IN exactly seven days’ time Daniel Barritt will be in Monaco, savouring the fact that he is now living some of the most special moments of his rally career.
It is a glamorous location for the first event of the World Rally Championship, which the Barrowford navigator returns to on a full-time basis this year with Welsh driver Elfyn Evans.
Nearby will be Robert Kubica, back in the same garages in Monte Carlo where he once competed in Formula 1, and now competing for the same M-Sport team as Barritt.
Also close at hand will be Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, the reigning world rally champion.
“This has to be one of the highlights of my career,” says Barritt, who will be competing in a Ford Fiesta RS.
“We’ll be competing against all the big names in a top team, in what I think is the best car I’ve been in.
“We finish the rally in Monte Carlo. The services are in the marina, in the pits they use for Formula 1, and then we go up into the mountains for the final stages. It’s a pretty spectacular background.
“It’s the oldest rally in the world, so it’s one of the most special to be involved in.”
The rally first took place in 1911 and will start on Thursday in the French village of Orpierre before winding its way through the Alps to the coast.
The World Championship comprises of 13 events and Barritt has competed in them all, having been one of Britain’s top navigators for a decade.
He had a full season in the championship was in 2009 with Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and admits the chance to compete in far-flung places across the globe is one he relishes – despite the time he will spend away from his family.
“I’ve got a wife and a young child and I do miss them, but I’m only away for about a week at a time,” Barritt said.
“With the internet and video technology I can see them most days.
“This won’t last forever so I’ve got to take the opportunity to do it while it’s there.
“After this we go to Sweden and then the first long trip of the year to Mexico, which is a pretty special one.
“You start in a city (Guanajuato) and there are hundreds of thousands lining the streets. The atmosphere is incredible “I’ve been to a lot of places that I didn’t think I would ever get a chance to go when I was growing up – places like China, Japan, Argentina and Chile.
“I’m very fortunate.”
But there are risks attached with competing at the top level of world rallying.
“For sure it’s dangerous,” Barritt admits.
“The top speed isn’t that high, probably 115mph or 120mph, but when you’re going along forest tracks in the mud at over 100mph it can be quite dangerous. I suppose that is part of the thrill of it.
“Touch wood in my 10 years or so I haven’t had anything serious so far.
“The worst one was probably in Finland in 2009 when we left the road and went into the trees. That was a really bad accident to be honest.
“The car was a mess but they have a lot of special safety features and thankfully we were okay.”
Both Barritt and Evans were inspired to take up rallying by their fathers.
Evans, 24, is following in the footsteps of dad Gwyndaf, a former British rally champion.
Barritt’s father Dave has been a respected presence in East Lancashire motor sport for many years, acting as president of the Clitheroe and District Motor Club.
“My dad took part in local rallies and when I was 16 he was driving in a rally and asked me if I wanted to do a bit of navigating,” Barritt said “It all went from there, I sort of fell into it really. I never expected to get this far.
“It was a hobby, but as you start to get to a higher level you want to get further.
“It becomes like an addition.”
Barritt admits he is more suited to navigating than to driving, and spends time before events carefully preparing pacenotes so he can call out details of the route ahead when Evans is at the wheel.
“There is an amount of skill to navigate but you need even more skill to be a driver,” he said.
“I knew quite early on that I didn’t have what it took to be a top driver.
“But navigating has changed a lot. The pacenotes used to be everything but now other things are important too, you have to be very organised and time management is really important.
“A lot of the work is done at home before I leave.
“It’s not like a racetrack where there are only 20 corners and you can memorise them.
“It’s 400km and thousands of corners, so it is about having the pacenotes and being able to use them.”
Highlights of each event in the World Championship will be shown on ITV4 and Barritt admits the Rallye Monte Carlo will be one of the toughest of the year.
“On some of the stages it can be dry at the bottom of the mountain and then you go up to the top there’s snow, so it’s about choosing the right tyres as a compromise,” he said.
“It’s possibly the most difficult rally because of that.
“But a lot of the rallies are in the mountains at 1,000m above sea level, so we’ve been practising on snow and ice.”