In Conversation with Kirsty Duke

Guest blog by Thiemo Albers-Daly

Kirsty Duke is an experienced rally co-driver, often competing on the Isle of Man, along with the likes of Cliona Collins and Charlotte Shimmin. We caught up a little while back to chat about how she came to be involved in the world of motorsport, why it was becoming a rally co-driver specifically that really appealed to her, who she’d love to race alongside in the future and much more. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

What first got you interested in motorsport?

Fortunately for me, I was born into a motorsport family on the Isle of Man surrounded by racing and in particular the TT. My grandad had a career in motorcycle racing and a proportion of that in racing cars & my Dad very much followed in his footsteps but with off-road bikes, riding for the British Army for a number of years and the British Championship. For as long as I can remember, Dad would have us out on the weekends with him watching trials , enduro’s , rallying etc. When I was 8, he bought my sister and I our first karts and we definitely both discovered our competitive streak especially in a male dominated sport at the time.

Why rallying & why as a co driver?

My uncle and cousins used to rally , so I would be out on the hedges down the manx lanes watching them with the rest of my family. I’ll never forget my 18th birthday when my Dad took me to a forest rally experience in Wales which was an absolute blast. I was then given the opportunity to navigate for the first time in 2015, in Rally Isle of Man and I fell in love with the sport. I seemed to take to the pace notes naturally and I just loved the speed on closed roads. I won the best novice award too which was a bonus.

Initially I stuck to co-driving as it was a way of benefiting from the thrill of rallying without the expense of buying a rally car and running it myself, but I’ve now realised over the years that being an experienced co-driver is actually quite valuable and it’s a very rewarding feeling getting competitive results, working together as a team.

Tell us how it felt competing for the first time?

I always remember feeling super nervous on my first rally, I had no idea what I was doing really and it was all new to me. After the first couple of stages, I had picked it up quickly and I actually felt very relaxed and comfortable. It was quite an emotional rally for me as my grandad had passed away the week before and I just wanted to make him and my family proud.

Have you got a fun racing related story you can share?

Oh there are many! There is never a dull moment in rallying but one of the more recent stories was during the last rally whilst I was competing alongside my current driver. We approached a square left a bit hot , getting it wrong so he tactically decided to pull the hand brake so we slid into the hedge sideways! However in doing so, we had an extremely close encounter with the marshal. We then realised the marshal was in fact my Dad after he managed to pick himself up off the floor. We laugh about that to this day!

Were there any particular moments in motorsport that challenged you?

I would say the disappointment of not finishing a rally is always the most challenging. A lot of time, money and preparation goes into each event, so it can be quite a bitter pill to swallow but as they say, that’s racing for you.

Which races are on your bucket list?

Any WRC event for me would be the dream, but especially the Monte Carlo rally. I would love to get an opportunity to compete in that event.

Who would you love to race alongside?

I’d love to navigate in any WRC event, so I suppose my answer to that would be any of the world rally championship competitors. I have a lot of respect in particular for Sebastien Loeb having a female co-driver , especially when they won Monte Carlo earlier in the year; now that would be an incredible experience.

Would you rather compete in the desert or on the ice?

For me, I’d say the ice. It would be so much fun on the ice getting a bit of sideways action, sliding and skidding around!

If you could be competitive immediately in any other sport what would you choose?

Off-road bikes, enduro’s or motorcross. It’s a sport that I often wish I had got into at a young age but never did as we raced karts. My Dad loves enduro’s, so it would have been cool to have shared the same hobby and passion as him. Maybe one day , you never know!

Would you rather be an extra in an Oscar winning film or be the lead star in a box-office failure?

An extra in an Oscar winning film , it’s great to be part of something that is successful , such a rewarding feeling. It’s all about teamwork at the end of the day!

Rally Co-Drivers can be the unsung heroes of motorsport sometimes so I found this conversation quite interesting as Kirsty detailed how she fell in love with it upon first trying it and how coming from a racing family helped her to pursue this passion. As for partnering up with Loeb for the Monaco Rally at some point in the future, as Kirsty said, who knows?! But I for one think that would be pretty darn cool and worth at least a test drive to see how the two of them would get along!

Thanks again to Kirsty for taking the time to chat and best of luck for the rest of 2022 and beyond.

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