, theoretically, just wander into a team’s garage (though that is highly discouraged since it’s pretty rude). You just can’t get close to the track. And because you can’t get close to the track, you can’t see much of the event with your own two eyes.
I don’t know if XE has done this for other events, but in Greenland, locals had the option to view the race from a hillside that provided a pretty solid view of the valley where most of the racing took place. I intended to watch a session from that view, too, but we were discouraged from doing so; one of XE’s mandates for holding the event was that the series stay in its own COVID-19 bubble and avoid mixing with locals. And, even if I’d had the opportunity to wander up there, it was a bit of a hike, and I had fallen victim to astoundingly bad blisters within two hours of landing in Kangerlussuaq. Because of the rain, though (and because the population of Kangerlussuaq is about 500), I didn’t see many people up there.
Because Kangerlussuaq is not exactly a massive town, most everyone in the series paired up and shared rooms in a converted military barracks. The accommodations provided the absolute necessities as well as the luxury of hot water, but WiFi was hit or miss — much to the chagrin of the media personnel. We were fed on-site, but there were a few occasions where we had the option of dining at the airport’s café (where the food was surprisingly good) so long as we stayed six feet from the locals and kept our masks on. One person asked if they could dine at Kangerlussuaq’s other restaurant, a pizza parlor, but was told takeaway only. We had to stay very hands-off from the community.
So, there you have it. The media stuck largely to the media tent, having a wander every now and then to grab a driver for an interview, but most days saw drivers busy with events or on-track sessions at every possible moment. Covering the Arctic X Prix was, predominantly, just like covering every other motorsport event.