The preparation is over and now it is time to get rallying! The British Rally Championship is about to kick off and I cannot wait to get behind the wheel of my first ever 'works' rally car. And to think that, if I had not 'won' my chance, I might have had to quit rallying altogether!

Rallying is not exactly Formula One and, if teams there are struggling for sponsorship, then imagine what it is like where I am sitting! Fortunately, after a lot of hard work, I won the Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out, which is like getting a Blue Peter badge for effort, but instead of a blue boat you get a shiny new rally car. So much better!

This time last year, I had claimed another shoot-out in the Fiesta ST and that gave me the amazing chance to have a year with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team; although there was still the worry as to whether I'd actually get to compete in a rally myself that year. Promotion to the British Rally Elite scheme helped secure a drive in the British Rally Championship and it was game on!

Although we didn't have the cash to compete in the top class of the championship, we battled hard and fast, thankfully, in a Renault Clio. From five outings, I won my class three times, claiming top ten overall finishes on two rounds. My first win that year saw me selected for a place in the Pirelli shoot-out.

With a drive in this season's championship up for grabs, it was never going to be easy. The top drivers in the country were showing their worth in a 'Gladiators' kind of way, sadly without the female Glad's in their leotards though! We were tested on not just our driving, but also areas such as fitness and media skills. There was plenty of pressure as it was - but I knew this was my only chance to drive in 2009. I cannot describe what it was like to hear my name called out as the winner and to get a fabulous early Christmas present, all funded by Pirelli Tyres!

Since then, the winter has been just as crazy, training and preparing ourselves for the season ahead. I've continued on the fitness regime mapped out for me by M-Sport's personal trainer last year as fitness is crucial in rallying and I hope to be able to do some longer international events this year alongside my British programme, so I want to be ready for every eventuality!

Last week, it was back to oily hands and dirty fingernails, as I spent some time helping TEG Sport with the car build. I thought it was probably a sensible idea that I knew roughly how things worked, in the event (God forbid) that I might have to take a spanner to it at some point on an event! She's looking pretty mean now, and I can't wait to take her for a drive!

My team-mate for the season is three-time British champion Mark Higgins, who will be a great mentor, as well as giving me the perfect 'hare' to chase! And the brave one alongside me in the Subaru Impreza is co-driver Seb Marshall.

This year, there's the added incentive to become the youngest-ever British champion, although I need to be winning rallies for that to happen - and that is my first aim! It's going to be a really tough season, as I have no 4wd experience and will be up against multiple British champions with massive knowledge of these events. One thing is certain though; we want to be fighting for wins!

The championship kicks off at the Bulldog International Rally in North Wales on March. You can get the latest updates on, and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes in my next column!




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