Britain's Pirelli Star Driver Adam Gould is preparing himself for what he sees as one of his toughest rally challenges to date next week's Rally Isle of Man, the fourth round of the MSA British Rally Championship.
Rally Isle of Man holds no fear for Gould, though. The 21-year-old is used to stepping up to the plate, just as you would expect from the driver who was voted Britain's brightest rallying talent, when he won the Pirelli Star Driver scheme only seven months ago.
Despite never having competed in a four-wheel-drive rally car previously, the Bristol-born man placed his Pirelli Subaru Impreza WRX in an astonishing fourth position on the opening round of this year's BRC. Last time out, on the Jim Clark Rally, he went one better too and scored his first ever podium - an even more impressive feat given that this was his first outing in the car on asphalt. And now he faces the big one. Rally Isle of Man will be is the longest event he has ever competed on - and he admits it's going to be tough.
"This is the one where everything has to be perfect, particularly the pace notes,” he said. “There are so many small crests, small bumps, big bumps, rises, dips, narrow sections, changes of grip level and everything on this event, we have to get them all down and get them absolutely right. There have been some changes to the route from last year, with the organisers reversing of some stages, so I would think I've driven about 50 per cent of next week's route."
In 2008, Gould was well-set for another comfortable BRC class win on the Rally Isle of Man when his Renault Clio suffered a rare electronic failure leaving him stranded on the final day. The good thing for Gould is that he saw both sides of the Manx weather.
"Being an island, the weather can change quite quickly and we certainly saw some of that last year. Being on the top of the mountains in the fog and the rain was actually really useful, it gave me a good insight into what sort of grip the roads offer and what to expect from the stages when they're at their most difficult. There's no doubt, this event is going to be a massive challenge,” he continued.
"It's going to be the longest event I've ever competed on, which is such good news for me. I simply love driving rally cars, it's where I'm at my happiest. The prospect of spending two days driving as fast as I can down roads which my hero Colin McRae described as being the best in the world in an awesome car - and on awesome tyres - is, for me, nirvana."
Gould's Subaru will benefit from a new turbocharger for this event too, as the latest stage of the Impreza WRX's development.
"The car worked a treat on the last event," he added, "and I can't wait to get to shakedown to get back in it and carry on where we left off in Scotland. I'm looking for another podium on the Isle of Man, but to be the best of the rest behind Mark [Higgins] and Keith [Cronin] is as much as I can hope for right now.
“Mark, in particular, is going to be awesome on this event: all I can do is try to narrow the deficit in seconds per kilometre to him from the last rally I did.
“This is going to be another fantastic opportunity for me to learn more about rallying in this car and at this level. I'm not too sure what to expect when we hit some of those really bumpy, tricky bits of narrow road; one thing is for sure: the corners will be coming a lot faster than last year."