SCOTT Faulkner was destined to become a rally driver through the passion of his father.
And now he is set for what could be his big breakthrough year in the motorsport.
He spoke to Observer sports editor Steve Carpenter about what inspired him to get into the sport and his hopes and dreams for the future.
Rallying really is in the Faulkner family
Scott’s father John and his brother are both involved in rallying.
His dad was team manager for Lad Rover’s 1986/1987 Paris Dakar attempts and was also an amateur rally driver, enjoying success in the 80s and 90s.
His cousin Mike is also one of the top three drivers in the Scottish Rally Championship.
“You could say I had no choice in the matter but that would be lying – I’m sure all this helped my passions for the sport grow but I love it and can’t remember a time when I wasn’t following Rallying – all over the world,” said Scott, whose love of all things cars began early as he helped his dad prepare his rally car in the garage as a youngster.
“I would love racing around the drive in my pedal kart the night before a rally, whilst he would be busy packing the car up ready. I was quicker than him – in my mind at least.”
Growing up, Scott’s other main rally influence – his all-time hero – was Scottish legend Colin McRae who he travelled all across the UK – and further afield to watch him.
So the big question for any man who loves his car and motorsports – what was Scott’s first car?
“It was Peugeot 205 rally car. All I wanted to do was get to my 17th birthday and buy a rally car,” added Scott.
“I saved all my money as I grew up.
“Every weekly pay packet would go straight into a savings account which grew over the space of 2 years.
“I actually bought the car in 2006, however I spent the rest of the year focusing on my college work and saving the money up before I competed in my first event in 2007 in the Peugeot.”
That first rally was called the Neil Howard Stages, based at an old RAF base in Yorkshire.
“We entered in the 205 and I remember the rally very well,” said Scott.
“It was freezing cold and my father had agreed to co-drive for me – a combination that was bound to end in some arguments.
“The rally went really well though and we got to the finish with the car – and our relationship – in one piece.”
Scott went on to compete in – and finish – a total of four events in his beloved 205.
So when did he start to believe he could make a career in the sport?
“Due to my passion for rallying and the support I had from my family, I’ve always wanted to pursue a career within it.
“Watching Colin McRae progress through his career as I grew up meant I had a perfect role model to help define my ambitions.”
His next car was a Clio tarmac rally car which he built with his father whilst at college.
“My love for engineering and rallying had come together – as we were faced with a very challenging re-design of the mechanical parts of the car.
“The car was based on a racing car, more suited and purpose built for the smooth race tracks. We had to completely re-engineer the car’s suspension whilst also making it road-legal and rally-legal.
“We also spent a lot of time developing the engine to get more power out of it. Many, many hours spent in the garage with my father did, in the end, pay dividends.
“The car was never going to be capable of winning an event outright as it was nowhere near as quick (or as expensive) as some of the top level cars today.
“We had a budget and a time-frame and we delivered to both.
“We had a few events where we were breaking bits and blowing things up, however, once the teething problems were out of the way it was a very successful car.
“Unfortunately there were driver errors too. My most famous was whilst running in the top three in my class in Belgium where I then managed to put the car on its side in a river – causing our retirement.
“I did then go on to finish tenth overall and second in my class on the second attempt at the Rally of the Midlands in 2011. This was the highlight with the little Clio and we upset a lot of people in much faster cars on the day.”
Scott has race in many events in Britain as well as France and Italy over the years but in 2012 he opted for a new car again to challenge himself in the forest stages.
“With my cousin being so successful in the Scottish Gravel Rally Championship I wanted a piece of the action too.
“Mike had been competing in Mitsubishi Lancers for a number of years and after sitting in with him on a few occasions I decided the 4-wheel drive, 2 litre turbo-charged Evo 9 was the best progression for my rallying career.
“The Evo 9 is built to a specification to compete in a class called Group N. That means all the cars in the same Group N class are equal in terms of modifications, engine power and any other developments that you could make.
“It makes it very much a level playing field as the advantages now come from the drivers ability, the co-driver and the way the team work as a whole.
“The Group N category is very competitive in the UK, however it is a globally recognised class too and this means that I could compete in Belgium, Ireland or France against equal machinery if I wanted to.
“We grew the team ready for the 2013 season as we knew that we wanted to have a certified effort at the full BTRDA Gravel Rally Championship. We would need more people, resources and funding more than anything – to make sure that we had the best chance to compete in all 8 rounds of the championship.”
2013 proved to be Scott’s best year to date as a rally driver after competing in the BTRDA Championship which is the UK’s premier gravel championship and is made up of nine events in total.
“We had never competed in a full championship before. We couldn’t believe it but after three very good results in the first three events of the season, including a ninth overall and second in class on only our second rally as a team, we were leading the Group N championship half way through the season.
“We were fourth in the overall championship as well. I really couldn’t believe it – we were so surprised by our competitiveness as a team – and our sponsors were loving it.
“Unfortunately we had a number of retirements in the second half of the season, including a season-ending engine failure on only the seventh round of the championship.
“We dropped to fourth in Group N by the end of the year. We did not let this distract from the season’s achievements and fourth in the Group N class in our first season as a team with a new car and new co-driver proved that we meant business.”
One of Scott’s biggest challenges is finding the funding.
He was forced to sit out the 2014 season because of financial difficulties and is now desperate to secure sponsorship to help him make that next critical setp up the motorsport ladder and compete once again in the BTRDA Rally Championship.
“Towards the end of the 2013 season we knew we would struggle to get the finances together to launch a second attack on the championship in 2014.
“We made the decision early on not to compete in 2014 and instead I focused on raising funds to buy a new engine for the car.
“Finances in all levels of the sport have diminished drastically, meaning you can only really make it to the top of the sport if you have good, reliable sponsors on board nowadays.
“At present we only have one sponsor – the Professional Motorsport World Expo and they have very kindly offered us a quarter of our budget for the season.
“We can’t commit to entering the first round of the championship on February 14 unless we have at least half of the funding we require.
“I’ve been saving my money and the car now has a new engine but it still needs a few finishing touches to make sure it’s rally-ready.
“Having sat the 2014 season out I’m sure it will take a little while to get back into the groove again – but I don’t expect this to hold me back.
“It’s like riding a bike – I will do a few testing sessions before the first rally to make sure both myself and car are 100 per cent ready.
“Having watched the 2014 season from the sidelines I’m also aware of the new competitors that will be around next year in Group N. Not having driven the car competitively since September in 2013 the first event might be an eye-opener for us. I don’t expect to be right on the pace straight away but we won’t be far off.”
* If you own a business that would be interested in a partnership with Scott and the team at SFRallying, then please contact Scott directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Scott, the cars, the team – and to have a look at some photos and videos from Scott’s previous seasons then visit the SF Rallying website at www.sfrallying.co.uk.”
Scott Faulkner in action in the Dukeries Rally. (s) Picture by Steve Robinson.
Scott Faulkner is hoping to compete in the BTRDA Rally Championship again in 2015. (s) Picture by L&C Photography.