Meet the rally driver Letisha Conn.
Rally loving teenager.
Sarah: Introduce yourself to Drivetribe
Letisha: Hi, I'm Letisha “Tish” Conn. I'm 15 year old rally driver from Markethill in Co.Armagh, Northern Ireland. I started to compete in karting at the age of 8 and won the Honda Cup with Leinster Kart Club.
Sarah: What age were you when you first got behind the wheel?
Letisha: I was seven when I first got behind the wheel of a kart on Christmas Eve in a Honda Cadet kart that my dad had helped Michael Hyde run in. The track was white with frost and I had a few spins, but I loved it! That’s when the love of driving started!
Sarah: What was the next step for you after that?
Letisha: I started racing with the Tullyallen Kart Club but at the first race the only other girl in the race spun just in front of me and I didn't have time to react. The impact caused my kart to flip and land upside down on top of her. It resulted in a few nights stay in hospital and then 9 months with no karting or horse riding. On my first day back at the same track in the same kart (after it was rebuilt of course!) and 4 laps in I set my fastest ever lap!
Sarah: What was your first rally car?
Letisha: My first rally car was my Mini Cup Car and we have a model replica of it at home. I’m only 15 so still a couple years off a legal road car!
Sarah: What first caught your attention about rallying?
Letisha: I have always had a love for it, especially having grown up around it and started karting at 8 years old. I also enjoyed watching it on TV and also going to spectate at rallies with my dad. The main thing that caught my attention about rallying was watching the passion of those who were competing. One of my idols that I look up to is Colin McRae and seeing the passion that he had was unbelievable and I wanted to be able to have that same passion for driving and competing.
Sarah: What age were you then?
Letisha: I was 12 when rallying first caught my attention properly and I took a more serious interest in the sport.
Sarah: What made you think, you could actually compete in rallying?
Letisha: I have had amazing support from my family, friends and sponsors from when I started in karting. They all saw the passion I had in the karting and also my skills and abilities behind the wheel so when I moved into the Mini Cup Car their support helped in making me believe in myself that I could compete in rallying. As well as that, my dad had always set my kart up loose when I was driving it so there would be movement in the kart because it was all seat time to get me used to the movement that would be in a rally car.
My dad is my biggest supporter and he is one of the main reasons that helped me to believe in myself that I could actually do it and I would not be where I am today without him.
Sarah: What was your first rally car?
Letisha: My Mini Cup Car was my first rally car that I competed in at the Rallysport Association events. I then moved to my 1000cc Citroen C1 that I used to compete in my first closed road rally in the Irish Forestry Championship.
Sarah: Why did you pick the car that you have now?
Letisha: We chose the Citroen C1 as we needed a 1000cc car to meet the requirements and regulations to compete in the Irish Forestry J000 Rally Championship. We also use this car to compete in the Scottish Junior 1000 Ecosse Championship as the requirements are similar with regards engine capacity and specifications of the car.
Sarah: From being both a spectator and a competitor at rallying events, what are the good side bad sides of each?
Letisha: I love helping out and watching at the Rallysport Association events because it is like one big family and it is such family friendly organisation. There are no bad sides to spectating and helping out at the events. The only downside I would probably say is that the weather isn’t always on our side!
As a competitor, that buzz and adrenaline rush you get from wanting to win and push the car to its limits is an unbelievable feeling, I can’t even describe it! As I’m only new to closed road rallying, as a young competitor, there are so many other competitors who want to see you succeed and they’ll come over and give you some advice after the Driver’s Briefing or in Parc Ferme before heading out onto the first stage. It really is like having one big family in rallying.
As for a downside to being a competitor, everyone has their good and bad days when they’re out competing. I know what that’s like having landed in a ditch competing in my first forestry rally in Carrick-on-Suir in Co.Tipperary but I look back at that as a learning curve and analyse how I could have done things differently but not dwell on what has happened. I know every day out competing might not be a good day or go as planned. As they say… “That’s Rallying!” There are so many possible setbacks in rallying but you have to remember to take the positives from every experience and grow from your experiences.
