AFTER being given a motorbike at the age of three and then taught to drive in a field at the ripe old age of ten, there was never any doubt that motor vehicles would play a major part in Ryan Champion's life.

That encouragement, coupled with a number of years experience in the sport of rallying, will ensure that the 25-year-old part-time rally school tutor from Castleton, near Whitby, will be a major contender for honours when the Peugeot Super 106 Cup eventually gets underway this season.

The eight-round international series for identical specification Peugeot 106 GTIs was scheduled to get underway last weekend in Wales, but concerns over the foot-and-mouth epidemic forced the postponement of the Wrexham Rally.

Action should now commence at the end of next month with the Pirelli Rally, based in Carlisle.

Born to parents both actively involved in motor sport, with father Rick a top class rally driver and mother Joyce still active on the maps as a co-driver, Ryan joined Whitby and District Motor Club at the age of 14. He cut his teeth in the sport as a co-driver before taking to the wheel soon after his 17th birthday.

In his first full year, Ryan competed in the 1993 Peugeot 309 GTI Rally Challenge, becoming the youngest winner of a round as well as the youngest ever finalist for the Shell Oils Rally Scholarship.

More success followed a year later when he won the Peugeot Junior Rally Championship, beating the likes of World Championship driver Richard Burns and factory Peugeot driver Justin Dale.

In 1995, Champion made the move into the prestigious British Rally Championship and over the next few seasons won a reputation as one of the country's brightest prospects by beating a number of established stars, firstly in his Subaru Impreza and latterly in a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Indeed, in his first ever attempt at the classic Rally of Great Britain in 1998, Ryan was heading for a top 20 finish when suspension failure on the final day robbed him of his best ever result.

But the youngster's achievements had not gone unnoticed and he was selected as a finalist in the Ford-sponsored Find a Rally Driver of the Future competition.

However, the substantially increased costs of competing in Britain's premier rally series, coupled with a lack of sponsorship, meant the team had to take a step backwards last year.

So Ryan decided to contest the ultra-competitive Peugeot 106 Super Cup which, as one of its prizes, provided the winner with the chance to drive a works car the following season.

Despite leading four out of the final six rounds of the championship in 2000, various technical problems again robbed Ryan of his chance to prove himself on the biggest stage.

But with a year's experience now under his belt in the series, fireworks are expected from both him and experienced co-driver Cliff Simmons this season.

With up to 40 cars contesting each round, the competition is expected to be fierce.

And if talent, attitude, professionalism and perseverance are anything to go by, expect the year 2001 to be just Champion for Ryan