HAVING known Michelle for over twenty years, I always knew she was into cars. As a youngster she was always going to the stock car races up in Nutts Corner and sometimes we spent our days admiring the XR2i’s flying up and down the Monagh Bypass.
Michelle went on to work as an addiction support worker but lost her job two years ago due to funding cuts. As a fall back, she went into self employment keeping the books in her husband’s breakers yard.
Given that she is a petrol head, it came as no surprise to me this week when I learnt that she’s obtained her rally navigator’s licence.
Michelle got into it because her husband is a rally driver. She says that the first time she got into the car, it was a real buzz and it prompted her to go for her navigators licence first and then train at driving. To be a rally driver, you have to do specialist training and sit a theory test. A licence is then granted by the Motor Sports Association and has to be renewed every year. Rallying is expensive to start off but navigating is cheaper she added.
Explaining how navigating works she said: “the driver and navigator are given case notes of the circuit. We first do a walk around and I make my own notes of the road layout. Communication between us is key because there can be devastating consequences if things go wrong. I’ve been learning the lingo. Terms like ‘square right’ and knowing all the different turns, all contribute to a safe yet quick journey.”
Recalling her first time in the navigators seat, she says her husband’s friend, a more experienced driver took her out.
Asked if she felt intimidated by all the men she said: “It’s a mainly male dominated sport but there are now a few female rally drivers and navigators competing at monthly meetings. The buzz you get is unreal, you can pay for a day in a rally car if you wanted to experience it. There are different types of rallies. Hill climbs are just rally cars going up hill as fast as possible, they don’t need a navigator.”
Michelle says all rallying stages can be dangerous especially with different weather conditions. It’s all about speed and trying to beat everyone else’s time. The best advice she was given was “worry about your own time, keep beating that and you don’t have to worry about anybody else’s.”
She said it’s a good hobby for her and her husband to enjoy together.
“We are just glad that we’re able to do it We’ve been all around Ireland and have met loads of friends, our accents are even changing because of it” she laughed.