Olly Wheatley started tinkering around with toy cars as a child - now he is a world beater.

The Hove teenager has a passion for model stock car racing, a motor sport which has all the thrills, bumps and shunts of the real thing - but at a fraction of the cost. Last year Olly, 19, from Hangleton Road, won the model stock car racing world championship in Holland.

This year he is looking forward to defending his title on home territory when the championship is held in East Grinstead in September. He said: "When I took part in the world championship, the car was really flying and it was fantastic to win. For me the appeal of the sport is the competition. I've always loved competing. When you go to an event you meet up with a lot of friends, but once you start racing, it's very competitive.

"People often think it's only a toy until they come along and watch you race.

"Then they see what goes into it and see how the car has to pass a scrutineer to make sure it is the correct weight and the correct size."

Olly, with the support of his dedicated father Mick Wheatley, races a smaller version of the Formula One Brisca stock car, which he spends hours tending and updating. Measuring only 15 inches it can reach speeds of up to 50mph and is worth an estimated £1,000.

Olly's love affair with the fast and furious machines was born at the age of 12 when his father gave him his first petrol-driven car for Christmas. Dad Mick, who now acts as his mechanic, explained: "We built the car over the Christmas period as a father-and-son project and then took it to Adur Recreation Ground where we started racing it round a tarmac track.

"One Sunday we turned up and other people were there with similar cars and we realised then there was a club and we could join and race competitively."

The teenager spends every other Sunday racing and several hours a week working on the car which has to be stripped down and rebuilt in between each race.

But his hard work paid off when he scooped the world championship title in Holland last year. Dad Mick said: "Winning the world championship was a great achievement. "I was driving back thinking 'I've got a world champion in the family', and how many world champions do you know?"

The father-and-son team will be taking the car back to Holland next month at the start of the new racing season to take part in the Dutch Indoor Open event.

But despite the thrill of the small circuit, Olly's ultimate dream is to have an opportunity to become a professional driver and follow in the footsteps of his sporting heroes Michael Schumacher, Eddie Irvine and Eddie Jordan. He added: "My dream is to race full-size cars - I would do anything to get into that."

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