32-year-old holly bailey is a one-off. A female in the very male-dominated world of rallying, her grit and determination to go against the grain have served her well throughout her career, leading to a rich life full of fantastic experiences - if not a Michael Schumacher bank balance (yet!).

Holly went to an all-girl grammar school, having gone into care with foster parents at the age of 15. Her route into rallying was, shall we say, unorthodox. Against the advice of her art teacher, she wanted to become a graphic designer - and her decision was vindicated as she achieved a good grade at GCSE and studied graphic design at college for three years. This rebellious streak has served Holly well throughout her life.

After battling to get funding from social services to complete her course, Holly temped in factories and offices, and got experience doing accounts work. Doesn't sound quite like the wild child, but all the while Holly had been doing up her own car: a multi-coloured Mini Clubman she bought for £10 from a friend's mum!

So, you may be asking yourselves, how did the rallying thing come about? Holly started going out with a guy who was a mechanic in Formula 3000, which meant she started going to circuits. But it was the rally cars, rather than the single-seaters, that caught her eye once when she was marshalling. "It just looked so much more exciting than track racing," she says. So, Holly cancelled the singing lessons she'd signed up for and started training as a driver.

She started by co-driving in historic rallying and sprints, in which you can throw around your standard road car. Holly went along with her Nova, borrowing a set of tyres from a man she met there, and came third in class. She also enjoyed Autocross, in which a track is set out over fields and - depending on the weather - lighter, lower powered cars can do just as well as big, four-wheel drives.

Holly has now joined the British Rally Championship. This year she built her car from scratch, though not without the help of a team of female engineering students. Her flair for graphic design and experience in accounts, coupled with a qualification she got along the way in marketing, helped her secure sponsorship from the lingerie company Pretty Polly after she designed a mailshot targeting potentially interested businesses.

She is into outdoor sports that don't involve motors too, regularly going rock-climbing and abseiling. In fact, thinking beyond a career in rallying, Holly is training for a stunt licence. Apparently there's a shortage of women who can do driving stunts, but of course, this is second nature to Holly. She even worked on the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, recently!

"It's taken me a while to find my vocation, but it's been well worth it! Careers advisers would tell us to become a secretary, but that was never for me. There are so many opportunities out there just waiting for the right person that you can never imagine exist. Think outside the box and don't be afraid of trying anything, and you're sure to succeed. Talk to people who know and don't listen to those who don't!"


Does Holly's career path sound like fun to you? If you'd like help and support - especially if you're interested in getting into driving or race engineering - you can contact her via pollygirls@hotmail.co.uk. For general advice on careers in motorsport, try the Motorsport Academy at www.motorsportacademy.org