This is part one of our series of interviews with the members of our Judging Panel. Today we're talking to Preet Banerjee who you might recognize as a frequent panelist on The National with Peter Mansbridge. Or maybe you saw him host Million Dollar Neighbourhood on the Oprah Network, or win the Ultimate W Expert Challenge, or read his finance related articles in a local rag, or watched one of his popular YouTube videos or listened to his podcasts. Or maybe, you raced him on the track. Preet is everywhere. Here's our interview.
TMFF: Tell me how you first got involved with motorsports and eventually motorcycles.
Preet: I was in the second year of university and one of my best friends invited me to participate in an auto-cross, which is a race-against-the-clock type of competition on a closed course delineated by pylons. You just bring your daily driver, borrow a helmet and go. I'm pretty sure I came in last, but I was hooked. I started to compete more often, and after I finished university, I immediately enrolled in the Bridgestone Racing Academy's mechanic training program which essentially traded your wrenching time on the school's racecars for nine months for professional race driver training and a seat in their racing series in Formula 2000 cars. I was broke as all hell, getting deeper in to debt, and it was one of the best years of my life. I ended up working at the school for another two years as the operations manager. Eventually, I grew up and work in finance now. I bought my first motorcycle six years ago after my girlfriend bought me a motorcycle training course certificate as a gift. A few months later I did a one-day track-riding school at the FAST racing school at Shannonville. The feeling of the open road or track on a motorcycle evokes the same visceral feelings you feel in a racecar, and more.
TMFF: Your background spans neuroscience, motorsports, financial analyst and advisor, blogger, Youtuber, podcaster, TED speaker, newspaper and magazine writer, TV show host, CBC panelist. Did I miss anything? Can you walk me through how you were able to successfully transition across such a wide gamut of experiences.
Preet: I subscribe to the shiny ball philosophy of career management, clearly. I've never had a five year plan, but as a like-minded individual and I once realized, as long as we have momentum then that's good too. I also took some advice to heart that I received a long time ago to jump in head first when opportunities arise and not to have regrets about the things you could've done, but didn't.
TMFF: What are some of your favourite movies and what do you like about them?
Preet: I love movies. It would be hard to choose only a few. But narrowing down the field to horsepower related movies, the car chase scene in Ronin was mesmerizing. While the centrepiece of The Place Beyond The Pines was not about motorcycles, there are lots of them in the movie and it was one of my favourite movies of the last ten years.
TMFF: What are you hoping to see in the films shown at the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival?
Preet: I love seeing people's passion come alive. Whether it be building, collecting, riding, racing, or anything else. I'm a sucker for a good documentary, too.
TMFF: What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?
Preet: One of my last races at the Bridgestone Racing Academy was one of James Hinchcliffe's first open wheel car races (who now races full-time in the IndyCar series). We know each other well now, but were just acquaintances at the time and I doubt he would remember that race. We qualified on the same row. So I cheekily brag about that, but remember he was just learning the car and track, and I had spent a couple years there! That's just a peek into the talent James has, and it was very humbling. Incidentally, we both had to drive off the track before the first turn to avoid a guy spinning out in front of us. James rejoined first, and that was the last time I was anywhere near him in a car!
TMFF: What motorcycle do you currently ride?
Preet: These days, it might be better to ask what motorcycle do I own. I didn't ride much last year, and this year is looking equally uninspiring. Hopefully this changes soon. I still have the first bike I bought, a 2002 Honda CBR 600 F4i. I've been thinking about getting a new bike this year. I was thinking about the entry level Panigale, but that new SuperSport looks appealing as well. Some days, I think a scrambler would make more sense since I live downtown.
TMFF: Thanks so much Preet for taking the time to answer our questions. Here's to more time to ride!