Bishop Aukland-born Guy Wilks is a double British Rally Champion and owner of KNE – one of the longest and most challenging Go-Karting tracks in the UK. He has also become North East Times’ motoring correspondent. Here, he talks about how his obsession with rallying began, how he is encouraging a new generation of drivers and why, for him, speed it’s not all about speed.
For Guy Wilks and his three brothers, a passion for motoring was instilled in them from at early age. Their father ran a number of petrol garages and car dealerships across the North East, meaning the brothers were always around vehicles and learning how engines worked.
As a child, Guy became obsessed with cars and, in particular, rallying.
“From the of age of five it was all I wanted to watch on television,” says Guy. “I loved the speed and the excitement of it.”
It wasn’t, however, until the age of 19 that the rally-obsessed Guy tried the sport. He saved up to take his Motor Sports Association Rally Licence Assessment Exam, which all aspiring rally drivers need to progress in the sport.
“I was lucky; the tutor on the day was a good friend of Colin McRae and straight away he said, ‘we have to get you competing’.”
In 2000, in his first year of competitive racing, Guy became Ford Ka Junior Champion, and was offered a contract with Ford. He became a professional rally driver in 2003 and over the next eight years competed for teams all over world, in the Junior World Championship, British Rally Championship and World Rally Championship – twice becoming British Rally Champion (2007 and 2008).
In mid-2010, Guy broke his back after a crash in the final stages of the Rally d’Italia Sardegna and couldn’t drive for two and a half months. The event confirmed for Guy the need for him to look beyond his professional motoring career and invest his earning in a long-lasting business venture (joining his brothers who, by then, all had businesses of their own).
Around that time, Karting North East came up for sale and Guy purchased the 1.2km go-karting track, located just outside Sunderland. The purchase proved fortuitous as a move to Peugeot unexpectedly curtailed his rallying career.
“Peugeot had some problems globally,” explains Guy. “The company had to cut a lot of their activities and rallying was one of them.”
This left Guy with time to develop his karting business and over the next three years, he and his team at the rebranded KNE worked to create a fun yet professional motor racing experience, with quality facilities and state-of-the-art machinery.
KNE, which offers go-karting, 4×4 off-roading, Rage buggy rallying, paint-balling, archery and tomahawk throwing, is now extremely popular with a range of social and corporate groups – as well as the next generation of motorsport professionals.
For Guy, encouraging talented young drivers in a cost-effective way is important.
“Everyone knows motor sport is expensive and so we offer the junior race league and ‘arrive and drive’, which enables youngsters to experience karting without their parents having to fork out thousands of pounds on equipment.”
While KNE continues to thrive, the father of two has been enticed back into competitive motorsport and, once a month, races for JRM’s Mini team in the FIA World Rallycross Championships.
“I’ve never raced competitively on a circuit surrounded by other drivers before,” he says. “I’m really enjoying it.”
In his most recent role as motoring correspondent for North East Times, Guy will be putting some of the latest road cars to the test. And while he talks affectionately about the Porsche 911 he owned in his twenties – “it’s the only borderline supercar you can use every day” – Guy is keen to stress that, for him, it’s not all about fast sports cars.
“I don’t need to drive fast on the road; I get that thrill from motor racing. I’m really interested in everything that’s out there, from practical SUVs to electric cars. These past few years, there’s so much coming on to the market. Technology is moving fast; certain brands have come a long way and their products are very good.”
Guy concludes: “I’m looking forward to driving a wide range of cars for North East Times. It’s going to be an interesting journey.”
KNE (Karting North East) is located at Warden Law Motorsport Centre, Sunderland, SR3 2PR
0191 521 4050
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