The first love of Alex’s life is off-road racing. This exhilarating and challenging sport has been the driving force to his success and Coles has grown alongside Alex’s off-road career for many years. Alex reached the pinnacle of his success when he was crowned FIA Tout Terrain Champion of France in 2006, the first Englishman to achieve this feat.
It was a proud moment when he stood alongside F1 champion Fernando Alonso and World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb at the FIA award ceremony in Paris to collect his trophy, after winning the French Tout Terrain Championship season of 2006.
The start of Alex’s racing career was not quite so glamorous. At the age of 17, he, along with his friend Dan (who would go on to co-drive for him in France), discovered a dusty and wrecked Landrover in a farm barn, buried deep under old machinery. The two teenagers lovingly re-built the Landrover, added a roll-cage and entered their first race.
Alex had discovered the best fun that could be had on four wheels and was bitten by the off-road bug, and so began his life-long passion for Landrovers. He spent the next 12 years racing in the UK, from hill rallies in Wales to the British Off Road Championships, slowly honing his skills, improving his cars and eventually winning races. He was interviewed for a very early episode of Top Gear back in 1996 at the Southern Hill Rally, when the race made a one-off appearance in the South Downs.
Looking for new challenges, Alex started to compete in the French Championships, gaining a sponsor, Brittany Ferries. He devoted the next 10 years to his ultimate goal, to win the entire series, which he achieved in 2006 in a specially designed 4-wheel drive BMW powered Rivet. The season, which consists of 10 races taking place in beautiful parts of the French countryside from Arras in the north to Pau in the south, is well respected as the ultimate challenge in off-road racing because of the variety of terrains and the speed of the courses.
After winning in France, Alex returned to his beloved Landrovers as part of the service team then a co-driver for Bowler Motorsport, who had at that point developed a Dakar-competitive vehicle, the Nemesis with its 4 litre Jaguar Landrover engine. He joined the service team in 2005 while the rally was still the original route from Paris to Dakar in North Africa.
He was then employed as a co-driver as part of the experienced Norwegian team in a Bowler Wildcat, and went on to teach off-road driving to a young rookie driver and guide him through the Dakar race. Under Alex’s guidance this young driver went on to finish the Dakar, one of the youngest to ever complete this grueling challenge.
Alex honed his driving skills to become an expert on sand, conquering dunes in the UAE Desert Challenge as well as rally raids in Morocco and Tunisia, both in the driving, navigating or training seats. Alex also took on the challenge of competing in the Tuareg rally (Morrocco) in a £500 Suzuki Jimny with a group of friends, which he repeated four times in the same trusty Jimny, winning the amateur class in 2015 in this brilliant little off-road car.
With renewed energy and enthusiasm for Rally Raid, Alex was contacted once more by Bowler Motorsport in 2017 to drive a new and exciting prototype on its first rally. He took the brand-new Bowler Bulldog into the dunes of Morocco, testing the car to its limits with the Bowler team. Alex is now acting as Bowler Testing and Development Driver and has taken the car through its paces at various events, Bajas and Rally Raids as well as driving it at Goodwood, Car Fest and various shows and exhibitions. In 2018 he won the overall Car Professional class at the Tuareg Rallye in Morocco driving a Bowler Bulldog.
The rallying journey continued with completion of the 10 day Moroccan Desert Challenge in 2019 and plans for the Africa Eco Race in January 2020 (the former Dakar route). Watch this space!