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David Higgins

My first international rally victory was a really special moment. It was back in the days in the UK when the big manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, Renault, Vauxhall and Seat all had massive teams.

I was driving a privately entered group n Subaru. We'd come close to winning the previous year but had gearbox problems, which dogged us throughout the campaign as the group n cars just couldn't cope with it.

But on the Vauxhall Rally of Wales 1999, everything came together. We were seeded at number 18 but pretty much led from the start, which was great other than it really wasn't popular with the major manufacturers.

When we came to start the second day of the rally, my first time leading such an event, I was really looking forward to leading the field off and being first on the road. But overnight the manufacturer teams came up with a rule that privateers could not start first, it had to be the manufacturers cars.

I was up and ready at Parc Ferme for the off and I remember Mark Rowe, who was lying second in his Team Renault Megane Maxi asking why I was there so early. He knew about this rule but I didn't, until he told me and I clearly remember kicking a bin across the tarmac in real anger.

This just made me more determined to make sure I won the rally, which we did, not comfortably but enough of a margin to take the victory, which was a fantastic result, made special by it not only being my first international win, but to do so against the big teams as a private entry was all the more special.

Even at the end of the event, they tried to stop us driving on to the podium first as they wanted just the manufacturers cars to go up the ramps, but my co-driver said to them, if you don't stand back we'll either drive over you or jump over you because we are driving up there! (note from editor, this sounds familiar see karting memory! )

It remains one of my best victories but was quite controversial, it couldn't be filmed on TV, even though we won the rally the highlights showed the manufacturer cars rather than our car and was made to look as if the manufacturers had indeed won.

That was the moment when I realised that the sport at that level wasn't really a sport it was a business and the politics of the sport and the manufacturers had a far bigger influence on outcomes than individuals did.

Nowadays, in between driving for Subaru USA, I help with the family business which is www.higginsrallyschool.com

Part of my job means I get to drive all sorts of different cars. The one that turned up this week was pretty special. A client arrived for some coaching with a vehicle he had purchased. He had given no indication what it was till it arrived.

My day was spent sitting in the Ford Escort that Hannu Mikkola drove to victory in the 1970 1000 Lakes Rally and Roger Clark used in his winning of the 1971 Kenya Rally. An amazing car with real history, the day was topped off when my client invited me to give the car a full test on our rally stages. Driving the car that sideways through the forest, whilst knowing its history was a pretty special feeling and definitely one of the perks of my job.

Not too long ago I got to drive the Subaru that Richard Burns and Robert Reid used to win the world championship in, after losing Richard through illness in 2005, memories flooded back. it was a special moment that will live in my memory for a long time.

David Higgins

www.davidhiggins75.com

 

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Ex Roger Clark & Hannu Mikkola EscortEx Roger Clark & Hannu Mikkola EscortDavid HigginsDavid Higgins