Louise Cook, 24 from Maidstone in Kent, completed her debut season in the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship this weekend. Louise became the DT MSA BRC Ladies Champion and collected 2nd place from 13 runners in Britain’s most competitive one make rally series, the M-Sport Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy. Louise was forced to contest the season in the older slower Fiesta ST due to a lack of funds but amazingly against 11 male drivers in the new Fiesta R2, Louise finished the season with 11 drivers behind her in the table. Louise also collected a top 10 in the BRC Formula 2 championship, 7th/21 Junior, and 7th/21 in BRC R2 Class.
“I am over the moon, I thought the cancellation of the Isle of Man Rally had taken all my chances away of a better championship position, but our consistent quick pace through the season worked in our favour.” Said the British Champion.
The late news just the day before Trackrod Rally Yorkshire that October’s Rally Isle of Man was unexpectedly cancelled meant International Rally Yorkshire became the season’s final event. The drop scores of the British Rally Championship were no longer applicable so all 6 scores now counted.
Cookie suffering a non start on the previous round in Ulster left Louise in limbo. “As soon as I got the email, I spent an hour working out every possibility. If I won the rally outright above all the 4WD cars I could not finish any higher than 4th in the Fiesta Sport Trophy. If I got the car to the finish, I would climb the table to 4th and maybe climb further in the unlikely event of the Finland Fiesta Sport Trophy Champion 2010 Jussi Kumpumaki and ex Karting Champion Nick Cristofaro not making the finish. I could even get as far up as second in the Fiesta Sport Trophy UK so I just had to get the Fiesta home. No rally driver wants to drive slowly, it was painful, and much more stressful than driving flat out! I knew I had a duty to my sponsors to give them the best result I could after all their support this season. I had to be professional and do my job.” Said Cook.
The first stage, 14 miles of the notorious Dalby Forest got under way. 5 miles in, Louise’s competitor, Jussi Kumpumaki had crashed off the road. “It was good to see that they were alright, and the car, though dented, did not look so bad. I thought, these stages must be really tricky as the Finish Fiesta Sport Champion Kumpumaki is a great driver. It started to blow my mind and I felt the pressure double as a finish would now mean joint 3rd with Jussi.” Said Louise.
Cookie carried on through the next three stages and got to the first service all intact with no problems to report. It was then back out to another two stages,
the Langdale stage being particularly rough, a real car breaker. “I thought if a car is going to break, it is going to break here.” said Louise.
The crew made it through and back for 2nd service. After looking through the times, competitor Nick Cristofaro had no times posted for the last 2 stages. Louise noticed he was also not at the time control for Service In. Nick had fell victim to the Langdale stage, breaking a driveshaft. This now meant Louise’s professional strategy and painful caution had put her in a position to climb to an unbelievable 2nd place in her debut season in the Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy if only she could make it to the end. The pressure was really on. “I still had 3 stages to get round, including Langdale, which had a surface like the Moon!! I couldn’t believe it. I was cringing at every bump and pot hole and avoided anything that could get in the way of 2nd place. I was accelerating so progressively to look after the drive shafts and short shifted to save the engine and gearbox, it was intense!” Said Cook.
Louise finished the rally drama free and 2nd in the Fiesta Sport Trophy Championship for 2011 was hers along with being crowned British Ladies Rally Champion and in her debut season in the DT MSA British Rally Championship.