OMS spends 10 minutes with Kelly Bird, stunt driver
She started driving manual cars at the age of eight and at 19 opened the UK’s only purpose built stunt and precision driving arena. OMS spent 10 minutes with Kelly Bird to find out how she got into stunt driving and whether she manages to hold off on the stunts when she’s on the road.
You grew up in a family of motorsport enthusiasts. Was there ever any doubt about what you would do?
From the age of three I wanted to follow in my Dad’s footsteps and be a stunt driver. Growing up I was the typical girl, changing what I wanted to be every week! I wanted to be a vet, a forensic scientist, even a funeral director but being a stunt driver was always my dream and it always came back to that! With my parents’ careers both being in the motorsport industry, they supported my decision and encouraged me to be involved however they would have completely supported my decision if I decided I wanted a completely different lifestyle.
You started learning the skills needed to become a rally driver at 11. Computer games and children’s toys must have seemed pretty lame in comparison?
I was like any other child growing up; I still played with toys, however from a young age I used to split my time between the girls and the boys! I used to play dolls with the girls some days, then other days I would play with the boys with cars. I remember when the first Play Station came out, my favourite game was Colin McRae Rally! However, my weekends were a little bit different to the typical girls; either karting, riding my quad, rally driving or racing cars!
What age did you start racing?
I started karting from three, as my parents owned a kart track. I began driving at eight, and at 11 years old starting rally driving, then started competing in Rallycross at the age of 14 (the youngest you can compete in Rallycross) in the Junior Rallycross Championship in a 1000cc Rover Mini.
You decided to pursue a career in stunt driving whilst still in school. How did you juggle both and how did you decide which path to take?
I first started training at weekends and school holidays, then when I was trained up I worked weekends at various sites around the country. I managed to balance school/sixth form, work and my social life fairly well, I came out of school with 13 GCSEs then went to Sixth Form and got 4 A Levels, even though I was working on my stunt driving career I still applied for university, which unlike most my age; uni was my back-up plan! I was offered a place at Northumbria University to study Criminology & Forensic Science, however I turned down my place to set up my own business and live my dream.
You opened the UK’s only purpose built stunt and precision driving arena in 2013 at the age of 19. Is there a big demand from the public for learning about stunt driving?
We are the UK’s only purpose built stunt and precision arena, and we are the only one to be open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, this is our full time job, I think that says it all about the demand! Our customers have a lot more freedom of choice of availability by us operating this way, which they obviously like. People buy them as gifts, as it’s something unique and different from the typical experience day.
You deal with members of the public who want a taster of stunt driving. How easy is it to teach stunts to novices and keep them safe at the same time?
It’s as easy as they make it, it’s like anything; if they’re prepared to listen and take advice they can do it. Some people do struggle to do that from a 21 year old girl teaching them to drive, however I can understand why, it can make them feel emasculated! We keep our customers safe by using strong reliable cars like BMW MINIs and Z3s which are fitted with dual controls and emergency cut out switches for the instructors to use if need be. We are also authorised by the IOPD (International Organisation of Professional Drivers), who make sure everything is in check.
What’s the craziest stunt you’ve done?
Driving on two wheels I’d say is fairly crazy. Also filming for a film last year I had to do a hit and run, which was fairly mad having to deliberately drive in to people!
How do you assess whether a stunt is safe to do?
The stunts we teach on our experience days have been carried out thousands of times; again the IOPD check that what we do and teach is safe to do so. On our stunt drive experiences we teach handbrake turns, handbrake parallel parking, donuts, j turns and driving on two wheels, all these are done in cars fitted with dual controls and emergency cut out switches and the car used for two wheeling has a stabiliser on the side to prevent it tipping over. Stunt driving does have its risks, especially with film and TV work, as they are at higher speeds and more precision to make them look more impressive, hence when I am performing stunts I make sure I am 100% comfortable with the car first, I have being doing this a while now so I do have experience behind me.
You like going fast and you like testing your limits. Is it difficult to keep yourself in check on the roads?
Not at all. Believe it or not, I’m a really sensible driver on the road. I get my adrenaline rush at work so there’s no need to try on the roads; it’s not worth risking my licence, I have too much to lose!