What’s your dream job? As a DirtFish reader, it’s a safe bet on our end that it may have something to do with motorsport.
Step forward Marta Gasparin, head of marketing at Pirelli. It’s abundantly clear that she’s absolutely loving the opportunity to live her dream – and why shouldn’t she after the amount of hard work and skill she’s displayed to reach her position?
“My job is really amazing, being not only a motorsport professional but also a motorsport fan it gives me a chance to see the most dominant racing series in the world. So I’m super happy about that,” Gasparin tells DirtFish.
“I have really the luck of attending the most relevant races of each series. So actually my travel calendar hosts 8-10 races of Formula 1, 3-4 of WRC and 2-3 on the GT side.”
That very much does sound like the dream to us, but how did she get there? What challenges has she had to face and what talents do you need to have to build a successful career in the world of marketing and PR?
Born in the city of Padua in north-east Italy, Gasparin comes from what she describes as a “really normal family” with no motorsport connections – her mother is a PE teacher and her father an agronomist – but she has been “a big motorsport fan since ever”.
“Usually kids that were born and had the chance to grow up in a motorsport family are quite familiar with this kind of environment since the very beginning but it was not my case,” she says.
“I’m coming from a really, really normal family – no relations at all with motorsport but I’ve always been really, really fascinated about the smells of tires and fuel.
“I had the chance to go to Monza, just once with my dad when I was six or seven years old, but it was by chance because my dad had a friend who was racing in this amateur championship and they had to meet to exchange some documents or something, and it was like an epiphany, it was like being in a dream. And I think since this moment I’ve been in love, I have been in love with motorsport.”
That love with motorsport has never wavered. A keen reader of Autosprint – one of Italy’s most famous motorsport magazines – in her youth, Gasparin would join some friends to go and watch some races in her teenage years.
Alongside her business degree she also dabbled in “an experimental degree in luxury marketing related to cars” and applied for an internship with both Porsche and BMW. Porsche accepted, hired her after her 12-month training program and so began the first 11-year chapter of Gasparin’s career.
Before becoming project manager of the Carrera Cup in Italy before she quit to join Pirelli, Gasparin had quite a niche and pivotal program to oversee.
This is a very challenging job in a very challenging worldMarta Gasparin
“I had the chance to develop a very nice job around the company which was let’s say a one-make series with Boxster cars called Boxster Lady Cup,” she remembers.
“Porsche Italy in that period was looking after the customer experience of Porsche Club members and all of a sudden they realized that let’s say wives and girlfriends were not so involved during the race weekends of their husbands and boyfriends.
“So they decided to create something proper for women that wanted to put themselves on the racetrack, and then they decided to make this format and I was leading the project. It was an incredible success.”
It’s a fascinating era of Gasparin’s career – not just because it was a unique project but it acts as clear proof of just how far society has progressed from then, in the early 2000s, to now. Any such initiative would be written off as sexist and simply wouldn’t be accepted in 2022.
“Yeah exactly,” Gasparin agrees. “I think it was an approach that was right for that time. Of course times have changed and when sometimes someone is asking me how is it to be a women in the motorsport world? This is let’s say my most honest answer.
“I used to say as a human being working in motorsport has always been, for me, on one hand really rewarding because as I was saying before I’m a huge motorsport fan, but on the other hand it’s a constant challenge towards excellence. So this is a very challenging job in a very challenging world.
“Everything is going really fast and you need to be reactive with respect to changes around you but, and this is the point no matter if you are a man or a woman, defining work wise a person because of the gender to me it’s simply not necessary.
“It should be normal to have women in motorsport, as in any other job, because there are other features and other skills that really count: professionalism, dedication, passion.
“I know that in many working environments talented women are not even considered, this is really a shame,” she adds.
“And about that I have to say I have been lucky enough in my career to work with companies who are having my same values in terms of promoting talents, meritocracy, it’s a very healthy environment from this point-of-view and for me this is really important in my personal wellbeing let’s say.”
The societal steps are encouraging though, even if there are still sizable strides to be made. Grid girls are no longer present on Formula 1 grids for example (although are in some other series) and the idea that women can compete on an even keel with men is not just accepted but embraced by most – not laughed at like it may have been a generation ago.
“I think it’s kind of a mindset that requires of course time to be established, but we will get there,” Gasparin believes.
Not least within her own company, Pirelli, which used to be famous for its pin-up calendars that sexualized women. There were ‘Pirelli girls’ at several rallies too, but now the tire firm’s image couldn’t be any more different.
“If you had the chance to see the most recent Pirelli calendars and by recent I mean the last eight to 10 years you can see the change, it’s quite evident,” Gasparin explains.
“The Pirelli calendar had the chance to give space to older women, black women – and black men as well – and you won’t have seen any naked women in the Pirelli calendar for more than 10 years.
“We are working on a project let’s say coming from the old Pirelli girls to a completely new format promoting diversity and inclusivity and so on in the world of motorsport,” Gasparin elaborates.
“I cannot say more at the moment, but the aim we have is to turn the old umbrella girls or grid girls that are still applied to some championships. Of course they are no longer in Formula 1 but they are actually in some GT championships in a different kind of concept.
“The point is promoting the sport so no matter if you are a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, a young lady or a mid-aged lady let’s say, everybody is liking the sport and motorsport in this case needs to have their own space to promote it.”
Gasparin speaks with a passion and awareness that is utterly inspiring. DirtFish ends up taking half an hour of her precious time to conduct this interview and we apologize for that, yet she’s the one encouraging it to continue.
“I’m enjoying it!” she quips.
My passion, it's exactly the same as that day at MonzaMarta Gasparin
This is Marta Gasparin. A trailblazer who doesn’t see herself as one. A deep thinker who has an acute awareness of her surroundings and her position. An utter motorsport obsessive at heart.
“My passion, it’s exactly the same as that day at Monza and when it comes to rally, rally is a funny story about my life because having a working background in GT environment I have never been working directly in rallying before I joined Pirelli but my husband is a huge rally fan and when we were still dating he used to take me to some WRC races,” she shares.
“And once I remember he took me to Monte Carlo in January and it was so freezing over Gap. I remember that to get to the stage we had to walk like 10km [6.2 miles] in the snow.
“When the stage started I was so excited to see the cars passing by that I completely forgot I needed to climb the mountain. So I think at that point he realized she’s the one for me!”
It’s a dream life, but not an easy life. Gasparin has to work harder than most will appreciate so has some key advice for anyone wishing to follow in her footsteps.
“I want to underline that let’s say passion in this job is an ingredient that can’t be missed in the recipe, because this job is stealing so much from private life that it cannot be done without a big boost coming from passion,” she admits.
“OK from this perspective in my personal case having the chance to share the same working environment and same passion as my husband helps a lot in the work-life balance.
“[But] you need to be focused on spreading your passion on one hand and if you are in a position like me of leading a team, my personal task every day is to award the talents in my team because no matter if you’re a man or a woman this is a mantra that drives my job everyday – working as a team leader.
“Of course I try to do my best but I think that talent should be rewarded. If you are looking for your spot in motorsport, and you want to make the difference, work hard and stick to your target.
“Work hard and dedication always pay, don’t let anyone convince you you’re not fitting with this world, be part of the change you want to see and never give up!”
If those aren’t words to live by, we don’t know what are.