As some of you may know, I have been following this year’s Climb to the Clouds Hill Climb and the New England Forest Rally. David Higgins won both of these events. I was able to catch up with Mr. Higgins and ask him a few questions. To see what makes him tick and how he came to be one of the best drivers we have seen in the US.
Rally is one of my favorite types of motorsport, so this was a real pleasure. David was great to chat with and I look forward to following his career in the years to come.
Here is the interview. I hope you enjoy. What questions would you have asked? Leave them in the comments below.
MLAS: Your website says you started out trials riding? Who introduced you to motorcycles and why make the switch to karts?
David Higgins: When I was young, there was no kart club. I did BMX racing when I was 6, then we got a trials bike when I was 8 and started to do youth trials. Then when I was 10, the kart club started and the local bike shop were going to sell karts. As my Dad and Mum (co-driver) were top rally drivers on the Island (Isle of Man), they sponsored Dad with free karts and Mark and I also did it. It was very tough to start with, as there was no one in the club that had any experience to help apart from one top driver that was never that keen to help as my Dad was beating him!
MLAS: Karting is often a gateway to open-wheel racing. Why did you choose rally? (great choice by the way)
DH:Rally was in the family. My brother (Mark) just started to get noticed and was offered a factory drive. He was also offered a supported drive with Peugeot Challenge one make series, with over 50 drivers in the same car. I was offered a test and got the drive. After winning the championship, I won the prize drive of a factory drive for Peugeot in the British Champs.
MLAS: Did you and your brother mark ever race together or against each other? I assume there is some sibling rivalry there.
DH: We did trials, karts and rally. It was very tough and we were super competitive and fell out loads. He even broke my shoulder driving over my head in a kart race, when I was leading going into the last turn! It’s been very hard at times as both (of us are) fighting for the same drives and sponsors.
MLAS: Who inspired you as a young driver?
DH: My family. My Dad was such an awesome driver, who I like to think I take after. Very smooth and not the massive risk taker. He could have gone right to the top if it was not for living on the Island. Even now he could jump in a car and be right on the pace. He is also a top mechanic, who could fix anything. I worked in his garage as soon as I left school. I hope I picked up some skills there that have helped me to some championship wins, when I have had to make some temp repairs. My Mum is the most competitive one. Who even now if I have to phone home and say I was second, I can hear the disappointment in her voice!
MLAS: Having competed in rallies all over the world, are there any locations that stand out in your mind for any particular reason?
DH: Not really, as I have to make sure I stay focused on the event. I did lots of events in China. I did four years at the Great Wall and never visited there until I went back in 2012 for rally and (had) made a special effort. I’ve been very luck to rally all over the world but USA is my favourite. The fans get so much more into it and that drives me on. I feel more at home here than I do in Wales, where we run the rally school.
MLAS: Whether you’re on stage or racing up a mountain, what secretly goes through your mind? For example, are you thinking about some mundane task you have to perform when this is done? Or something else? For me it would be Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear just yelling “POWER!!!” as I mashed down on the throttle.
DH:I imagine I am in a kart race and any small mistake, I can visualize people passing me. But mostly I have to concentrate super hard on the voice of speed, Craig!
MLAS: Is it frustrating to have weather play such a large role in the potential of a record setting run? Or is that a challenge you enjoy? Think of Mt. Washington or a really dusty stage.
DH: To be honest, we never felt that the record would be possible with over 100bhp (less) and 500lbs heavier. So in a weird way I was kind of hoping the weather would be bad, so my old record stood. Plus, I love the challenge of driving in the fog where you have to rely on pace notes. On Friday when we did the lower half, we were about 5 seconds over record pace. So it was not until we did the top half that we even thought we had a chance.
MLAS: Last Question. And this one is a personal interest of mine. Did you ever get to see a Group B rally event? If so, what was it like?
DH: I grew up around the Group B days, as my parents were competing then. They used to have parties at the house and all the top drivers of the time would be there. I have driven a few of the Group B cars. Straight from Mt. Washington, I was doing the stunt driving in a Metro 6R4 for a movie about the Group B days.
A Final Word
I would like to thank David for taking the time to answer these questions. He has a lot going on and was gracious enough to do this. Best of luck with the rest of the season!
Here is the most recent episode of Subaru’s Launch Control, showcasing David Higgins’ record breaking run up Mt. Washington.