August 8, 2023
Ahead of the Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally this weekend, we speak with Carbon Positive Motorsport Ambassador Hannah McKillop about her time in rallying, her season so far with Jock, and her views on the need to make motorsport more sustainable.
Carbon Positive Motorsport Ambassador: Hannah McKillop co-driving for Jock Armstrong
CPM: Hannah, it is a pleasure to have you join us as a Carbon Positive Motorsport Ambassador this year together with Jock Armstrong. How has your experience of competing with Jock and the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship been so far this year?
HM: Thank you, it really has been a pleasure co-driving for Jock this year. When the opportunity first came about towards the end of last year through Jock's previous co-driver, Cameron Fair, I knew it was a big challenge. However, having met Jock at a few events in 2022, I knew we had a similar mindset and would work well together. Heading to the Snowman rally, we had never sat in a car together before. We went through the notes together the night before, and when we got to the stages, it was like we had been in a car together for years. The notes flowed, and Jock took in every single one and made the Subaru dance, ultimately winning the event!
Since then, we have been on tarmac and back to gravel, securing another win on the Scottish Rally, not without a few last-stage dramas, of course! Going into the last stage of the Scottish Rally, after leading all day, we were joint on time with Finlay Retson; it was all to play for. We set off on the Dalbeattie stage, nearing the end with only five corners to go. It all felt good until we went wide on an 8L and tipped onto our side in the ditch. Miraculously, the car went back onto its wheels, and we drove out of the ditch; that doesn't happen very often. We got through the last 6 corners, got over the finish line, and just looked at each other and laughed; there was nothing more we could do now, presuming we had lost our lead.
What we didn't know was that Finlay had also gone off behind us, but he wasn't lucky enough to get out and was beached. When we arrived back at the finish ramp, we had no idea we had won until the whole team came running over to the car screaming, "you've won!" I don't think I will ever forget that feeling of utter disbelief, happiness, and relief! So, in a nutshell, there's never a dull moment with Jock!
CPM: You must be one of the busiest co-drivers in the UK, with 30 events entered since the start of last year with 14 drivers and 7 different types of cars, I think? How challenging is it to find the time to prepare and adjust to different drivers and events at such a high level?
HM: 30! No wonder I am rarely at home! I wouldn't say any of it is challenging; I love every aspect of the sport, and I am passionate about it, so it never seems like a chore. If anything, as a motorsport events and logistics manager, I really enjoy the pre-event side of things. Preparation is, of course, key, and the more you put in, the more you will get out. Jock spends a fair bit of time on the notes pre-event, and then we sit down together before the event and go through them again. With every driver, the level of input they require from you changes, and it's just about getting to know how they work and what they need from you to get the best out of them. I am very fortunate that I am self-employed, and as well as offering flexibility, it also means I can work in the industry. I do various different things as well as working with the Garry Pearson Rallying team on their pre-event preparations and sometimes on-event. Working with different people in different roles allows me to constantly learn and improve; I am very grateful for that.
Hannah competing with fellow Carbon Positive Motorsport brand ambassador Garry Pearson on this year's Malcolm Wilson Rally.
CPM: This year will be your first competing on the Voyonic Grampian Rally. What do you know of the event, and what are your hopes for it?
HM: I have been to the event two or three times when my husband has been competing but have never been further than the service area, so it is a new rally to me really. I have been watching the DVD of the stages, and I am really looking forward to them; there aren't many bad stages in Scotland, I must say! For us, it is a matter of putting our heads down and concentrating on the championship and, of course, enjoying ourselves in the process.
CPM: What motivated you to start out in rallying?
HM: I have always been involved in rallying through my dad being a mechanic for various Irish drivers such as Desi Henry and Marty McCormack. I, of course, don't remember it, but I was at my first rally when I was just two weeks old, much to my poor mum's disgust! I spent my childhood coming home from ballet lessons, which I loved, and heading straight out to the garage to see what Dad was doing and how I could help. I remember taking apart gearboxes, doing geometry, and of course, the dreaded job of cleaning the inside of a rally car until the small hours many mornings with Dad; I loved it!
We travelled to Italy, France, and all over Ireland for different events. I think that's where my love for travelling must have come from. I always wanted to compete, but I was never brave enough to ask anyone to take me out on an event because I really didn't know what I was doing, although I had spent countless hours in my room watching in-car with Marty McCormack's old pacenotes!
I met my now-husband in late 2013; he was a competitor already and encouraged me to start. It just so happened that my local motorclub, Magherafelt and District MC, at the time were starting a co-driver course hosted by Crawford Henderson, so I went along to that, and a few weeks later, John Rowan paired me up with a driver, and after one single-venue event, the Circuit of Ireland in 2014 was where it all began!
CPM: Final question – and it's looking to the future – how do you see the sport developing in the future, and how important do you think sustainability in our sport will be for its future success?
HM: Developments in the sport in recent years have been noticeable in all areas, from safety to diversity, but particularly in the area of sustainability. If we want the sport to survive, particularly in forests across the UK, it is essential that we are being proactive in reducing our carbon footprint as competitors and organisers.
Photos: UK Motorsport Photography, Ewan Mackenzie, Colin Smith, and Hannah McKillop.
Hannah will be competing on the forthcoming Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally. If you want to join her in offsetting your CO2e, a special discount code - CPMGR23 - has been created to use on Carbon Positive Motorsport's online shop, which will be available for all competitors and spectators to use to carbon offset their event-related travel.
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