Raise Your Game: What first attracted you to rallying?
Kevin Davies: Since I was a child it has been cars, cars, cars! My interest developed and I couldn't wait to pass my driving test. I couldn't wait to get involved with rallying at a competitive level. Seeing the rallying on television and the top people competing made me realise I wanted to be a part of it. My ambition is to go to the top.
RYG: How did you start?
KD: I had an old banger that my friends and I used to race around the fields behind my house. As time went on it became more exciting so when I passed my driving test at the age of seventeen I started to build my own rally car. Then the time arrived that I could enter a rally so that was my first one.
It went from that starting point really. From competing at a low level I have met other like-minded people and contacts which are furthering my passion and career for rallying. It's going from strength to strength.
RYG: What training and preparation do you do before an event?
KD: Since I have been taking part in rallying at a serious level I have been heavily involved with Geoff Jones Motorsport near Machynlleth. He is great. He is a gentleman that helps people along and does preparation, mechanics, coaching and various other things along those lines.
This year we took part in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy Championship. Due to the cost of things we did most of the preparation for this ourselves. It really helps that I am a mechanic, and my friends are, for the servicing of the car and the build-up to an event.
As for practising in a car I don't feel like I am getting enough seat time. I live near Llandysul and we have lots of open space and forests that I could practise in, but the councils won't let me so there is not much I can do about this aspect. I have to abide by the laws and the rules. I just have to make the most of my visits to Geoff's training ground.
During the start of the year I was involved in the MSA British Rally scheme. This involved getting young drivers to follow good fitness regimes to raise their fitness levels up to Welsh Rally Championship level. Fitness is a very important aspect of this sport. When I am in the car working hard the concentration level needs to be high and you must be alert.
The activities that the MSA scheme run really get you motivated and into the right mind set of how you should be preparing yourself. Being physically fit helps you along when you are in the car for long periods of time. I have been doing a lot of swimming over the last three to four weeks. I like to keep my activities quite varied as I don't like to be enclosed in a gym running into a wall. I will probably return to cycling in the next three to four weeks.
Every morning before a rally I will go for a jog. I do this because it brings my heart rate up, it makes me feel good and charged up, and when I'm on the start line I'm ready for it!
RYG: What skills and qualities does it take to be a rally driver?
KD: I think it has to be in your blood to start off with. You have to have a natural love of cars and driving. Unfortunately you can have a lot of talent but if you haven't got the money to nurture it you are at a bit of a standstill really. It is a sport that is very exciting and challenging but an expensive one. A lot of people struggle to get their talent noticed.
For this reason you have to be very focused and determined to get on if being a professional driver is what you want to do. Unfortunately you need quite a substantial backing to go up the ladder so impressing and seeking sponsorship is a huge part of it.
You really need to be self-motivated if you are going to be successful in any sport. What spurs me on is the adrenalin rush I feel when I'm racing along in the car. Of course I want to win but it's about doing the best I possibly can and showing the people out there that I can do it and do it well.
RYG: What does it feel like when you are behind the wheel rushing through the forests at high speed?
KD: A lot of people ask me if it is frightening. When I'm driving, racing along, the thought of drops, trees and rubble are in the back of my mind. I'm just there concentrating on getting around the course, getting my car around certain corners on the route as safely and as quickly as I possibly can. I'm always thinking about getting the best time.
Of course it crosses my mind sometimes what if I go around this corner and I come across some people walking. I have had that happen to me a couple of times last year but not this year as they have tightened up on security. All I could do when this happened was beep my horn for the people to move out of the way but for a few moments it was very frightening. Touch wood I have not had any close calls when rallying, I have hit the car once or twice but noting extreme, general knocks really.
RYG: What are the highs and lows?
KD: The best thing about it has to be starting a rally and finishing a rally. The worst thing about it is starting a rally and not completing it.
This year, in the last rally I did, we were lined up third in the championship and we needed the points to get me into last weeks rally, but annoyingly the clutch failed on my car. I felt absolutely gutted. I and the team work so hard and we were all really looking forward to it. I only got to have six minutes seat time in the car. It's an awful feeling knowing that you can't go on. You are ready, the car is there set to go, but the clutch is saying no! They are the personal highs and lows of rallying for me.
RYG: You are involved in the "Art Car project" with schools nationwide, can you tell us a bit about this?
KD: I got involved in the Art Car project from a phone call. I was approached and asked if I would be interested in having my car being given a make-over. It is a nationwide competition that was recently launched where the kids from across the UK can design the livery of my car, logo and colour. It is backed by the Welsh Assembly and Ford. The winning artist will receive a VIP pass for their family to watch their car competing in one of the most exciting sports in the UK sporting calendar.
I'm really happy about this event and give it my full support. It is going to be introducing more children and teenagers into the sport which they might not have previously known much about. Also it allows the children to get creative with something real. It is a great opportunity for all those who practise art and graphics and to win an amazing prize.
Unfortunately I'm not on the judging panel so the new design of my car will be a surprise. It will be launched at the pre-event "Happy Hour" just before the main event kicks off in South Wales. I'm really looking forward to seeing my new and improved car and to rallying it in the event itself.
RYG: What are your plans for the future?
KD: No doubt about it, I would like to go to the top! It all comes down to money and finance. I have been lucky so far. If it doesn't happen for me at least I can say I have done it.
After the Welsh Rally GB in December I am going to focus on next year. My team and I are going to devise a five year plan. I'm in my second year and I'm really hoping next year goes well for me as it will be another stepping stone in the right direction. I'm going to have to work hard in getting valuable sponsors on board.
RYG: How important is being part of a team and communication?
KD: It is very important to be a team player, each and every person within the team network has their own personal role. For example the navigator is a key figure, you have to work together as he has to call you on corners you are about to take, and you have a job to deliver the car from start to the finish. You have the mechanics that are highly important, sometimes they follow you around the rally and their car. Everytime you finish a stage they are there to check over. Back at service they deliver and treat the car with whatever needs doing.
You also have the people in the background, supporting you in that way and giving you advice on progress, generally giving pointers in the right direction. It is all about team work, pulling together. There is so much involved and going on behind the scenes which people don't even think about.
RYG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
KD: Try and get as much seat time in the car at the beginning as you possibly can. Ask yourself numerous times is it something that you really really want. If the answer comes back to yes, then get involved with a club or people who can guide you in the right direction.
Get involved in as many events as you possibly can because it is all about practice and networking with people within the field. I'm all for encouraging more youngsters into the sport, which is one of my aims with the Art Car project. I hope something like this will get them involved and take it up, and it would be nice to have more girls getting into it, we are gradually seeing more coming in.
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