After a successful first season in the brand-new W Series, it seemed only right to catch-up with Sabré Cook who I’ve previously interviewed twice. Having secured her place in the top 12 in the championship standings, she has guaranteed herself racing in the series next year. However, it all came down to the last race of the season, with Sabré knowing she had to outscore Gosia Rdest and Caitlin Wood to move from 13th into the 12 qualifying positions. I spoke to her about how she got involved with the championship, juggling racing with her engineering placements, and how she feels W Series can help her moving forward.
While Sabré’s father had raced motorcycles until just after she was born, he and her mother were reluctant for their children to follow in his footsteps. Instead it was karting that Cook and her brother began to get involved in, with her first driving at the age of 8. From then on, motorsport became a passion. Like many young racers, she moved on to national and international karting series following success at a local level, though struggled for funding. This meant her transition from karting to cars came later than she would’ve liked, however this allowed her to hone her all-important race-craft before she began racing in series such as the Cooper Tires USF2000 and US F4 Championship. Last year also saw Sabré compete in the INFINITI Engineering Academy, a competition aiming to find the next generation of automotive and motorsport engineers. Having graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, she entered the Renault F1-backed scheme. After making the US final, she was selected as the winner, and would therefore take up a 6-month internship with INFINITI Technical Centre Europe, before a further 6 months with Renault F1 team in the UK. But that does not mean her racing career has been put on hold.
2019 has seen Sabré compete in the inaugural season of W Series. Having moved to the UK for her engineering placement, the timing couldn’t have been better. However, it was actually W Series that contacted her regarding her participation and asked if she would be interested in applying. “The series sent me a request for an application in the fall of 2018. Once the application was submitted, I was selected to proceed to the evaluations in Melk, Austria, then on to the Almeria test, and was ultimately selected as one of 18 active drivers,” she said. Cook saw the prospects W Series could offer her, especially with the series being free-to-enter. “I was drawn to W Series because of the amazing opportunity it offered. A full season in single seaters completely funded, on great European tracks, alongside the amazing series that DTM is, there’s nothing else out there that offers that kind of opportunity!” she explained.
Going into the season, it was hard for Cook to make predictions with so much being unknown. “I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect,” Sabré told me. “I knew I was going to have to make up for an experience deficit to the other drivers and learning a new track each weekend would be a challenge to get up to pace quickly. After setting goals with my coach though, finishing P7-P10 was a solid, realistic result for me to strive for. I was able to achieve this several times with even better pace, and the reverse grid podium and fastest lap.” Despite not having as much experience as some of the other drivers, Sabré did manage to meet her targets several times, scoring points in 3 races and reaching the podium in Assen, The Netherlands, when the series hosted a non-championship race with a completely reversed grid. However, she is still objective in identifying what she could’ve done better with the aim of improving in the future. Speaking of the season, she said: “overall I’m satisfied because even though I made mistakes and would’ve liked better results, I learned so much from the whole experience and can come back stronger next year.”
Although Sabré has had experience with formula cars, each variation can be very different and so adapting to each is important, though not always easy. Her understanding of the mechanics and physics behind racing cars must surely be a benefit with her able to identify the main differences between the W Series Tatuus T-318 F3 car and the others she had driven previously. “The W Series F3 car feels a bit heavier than the US F4 car, but of course has more horsepower and downforce. The centre of gravity and weight transfer feeling is quite different as well because of the heavy halo on the F3 car. It is certainly faster than the US F4 car and the USF2000 car. The tyre behaviour between the three is of course unique for each of them. The W Series F3 car also has a single turbo so you have to be mindful of the extra power transmitted to the wheels once it kicks in and be ready to catch oversteer induced from it, especially in the wet. The F3 car also has a different driver cockpit fit that can take some getting used to at first,” Cook described. However, this is not the only challenge she faced this year, as she, like many of the drivers, had not driven the tracks before they arrived for each race weekend. Yet this was made even more challenging due to tracks in the USA often being very different to those in Europe. “There are some differences in the general layouts, but no matter what country you’re in, each track is unique and you just have to learn and adapt to it as quickly as possible. Some of the rules, track limits, and regulations took a bit to get used to as well. Also, until the Brands Hatch race none of the tracks had much elevation change which a lot of US tracks have,” she said.
After finishing the season 12th in the driver standings, Sabré automatically qualifies for the 2020 season of W Series, as do the all the other drivers in the top 12. This means she won’t have to take part in the driver selection process and therefore has guaranteed racing next year. “It is a huge relief and makes me unbelievably excited (to have qualified). Not having the stress or doubt of if and when I’ll drive next is a great feeling,” Cook described. On her way to qualifying, Sabré finished the season with 3 top-10 finishes along with a podium from the non-championship race in which she climbed from her starting position of 8th to 3rd. Looking back on a rollercoaster year, it is undoubtedly these impressive performances that were the best moments of the season for her. “The highlights for me would be my 7th place at Norisring and reverse grid podium and fastest lap at Assen. The moments where my father and friends were able to come out and share this incredible experience with me were so special too,” she told me.
Having been successful in the INFINITI Engineering Academy towards the end of last year, Sabré has spent the first 6 months of 2019 in the Vehicle Testing department at the INFINITI Technical Centre Europe. She is now spending the second half of the year with Renault F1 in the Composite Design department. Juggling this with her W Series racing has been a challenge, however thanks to the support of her employers, she has been able to pursue both her passions in life. “It’s been tough at times but I’ve had a lot of support from INFINTI and Renault F1 to help make both of my commitments work and I can’t thank them enough. This year has been all about time management and prioritising things to make sure I meet my goals in both areas,” Sabré explained.
With the first season of W Series now finished and racing guaranteed for Cook next year, she is already keen to look to the future and how she can improve her results. “For the rest of the year I will be working hard to prepare for 2020 and would like to do some testing to keep the progression going from my time at W Series. The W Series will be a platform for me to continue to grow as a driver and build my media presence to help attract more sponsors to take forward into another series full time,” she said. With a hunger to do better and with a season of experience behind her, Sabré Cook is hoping that in 2020 she will be fighting towards the front of the grid. With her engineering placement at INFINITI and Renault F1, her mechanical expertise will surely help propel her forwards both in W Series and whichever series she goes into compete in in the future.
(All photo credits: W Series)