In the next of our ambassador features, we speak to Ashleigh Morris, the current Scottish Ladies Rally Champion.
Together with co-driver Martin Haggett and the FJ-RS Engineering team, led by Howard Potter, they must be some of the most travelled competitors in the Scottish Rally Championship, travelling to each of the Scottish events from their base near Rugby in England - and in Martin’s case all the way from Stuttgart in Germany!
The Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally represents not only another long journey north, but also one year of Ashleigh being a brand ambassador for Carbon Positive Motorsport, an anniversary she shares with current British Rally Champion Matt Edwards.
We speak to Ashleigh about her championship-winning year, her ambitions for the years ahead, and her dedication to helping make motorsport and the environment sustainable for future generations to enjoy.
CPM: Ashleigh, it is a pleasure to have you speak with us for our ambassador feature. You have been the most incredible support to us in our first year – what makes you so committed to helping raise awareness of our initiative and to offset your event-based carbon emissions?
AM: Thank you. I’m really passionate about protecting our planet and conscious of the impact motorsport can have, so partnering with Carbon Positive Motorsport was a natural fit for me.
It’s important to me to do what I can to offset my carbon footprint and make motorsport more sustainable, ensuring a sustainable future for our sport and our planet. I’m really proud to be part of such an important initiative which has achieved so much in such a short space of time.
CPM: Last year you became Scottish Ladies Rally Champion – What gave you the most satisfaction in that achievement, and why is it so important to you to champion and encourage more women to get involved in Motorsport?
AM: I grew up in Scotland and being able to compete on the events I used to spectate at is really special. I hoped to start the SRC in 2020 but covid had other plans so last year was my first season. I was really proud to win the ladies’ title in my first year and I think it’s important for young girls to see more women taking part in motorsport at all levels and to support each other. There weren’t many female role models in the sport when I was growing up.
I’m also a member of the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club, which this year celebrates its Diamond Jubilee. The club was created to support and promote women in motorsport and it’s fantastic to be able to help give women in motorsport greater visibility.
CPM: This year we know overall class honours have been your main target - how has your season been going, and what’s been your highlight so far?
AM: The season has been very up and down this year! We started off strongly at the Snowman before breaking down at the Speyside, getting a puncture at the Jim Clark and ending up in a ditch at Argyll!
One of my highlights was the Snowman where we finished 3rd in class and it was my best class result on gravel and overall in the SRC since I started competing in the championship last year.
Argyll was a highlight in terms of the progress made compared to last year. We lost a bit of time with a stage maximum after the ditch incident but the pace had improved significantly since the previous year which was my first closed road rally. So a lot of positives to take from what was a very tricky event.
It was also a real honour to be asked to compete in the McRae Rally Challenge at Knockhill in July – the event commemorates Colin becoming the youngest ever World Rally Champion. I co-drove in the event the last time it took place in 2015, and never would have imagined I would get to compete as a driver the next time it ran.
CPM: You’re well respected for your professional approach to the sport, and the focus you put on constantly developing your driving skills - what makes you so dedicated and positive in your approach even when setbacks happen?
AM: I really just have such a love for the sport, and I’m very driven to do my best at everything I do, whether that’s rallying or work.
I have had setbacks over the years – I rolled the car at Knockhill in December 2018 and it was a big team effort to get back out for the next rally six weeks later. Getting sponsors is also a huge ongoing challenge and takes up a lot of time.
There have also been times when I’ve had a few accidents in a season and people make comments and it can make you doubt yourself, but equally it makes me want to prove any doubters wrong and get back out there.
CPM: We mentioned in our introduction just how far the whole Ashleigh Morris Rallying team travel to compete in the SRC - it must put huge demands on you all both with time and financially. What makes you so committed to competing in your home country?
AM: I felt drawn to competing in the SRC when I was making the switch from circuit rallying to closed road rallies and gravel events. I grew up in Scotland and when I first got into rallying it was watching SRC events and that’s where my passion for the sport really started so to be able to compete on those stages myself is incredible.
The SRC also has a great mix of events with some of the best gravel rallies in the country as well a couple of closed road rallies. Competing in the Jim Clark Rally has been on my bucket list for years and it was amazing to take part in such an iconic event with so much history.
My family are still based in Scotland so it also provides a great chance to spend some time with them up in Scotland!
CPM: Looking ahead to this weekend’s Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally - it’s now your second time competing on the event, how have your prepared for it?
AM: We were out testing last week at Walters Arena which was great. I haven’t done many events on gravel so it’s helpful to get as much seat time as possible.
As we did the event last year it’s been useful to go back over the onboard footage from then. Other than that it’s just been taking time to go through the videos and pacenotes since SRC competitors don’t get to recce this event.
CPM: Like a few other of our ambassadors, you're planning to launch your own co-branded ‘Positive About Motorsport’ clothing collection made from 100% recycled materials. You have been a big fan of the range and a proportion of sales profits go to good causes – who will you be supporting?
AM: I’ve chosen to support SAMH - the Scottish Association for Mental Health. SAMH is the Scottish Rally Championship’s chosen charity and it’s so important people have access to the right mental health support, especially with so many struggling after lockdowns over the past few years.
CPM: Final question, what are your ambitions in the sport for the coming years?
AM: I plan to continue in the SRC next year but looking forward there are some fantastic single-make, manufacturer-run championships in Europe which I would love to take part in.
In the long-term I plan to continue to champion women in motorsport, as well as work on how we can make our sport more sustainable for future generations.
It only costs a little to make a big difference for the sport, so whether you're a competitor or spectator, why not join with us to help make motorsport sustainable.
To become Carbon Positive yourself, visit our website www.carbonpositivemotorsport.com