From Welsh Road Rallying to the WRC
Nicky Grist has been a firm favourite with Rallyday fans almost from its first event back in 2001.
Born in Ebbw Vale 1961, Nicky eschewed a promising career as a golf professional to go rallying. It all started with the George Ford Pips Rally at Caldicot in a Ford Escort driven by Bryn Wiltshire. Thereafter, Nicky quickly learnt his trade in the ultra-competitive arena of Welsh road rallying to progress into the British Rally Championship within four years, co-driving for several high calibre drivers including Harry Hockley, and Graham Middleton.
It only took until 1989 for Nicky to become a semi-professional co-driver with GM Dealersport alongside the late Dave Metcalfe in a new Nova 1600 in the British Championship. This season had its ups and downs, but a stunning 4th overall on the Manx was the highlight. Also in the team was Malcolm Wilson, and at the end of the season Malcolm offered him with a two-year contract to join him in Q8 Team Ford, competing in a Sierra Sapphire Cosworth 2wd in the British Championships, and overseas events as well as developing the Sierra Sapphire Cosworth 4wd. In 1990 Nicky had his first real experience of the WRC outside the UK with 4 rallies alongside Wilson, and lot more WRC events followed in 1991.
In 1992, Nicky changed teams to Toyota Team Europe where his first job was test and development work. He also competed in his first Safari Rally with Mikael Ericsson finishing fourth and gaining a valuable insight into the workings of a premier league rally team by co-ordinating TTE for the Acropolis and Argentina rallies.Nicky developed into one of the sport’s most natural and successful co-drivers, sustaining a factory team career in the World Rally Championship that lasted from 1992 to 2002, during which he won 21 rallies and stood on the podium 43 times with results scored with more than one driver.
His first WRC win was 1993 Rally Argentina with Juha Kankkunen, who at the time was a three-time WRC champion and Nicky helped him win the 1993 WRC Championship, his fourth, with Toyota. Juna was so impressed with Nicky that he personally bought-out the Welshman’s Mitsubishi contract and they remained together. In 1996 while leading the World Championship after Rally Catalunya, Toyota were found guilty of using expertly engineered but illegal turbo restrictor bypasses on their ST205 cars. The FIA’s 12-month WRC ban saw Kankkunen/Grist competed for four private Toyota teams in 4 WRC events; finishing fourth in Sweden, third in Indonesia, second in Finland but retiring from the RAC Rally. Interestingly, throughout their partnership Juha preferred his pace-notes delivered in English rather than his native Finnish.
In 1997 Nicky joined Colin McRae in the 555 Subaru team for a well-publicised 5-year roller-coaster of rally successes and sometimes, spectacular failures. He remained with McRae's until the 2002 Rally New Zealand, by which time they had scored 17 rally wins and 27 podium finishes, amassing a total of 183 WRC points together. Between 2002 and 2006, the McRae/Grist partnership competed in several miscellaneous one-off WRC rallies for Citroen and Skoda, and a few outings in some of Colin’s own cars, an Escort and Metro 6R4.
Out of the car Nicky has a busy career operating Nicky Grist Motorsport, based near his home in Pontrilas, Herefordshire. In 2006 he became the sole UK distributor of the Italian Stilo range of helmets and intercoms and expanded into safety equipment with an impressive customer portfolio including Petter Solberg, Ken Block, Kris Meeke and Sébastien Loeb, together with many drivers in the racing world. He keeps up to date with all that’s happening in the WRC and loves to share his knowledge and expertise as coach in Motorsports UK Academy. Nicky has given business talks through the Welsh Assembly Government and been a regional judge for F1 in Schools competition. He remains a respected international rallying media pundit.