Saturday | 23 May 2020

Co-driver week: Scott Martin profile

One man had more to celebrate than most at the end of February’s Rally Sweden. Scott Martin finally landed membership of the most illustrious co-drivers’ club in the world. Before the Torsby event started it had 96 members. When it finished, there were 97.

The Englishman’s Swedish success made him the 97th co-driver to win a WRC round.

The genuine delight at Martin’s victory alongside Elfyn Evans from all corners of the service park was a mark of his popularity among crews and teams.

He and Evans came within a whisker of winning in Corsica last year, only for their Ford Fiesta to fall foul of a final-stage pothole. On round two this season, the Brits avoided all potholes – metaphorical and physical – to steer their Toyota Yaris to the top of the podium.

Video: Scott Martin's maiden win

An obsession with cycling and football – not to mention the mountain air that surrounds his Andorra home – help keep Martin looking young and fit. So it comes as a surprise that he’s been on the notes for almost two decades.

“I started in 2001,” said Martin, “but I’d been interested in rallying and cars for pretty much my whole life. My father worked in the motor trade and he’d taken me to some local events when I was younger. When I was at school, I had the dream of being a footballer, but cars kind of took over.”

Fortunately, there was a family friendship with another Cumbrian clan. Malcolm Wilson had started running Ford’s WRC effort and Martin jumped at the chance to join what was then Malcolm Wilson Motorsport, but would soon become M-Sport.

“I started in August 1998,” said Scott. “When everybody was off to sixth form, I started work as a rally mechanic. After my three-month trial period, I moved to the transmission department and stayed there until I left M-Sport in 2005.”

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin were unrivalled in Sweden

As well as working with the Wilsons, Scott developed a strong bond with Wilson Jr, Matthew.

Martin continues: “As you could expect, Matthew was around cars from an early age and whenever he was driving something around the field, I’d jump in and eventually we started practising making pace notes.

“Once Matthew started competing in T Cars (a British race series for under 17s) I was there with him and the friendship just continued to grow. I’d co-driven on a fair few events in the first couple of years and when the chance came to co-drive for Matthew in 2004, I jumped at the chance.”

The following season, the pair were both injured when they crashed out of the lead of the Rally of Wales. That was just part of what would be a shocking season for Scott.

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A few months later, back in the car having recovered, they came to the 2005 Rally GB – an event stopped early following the accident which killed Michael ‘Beef’ Park. Park had played a big part in Martin’s development.

“That was really hard,” he said. “Losing Beef was massive. Obviously he and Markko [Märtin] had driven for M-Sport for a few years and, even when I was just a mechanic, they were great and they’d throw me in the car for the last couple of runs when they were doing tyre development or something.

“But then gradually, Beef started to get me to read the notes. He was just always there, always there for the prep before an event and on the events themselves. He was somebody you could always talk to.”

Martin took time away from the top of the sport, but was back with Wilson for 2008 and stayed there for the next four years, until Wilson switched from driving to managing Bentley’s race team.

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A season with Khalid Al-Qassimi introduced Martin to his first factory team outside of M-Sport, working at Citroën Racing through to 2013. The French influence remained when he joined Craig Breen for the Irishman’s ERC-based Peugeot Rally Academy drive in 2014.

Two years later, when Breen signed for Citroën, Martin was welcomed back to Versailles with open arms and the pair remained a popular fixture among the Red Army from 2016 until 2018.

Ahead of the 2019 season, with Breen’s Hyundai deal not quite done, there was an opportunity to join Elfyn Evans for what would be Scott’s first full WRC season since 2011. He took it, but didn’t get that full season after the Welshman suffered a back injury in Estonia and was ruled out of three rounds.

Martin joined Elfyn Evans in 2019 at M-Sport Ford

“And now this,” said Martin, from home. “I was really, really thinking I’d get the full season this time, but I’ll have to wait until next year for that.”

He and Evans have become an immediate hit at Toyota. They came close to winning the season-opener in Monte-Carlo before that Sweden success and the championship lead.

“That was amazing,” said Martin. “I’ve waited a while for the win, but to be leading the championship into Mexico was really nice as well. From the start, everything settled in quickly with Elfyn – obviously I knew M-Sport and they knew me.

“Moving to Toyota was a big thing for both of us, but the whole team has been fantastic and really made us welcome. Just be nice to get back in the car again sometime soon!”