Sarah: Best aspect of rallying for you personally?
Letisha: Personally, the best thing about rallying is all of the people I’ve met and all of the new friends I’ve made from all over Ireland and the UK! I’ve had so many other girls of all ages that compete in rallying come up to me at events and start chatting to me and giving me advice and checking up on me during a rally to make sure I’m okay, it’s great to see all the support everyone gives each other.
Sarah: If could change one thing about rallying, what would it be?
Letisha: If I could change one thing about rallying it would be that Forestry Rallies were run every weekend because until I turn 17 I can only compete in the J1000 Irish Forestry Championship series, I can’t compete in tarmac rallies in Ireland yet and they are more frequent than forestry rallies. I’d love to be out every weekend if I could.
Sarah: Who are the friends you've made through rallying?
Letisha: I have made so many friends through motorsport, too many to name to be honest! But my absolute rally best friend is Molly Kerr! One of my best friends, both on and off the stages!
Sarah: Have you got any advice for anyone wanting to get into rallying?
Letisha: The advice I would give to someone starting out in rallying would be to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid of failing, don’t be afraid of not meeting your expectations first time around. Everyone has to start somewhere and once you start it is all progress towards your goals. Even the best rally drivers in the world have their off days but they bounce back from them and learn from those experiences. The most important thing is just to enjoy yourself and have fun!
Sarah: Are you glad/happy you got into rallying? Why?
Letisha: I’m so happy that I got into rallying! Having the opportunities there to be able to compete are just a dream come true. It is so much fun to be out rallying with the atmosphere at the events, the people I’ve met along the way so far who have helped me in chasing my dreams and I’ve made so many friends from rallying that I wouldn’t have met if I wasn’t competing.
Sarah: One thing you dislike about rallying?
Letisha: The accidents/incidents that come along with rallying. There was one incident in Scotland when I was competing in the Scottish Junior 1000 Ecosse Championship but probably the less said about it the better!
Sarah: Tell us a random fact about your rallying career to date?
Letisha: On my first closed road rally at Round 1 Irish Forestry Championship in Carrick on Suir I was 4th fastest on my first every gravel stage.
Sarah: Have rallied with some world famous rally drivers? If so, who?
Letisha: I have competed in some of the same rallies as the 2018 Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson. I got chatting with James in Parc Ferme the morning of my first forest rally and he gave me some advice before heading out!
Sarah: Who do you look up to/inspires you in motorsport?
Letisha: My biggest inspiration is my dad, Stevo the Legend! He drives a car to its absolute limit and quite often over it! He is my biggest supporter and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. After we went off at my first forest rally, the minute we got back into service he came running over with the biggest smile on his face and gave me a hug because he was so proud of me…even if I did land the little C1 in a ditch!
Sarah: You’ve an endless amount of money for a new rally car. What would it be and why?
Letisha: With an endless amount of money, I would definitely choose a brand new R5 car. One for me and one for my dad!
Sarah: When it's time for retirement, what do you want to be remembered for in the rallying world?
Letisha: I want to be remembered for just pushing to the absolute limit, Colin McRae Style! I would also like to say a special thanks to my sponsors. Dalzells , Gordon Automotive Services , CC Automotive , Milwaukee UK , Cycleology , Cup and Cone , Steven Armstrong Rally Prep , MightE , Campbell Fuels , Protosport , Lewis Tower Crane Services , Rock Tool Hire , Dessies Ltd , Victoria Bar , Tassagh Steel Works , Moto Merchants Ltd
I would also like to thank Ian Crosbie, all of Patterson Motorsport, Jordan Murphy (my co-driver), Hannah Power, Ian Newport, my parents and everyone who has helped me along the way!
A big thanks goes to Letisha for doing this interview, she is certainly a rally driver to keep an eye on