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Dedication fuels Ross Wylie on road to racing succes

Ross Wylie readily acknowledges that he would not be one of Scotland's rising stars of motor racing had it not been for the support and succour of his parents, Brian and Veronica, who have backed his fast life with a steeliness which must be in the family's DNA.

IN GOOD COMPANY:  Ross Wylie, who was invited  to join the British Racing Drivers Club as a Rising Star last year, is pictured here with former F1 driver Mark Webber
IN GOOD COMPANY: Ross Wylie, who was invited to join the British Racing Drivers Club as a Rising Star last year, is pictured here with former F1 driver Mark Webber

The 22-year-old from Thornhill, near Dumfries, has demonstrated his prodigious talent repeatedly en route to taking the lead, along with his co-driver Jake Giddings, in the British GT4 Championship. They have the opportunity to close in still further on the title when they contest the penultimate round of the competition at Brands Hatch this weekend.

Scottish drivers have stamped their imprimatur all over the pit and paddock since the days of Innes Ireland, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart, but life has grown more difficult for the new generation, given the financial constraints which followed the recession in the noughties. Yet, there was something massively impressive about the manner in which Wylie made his debut at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last month, where he recorded a victory and a second place to extend his advantage in the title battle to 19 points.

There are no easy routes to success in these jousts. Wylie has worked incredibly hard on all aspects, including strength and conditioning, and transforming himself into the sort of lean, mean fighting machine who will never fall short because of his own failings. He is a driven individual but also a genial, engaging character in a pursuit where egos often run rampant. Much of that springs from his acceptance that he has been helped by those closest to him.

"I am on a great path with Beechdean Aston Martin Racing but, in order to continue my journey to the highest level, I need to work hard on securing a sponsorship deal," said Wylie. "My parents could have had so much more from life but instead, have dedicated themselves to supporting my career, so, hopefully, I can gain enough backing to make my dream of [competing in] Le Mans come true.

"For me, this isn't just a sport or hobby; it is a way of life. I eat, sleep and breathe racing and, to be at the top of your game, that is the level of commitment which is required. My efforts, on and off the track, haven't gone unnoticed because, at the end of last year, I was invited to join the British Racing Drivers Club as a Rising Star, which is arguably the most exclusive club in motor racing. But I know I have to keep setting myself higher standards."

Considering he is in his rookie campaign in the GT championship, this is a fellow who's Wylie by name and wily by nature. Whatever strategies or tactics his team have employed, he has remained as cool as Antarctica and that phlegmatic approach to dealing with triumph and tristesse underlines why seasoned observers have tipped him for grander prizes in the future. For the moment, though, he has one priority in his mind.

"It has been a big learning curve and a completely different concept of racing, which has involved sharing a car with a team-mate rather than competing against him and taking part in longer endurance events," said Wylie. "Jake and I have gelled well and we are certainly in a great position at the top of the table. We just have to focus on each race and, if we do that, the championship will take care of itself."

There's no arrogance in Wylie's make-up; just a realism that time waits for no-one in and around the pit and paddock and opportunities have to be seized. Whether excelling on circuits across Britain or Europe, he recognises the best means of selling himself to would-be sponsors is to surge clear of his rivals.

"I am loving it at the moment. In the longer term, I want to win the Le Mans 24-Hour race and, at some point in my career, race in the United States, but the first thing is to push for another win at Brands Hatch," said Wylie. "GT and sports cars appeal massively to me, and the thought of racing in front of 260,000 people in France genuinely thrills me and I feel it is a realistic goal. Coming from Thornhill, it's terrific having Allan McNish [a three-time winner of the classic event] to look up to and he's great at encouraging me."

One suspects there are plenty more memorable locations in his sights before Wylie reaches the end of his road trip.

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