In the latest special episode of the PitCast, we caught up with Indy Pro 2000 and W Series driver Sabré Cook.
Fresh off the back of the second round of the Indy Pro 2000 season at Mid-Ohio, we spoke to Sabré about her Road to Indy journey, her W Series goals and involvement in their esports league, and her work with the Renault F1 team and Infiniti Engineering Academy last year.
Sabré is currently competing part-time in the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 championship with Team Benik and was due to race in the second season of the W Series before its cancellation earlier in the year.
You can listen to the latest episode of the PitCast below, and also here on YouTube. Catch up on all our past episodes here.
Earlier in the year, Sabré Cook spoke to us for International Women’s Day as she prepared for both the upcoming W Series evaluations and her Infiniti Engineering Academy placement with the Renault Sport F1 Team. Since then she has taken three points finishes across the season, as well as third place at the non-championship round at Assen.
With W Series now over for 2019, we caught up with Sabré to hear her reflections on the inaugural championship and her plans for the future.
James Matthews: First of all, congratulations on taking your third points finish of the season at Brands Hatch. How would you rate your season overall, and what has been your personal highlight?
Sabré Cook: Thank you! Overall the season has been a great experience and I’ve learned an immense amount. I definitely made mistakes along the way but I’m a better driver now because I learned from them. The highlights would probably be my 7th place and third-fastest lap at Norisring, and my reverse grid podium at Assen.
JM: Your P12 in the championship has guaranteed you a place on the 2020 W Series grid. Have you decided yet to return next year, and if so what will be your goals for your sophomore season?
SC: I will definitely be returning next year. I’ll continue to focus on improving my skills along with applying what I’ve learned this year. A top five result in the championship next year would be a satisfying result for me.
JM: What impact has being part of the W Series had on your career, both in terms of your development as a driver and your presence in the media?
SC: The W Series has given me the opportunity to work consistently on my performance as a driver more than I’ve ever been able to in the past. I feel like I’m making steady progress and it feels great. The media coverage and excitement over the series has certainly helped grow my media presence.
JM: Catherine Bond-Muir told the media after Brands Hatch that W Series will be expanding to the US for 2021. Is there any US track in particular you’d like to see the series race on?
SC: I cannot confirm that the W Series will be going to the US for 2021, but I’d certainly welcome the addition to the race calendar. There’s so many great tracks in the US but I’d particularly love to see them go to Road America or WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
JM: Having spent most of your career so far racing in America, what were the biggest challenges you found racing in a predominantly European series?
SC: I’ve raced in European races before in karting, so from that I knew the high level of talent and aggression to expect. The challenges mostly came from trying to learn new tracks with limited track time, and getting used to some of the different rules and operating procedures.
JM: You told our Emily Inganni earlier this year that you have been balancing W Series with an engineering placement with the Renault F1 team. Have you been able to draw on the experience gained in that placement to improve your driving skills?
SC: My time at Renault F1 teaches me so much each day on how to be a better engineer. While that doesn’t always directly relate to my driving development it does give me a greater overall perspective as a driver and helps me see the design intent behind engineering decisions. But having access to feedback that [Daniel] Riccardo and [Nico] Hulkenberg give to their engineers on the RS19 each race, does directly show me how the top drivers communicate their feeling of the car.
JM: From your unique perspective as an engineer and a driver, what have been the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of driving the W Series Tatuus-Alfa Romeo car?
SC: Driving a turbo engine is always fun and a new experience for me. It was a challenge but also enjoyable to figure out how to drive the oversteer balance of the car confidently. It was challenging from an engineering perspective not to be able to make any major changes to the car’s set up because I’d love to see, learn, and feel for myself what some of the larger changes would do to the balance of the car on each individual track. But I was there to drive, not engineer, and limiting us to a standard set up window is definitely the best layout for the series.
JM: W Series has been praised this year for the level of close racing throughout its field. Which driver have you most enjoyed battling with?
SC: I’ve enjoyed batting with each of the drivers, and really appreciate the opportunity to learn from the more experienced ones.
JM: What are your thoughts on how W Series has developed in its inaugural season?
SC: I think the W Series Team should be extremely proud of how amazing the champion has been in just the first season. I’ve never seen a series be so successful and have such a positive reaction and impact as much as the W Series has. I hope it continues to grow and affect so many people in a positive way.
Sunday morning’s race ended in a nail-biting final lap showdown which saw reverse grid pole-sitter Megan Gilkes hold off the charging Alice Powell to win by just 0.03s.
The grid was based on a full reversal of the championship points, including all twenty race and reserve drivers. The race, which did not offer points, saw Megan Gilkes and Sarah Bovy start on the front row, while championship contenders Beitske Visser and Jamie Chadwick lined up 19th and 20th.
The race came down to an intense final-lap battle between Gilkes, the youngest driver in the field, and the experienced racer Powell who had overtaken her way through the field from 17th on the grid. Despite Powell’s relentless attempts to take the lead, Gilkes put up a robust defence each and every time, leading to a side-by-side finish, with Gilkes coming out on top by the smallest of margins. Sabre Cook rounded out the podium.
Gilkes, Bovy, and the American driver Cook, who had a great start to move from 8th to third, held their own out front for the first half of the race. Shea Holbrook, who had started third, struggled for pace and fell down the order, eventually spinning and bringing out the safety car. At the restart, Gilkes came under pressure from Bovy in second, but managed to stay in front.
Alice Powell was among the early movers, jumping from 17th to 9th by the second lap, and refusing to stop there, continuing to climb the order until the very end. Emma Kimilainen also put in a commendable drive, finishing 5th from 15th on the grid and battling for a podium in the process.
Lap 4 saw championship rivals Visser and Chadwick battling over 14th position, with Visser coming out on top, and Chadwick then falling back behind Fabienne Wohlwend. Undeterred, Chadwick was able to battle her way through to finish 8th, while a poor getaway in a safety car restart meant Visser had to settle for 14th.
The race saw two safety car periods, with Gosia Rdest and Shea Holbrook failing to make the finish.