I didn’t really follow the usual path to being a rally driver. I went to university and trained to be a mechanical engineer, then got a job at M-Sport as a design engineer at the time Colin was driving for the team.
But I still had the burning ambition in the back of my head that I wanted to drive rally cars some day, so I entered a competition with Peugeot in 2000 and won. The prize was to do a rally – I won my class and then wanted to do more.
It was difficult to raise the budget, though. Then one day towards the end of 2001 I attended a test near Dumfries. It was a Super 1600 Ford Puma run by Chris Birkbeck Motorsports. Colin and his father Jimmy were there with three other drivers. They let us recce the course and make notes, and they checked them, then chatted with us and I sat in the car with Colin beside me. I grew up with Colin being my idol, so looking across at him sitting beside me was a surreal experience. But you just go and see what you can do. I just went and drove like hell, and tried to keep it on the road. A few days after that, his father Jimmy called me and said he was looking to do something, and that’s just how it went.
There were many people on the way helping with sponsorships and trying to get me to do more rallies, but without Colin I wouldn’t have made that step into the international scene. He took my career from the junior categories to the junior world championships.
COLIN WAS GOOD at using his influence with manufacturers. We’d done the first BRC season with Ford and that all worked quite nicely. I was still working in M-Sport’s design office and designing parts for Colin’s rally car for the world championship. In between, I was doing the BRC in a Ford Puma and I thought it was working quite nicely, but the following year Colin had departed Ford and moved to Citroën, but he managed to get me a deal with Opel to drive a Corsa Super 1600.
That’s when it got a bit complicated. I was working in Ford’s design office, Colin was driving for Citroën and I was competing with Opel. Something had to give, so I gave up my engineer’s job at M-Sport and just winged it from there, all under the guidance of Colin.