Formula E star Sam Bird has gone from struggling to pay a taxi fare to the top of the world's leading all-electric series in eight years.
The Jaguar driver is preparing for a home weekend as London's Excel Centre gears up to host its unique indoor-outdoor race. Bird, by his own admission, has not had his greatest year but still has a vital role to play as Jaguar aim to prove they are the pinnacle of electric motorsport.
Teammate Mitch Evans is fighting for the drivers title and Jaguar are still pushing for team honours. It was almost two years ago that Bird opted for a change in environment, swapping Envision Racing for Jaguar. It was with the former outfit that he established himself as one of the sport's leading lights.
A podium in the sport's first ever race on the streets of Beijing was a sign of things to come, but away from the track Bird, who had missed out on Formula 1 despite success in GP2, was facing his own difficulties, that are now a thing of the past following eight hugely successful seasons.
He said: "Yeah that period sucked. It was a tough time - I had just come second in GP2 and got let go by Mercedes. To give you an example, I was coming back from Beijing in Formula E, five months after joining in the first season, got a podium in the first race. I'm in the back of the taxi and didn't have any cash on me. I said I needed to get some cash out so asked to stop at the cash machine - and I couldn't pay him. Things have changed a lot for me over the years in a good way."
Bird is one of the few stalwarts in what has been an ever-evolving series. Now 34, the Jaguar driver remains the only man to win a race in every season of Formula E. Starting with a win in Malaysia in 2014 to his most recent success on the streets of New York last year. So far this season he's been unable to take the top step of the podium with a fourth place finish his best effort.
He has four races in which to continue his unique record, but whilst it shows his quality, Bird's focus is on team success - not individual accolades. He claimed: "It would be extremely nice to carry that on, but I've got a job to do here for Jaguar. If you said to me that Jaguar can win the manufacturers title this year with yours and Mitch's results, but you're not going to win a race, you're going to get a second and a third - I'd sign up for it tomorrow. To win in every season has been an awesome achievement, the fact we're in season eight and it's still going."
Formula E is making just its fourth visit to London and only its second to the current venue in the east of the city. The uniqueness of the venue has caught the imagination, but from a sporting standpoint Bird has eluded to potential changes that could make the racing more entertaining.
He said: "It is a good track, the location is cool, but it doesn't have as many overtaking opportunities as all of us would like. When that happens we are more likely to try and create overtaking manoeuvres that might not be on the cards because that's what we do as drivers, we try and invent opportunities. Maybe in the future there could be a tweak of design to the circuit." He then added: "It is always fun when you do something that is new - thinking outside the box. You're going from high grip to having no grip and that could be very, very tricky."
The 2022 London E-Prix will be broadcast live on terrestrial television on Channel 4 on July 30 & 31. Buy tickets and follow all updates from the race at ExCeL London here