My dad tried to discourage me from taking up rallycross.
He knew how hard it was to make it, being a successful rallycross driver himself, but no matter how hard he tried to keep me from racing, there was no stopping me.
Rallycross is all about explosive starts and short, sharp racing on mixed surfaces (dirt and asphalt) in amphitheatre venues.
Our cars are over 600 horse power and can go from 0 to 60 in less than two seconds – faster than an F1 car.
People may find that surprising considering I drive an Audi S1 (which can be seen on the high street), but it has some serious modifications and lots of noise!
Races are short – no more than five minutes – and we have four qualifying rounds, semi-finals and a final.
During race weekends, I am busy from Thursday to Sunday. We prepare the cars on Thursday and Friday, have four qualifying sessions across Saturday and Sunday followed by the semi-finals and final, if I make it.
These days are long, and it’s not abnormal for us to work for 12 hours.
Besides racing there is a lot of PR and media work to do such as press conferences, photo shoots, media engagement and autograph signings.
If I’ve never driven on a particular track before I will also make sure I take more time to prepare.
When I ran my own team the day to day was a lot busier, having to cope with more logistical jobs, but now I am part of the Monster Energy World RX cartel, I have a great team around me to take on some of that workload.
To keep in shape I do training and conditioning to keep my reactions quick and also mountain bike and row to stay in shape.
It’s a dangerous job and you always have to be on your game. I’ve never had any serious injuries from racing (luckily) but I have been in some big accidents, including rolling nine times.
When it happened I don’t really know what was going through my head. All I can say is that I was happy to be OK when I got out the car.
The scariest incident though was when I was racing in Abu Dhabi. In the semi-final the car in front of me hit a curb, flew through the air and then landed on top of the car next to me.
I somehow managed to come out the other side of that. You cannot hold onto things like that because it can really affect how you will drive in the future.
To mitigate these risks there are strict safety rules around the fireproof clothing we wear. Personal experience has also taught me how vital it is to have a good support system behind you.
I trust in my team, mechanics and my car. My family is also a racing family, too, and that helps with managing the fear and risks.
To be honest I just get in and drive, pushing past the nerves and butterflies. It’s self-confidence and self-belief that has got me where I am.
I’ve been driving for 15 years and I still love it all. I love pushing limits and getting the most out of the car.
There’s nothing like the buzz that comes from the adrenaline rushing through your body just before the lights go green.
I also like the engineering side of racing; I am always striving for the perfect set up for the car.
The most difficult part of the job for me is switching out of race mode and staying focused, especially when you have to change so suddenly from racing at high speed to meeting and interacting with fans.
People may think by looking at Formula One that rallycross drivers would have a lavish lifestyle but it’s not by any means.
There’s a lot of hard work – mental and physical – behind the scenes. And I have a day job away from racing in aggregate processing.
It’s all worth it though, especially at times like the X Games 17 in Los Angeles in 2011. It was a career changing win for me; I was the underdog, winning against some of the biggest names in the world.
And more recently I secured a podium at the opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Abu Dhabi in front of my kids. There’s no greater feeling.
My kids are still quite young but they most definitely want to follow in my footsteps. I love that they love what I do.
I am currently racing at SpeedMachine Festival at Silverstone, and I will be racing for them. It will be intense to be in front of my home crowd again.
For anyone considering getting into rallycross racing I would say, drive anything you can get your hands on.
Go to track days, stay focussed on your dream, work hard and make it happen.
Tickets for SpeedMachine Festival 2020 are available at speedmachine.com
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