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Teenage rally ace Jacob looks set to motor after winning silverware

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: January 30, 2014

By Dave McLean

  • STAR OF THE FUTURE . . young Stafford rally driver Jacob Watts in his Nissan Micra 1000 rally car and with the Silverstone Junior Championship trophy.

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AN 18 year old rally champion, impossible. Not if you are Stafford's Jacob Watts it isn't!

But, who would have expected their grandparents to buy a rally experience voucher for his 11th birthday. That's just what Watts' grandparents did.

Like most young lads he already had an interest in cars and motor sport. So off he went to enjoy this rally experience and found himself being strapped into an MGZR International specification 1400 cc group N rally car.

There are minimum height restrictions for anyone taking up this type of experience and Watts was only just big enough. Even so, he had to sit on two cushions and had a rolled up jacket behind his back.

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Sitting beside Watts was John Devenport, a (Motor Sports Association) instructor who had also been a rally competitor for over 40 years.

Bearing in mind that Watts had never driven anything before, Devenport said: "Within a few minutes Jacob was pulling away smoothly and changing up to second gear on the gravel stage at Mallory Park.

The car also did not have dual controls.and by the end of the day Jacob was completing handbrake turns and slaloms neatly and accurately."

Now bitten by the bug, Watts had two more rally experience days over the next 12 months. At the end of that year, Devenport told him he had reached the maximum skill taught at the venue.

Some 18 months down the line, Devenport assumed an instructor role at the infamous Silverstone Rally School (SRS) which was planning to launch a Junior Rally Driver Academy. He passed the Academy information on to Watts' family and Devenport, together with Andy Johnson the owner of SRS continued training and coaching the young driver for the next two years.

"I had seen him develop into a safe but quick driver with excellent car control, whether it be a Ford Ka or one of the School Mk2 Escorts. I have sat next to hundreds of people in rally cars and Watts is at, or very near, the top of them all in skills and expertise as well as having a maturity far beyond his years," said Devenport.

So, in 2012, Watts entered the Silverstone Junior Rally Championship, with Devenport beside him, and duly won that series of rallies.

It was not however totally plain sailing in so much as on one round, at Blyton Park in Lincolnshire, Watts lost a lot of time on the first stage.

He found himself two minutes and 30 seconds down. But he slowly clawed his way back into contention to win the event and the championship. What is more impressive is that all competitors in the junior championship have cars of equal power.

In 2013, Watts entered his first senior stage rally championship, The Kingsway Insurance Heart of England, an eight round series of rallies spread throughout the Midlands area.

Entered in the up to 1400 class, the smallest class, Watts realistically had no chance of the overall win.

He did however, on talent alone, manage to finish an excellent seventh overall in the championship, second overall in the up to 1400 cc class and win outright the under 25 driver award.

The former Blessed William Howard student is now studying Motorsport Technology in Cannock.

Doxey-based Chevron Motor Sports, Irwin Insolvency of Sutton Coldfield and part-box.com of Halesowen have all each provided Watts with sponsorship.

No rally crew can compete on events without the support of a service crew.

This is one area in which Watts is the envy of the paddock because, as part of his crew, there are two girls, Sophie Timmis and Sophie Giles, both of whom are taking the same college course.

Even cousin Kingsley Jones travels down from Carlisle to assist in servicing the rally car. Last but not least ,Watts has his granddad and mum doing the organising behind the scenes.

At Watts' actual first official on-the-road driving lesson, the teenager did not tell his driving instructor that he had been driving for three years and won silverware as a rally driver.

All he said was that he could drive but he had no road experience!

Watts is looking to attract sponsorship to fund his fast progression up through the ranks. Any such sponsorship should reap its rewards as it It would not be a surprise to see him, in two or three years time, knocking on the doors of the World Rally Championship teams.

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