Aged just 14 years and a day old, I was about to co-drive for my Dad, Martin Page, in my very first rally…. In one of the MINI Cooper S Rally Cars of the Mini Sport Rally Team.
I think that broke the record for the youngest ever co-driver; could you have been any younger? Unfortunately, Crail in June didn’t really have the “Mull Rally factor” that I was used to. I went to my very first Mull Rally seven years ago and fell in love with rallying: I have been growing up with it and I haven’t missed a Mull yet – Even if that does mean convincing your parents to let you skip school!
In those seven years though, I never really got involved much with inside the car. Iv’e ‘navigated’ Dad to the Mull noise test and to scrutineering, and even over the start ramp when he was driving the Course Car but thats it.
When I was younger I would always stand in the shadows, in my red team overalls and be called “Chief Mechanic” although in actual fact, all that involved was walking around the service area, sponge in hand to clean windows and spotlamps! Spectating was always a blast though – especially when you could hear the rally cars distant coughs and splutters from miles away!
From my parents for my birthday, I was given my last name in big stick-on letters – no literally! It was to display alongside my dad’s name on the rally car as co-driver! I just stared at them, shell shocked, completely unable to speak. Wow!
We drove that evening to Crail near St Andrews, about 2 hours away from our house in Aberdeenshire and went through the usual scruteneering and signing on but this time it was slightly different. I was no longer in the shadows but in fact in the driver’s seat; well next to it actually!
I was very lucky to have a great mentor, Martin Cressey who co-drives for his own Dad in one of the other Mini Sport rally MINIs. He came along to coach me on all the do’s and dont’s of being a co-driver – having previously sat with my dad before. I couldn’t have done it without him; answering my endless list of questions and I really appreciated him burning himself whilst fixing ‘my’ exhaust which Dad had managed to detach mid stage!
On Saturday morning I was ready to rally! – Yup, I was still fast asleep in my bed – so much for co-driving organisation. Having shoved some breakfast down me, I was finally ready for my debut rally. Kitted out in Daniel Barritt, Fords very own, World Rally Championship co-drivers’ overalls that he very kindly gifted to me, I was finally sat in the seat. I went through my final checklist: Helmet, check! Harness, check! Time cards, check! Notes, check! Pen, check! Extra pen in case I lose that one, check! I was all set. My cement mixer stomach was churning faster and faster as panic swelled up inside me. I was finally doing my first ever rally and I didn’t want to mess it up. My dad kept reassuring me of how it was just a “taster” but unfortunately for him, this made me feel ten times worse!
After the first few corners, I had found my flow and was gaining more confidence as I read more and more of the notes in front of me. Once that stage had finished, I remember saying to dad, “Your nae bad for an auld man!” Of course, as he always does, he just gave me his little chuckle as we proceeded back to service.
Everything was going fine until on the 6th stage, when we were going around an “Open hairpin” but in actual fact it was pretty tight. I was clinging on to the edge of my seat praying we wouldn’t roll! At this point the car was on two wheels – fun times!
Unusually for dad, he was also multi tasking and was giving me running commentary as well as driving “flat out”. “You see that guy there”, he said to me as we caught the car in front, “He’s going to lose it because we’re putting him under pressure…… right about now!” And sure enough, he span right in front of us, thankfully we swerved just before we T-boned him! It isn’t a rally if there’s no drama!
After a very eventful and successful couple of days at Crail, dad and I finished 26th overall having started at 47 from a 90 car entry. To round off a fantastic weekend, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the legendary, Motor-sport journalist John Fife aka – Jaggy Bunnet. As a new member of the Stonehaven and District Motor club, weighing six and a half stone, wet through I am now looking for more co-driving experience.
Thank you to all the messages of support throughout the day and to everyone who helped make it possible. It was a long awaited dream come true.
Finally, I really like being part of Uncle Daniel Harpers’ Minisport Rally Team…”cough cough”…..move over Chris Campbell, there’s a new Daniel Barritt in town – I have the overalls to prove it!