Category Archives: Louise Cook

Louise Cook Starts 2012 Off Right

Louise Cook from Maidstone in Kent made her World Rally Championship debut this weekend on the notorious Rallye Monte Carlo based in Valence and the Principality of Monaco. Louise made a goal to finish the event and take the chance to look at all the special stages in order to gain the maximum much needed experience on the technical roads whilst knowing a definite finish would see her gain championship points for a minimum of 4th position in the Production World Rally Championship standings.

The event was a baptism of fire and also ice for the 24 year old female. The event started off with a bang, a police escort to the ceremonial start. “It was complete madness, the whole city of Valence was just stopped, I felt like royalty” said Cook. “It was intense, I felt pretty out of my depth and having such a high start position for the rally, with one of the slowest cars in the rally the pressure was firmly on.” “I tried to have the starting position amended but the organisers said they could not do anything, I just did not want to spoil anyone’s rally by getting in the way. All the cars behind me and my 150 bhp Fiesta had over 280 bhp engines, cost £90,000 to £300,000, was a little bit intimidating” said Louise.

An intermittent problem with the intercom made Louise’s first stage more stressful than it already was. “It is difficult because you get into a rhythm with the notes and being my first time on the roads the notes and rhythm is difficult to find. Then to have the sequence in and out throws out the flow completely.” Louise expectedly was caught by a number of cars on the first stage.

Stage 2 for Louise was a baptism of Ice rather than fire. Louise running behind on road time did not have a chance to change to a snow tyre for the 5km of sheet ice in the stage. Louise was on a medium RS7 slick which is basically used on a warm track in the UK, definitely not for ice!  The first part of the stage was patchy ice but as the stage climbed Louise found the beginning of a 5km sheet ice section with zero grip. Louise was reduced to walking pace in places, “the car was uncontrollable, slicks have no real tread and the rubber is much harder than a normal tyre to withstand the heat that goes into them when working hard on a hot day, they are like pram wheels in the snow. I was heading towards a bridge a 5mph and it took everything I had to get it back.” Said Louise.

The second loop the organisers altered Louise’s road position and put her to the back of the field which at first was a relief, but there was more than a minute gap between the current last car and Louise. There was more than a minute gap between the current last car and Louise. This unfortunately led to Louise being faced with spectators leaving the stage and covering the road. “It was completely crazy, there was a wall of spectators across the stage and I had to slow right down so they could let me through” said Louise. In the 4th stage Louise came around a hairpin right and had to slam on the brakes as a van was parked horizontal across the entire road, whilst the stage was live and Louise was still competing. As if things were not fraught enough a dog was off its leash and when braking on a patch of ice down to a bridge the dog ran straight across in front of Cook and she locked all 4 tyres on the icy road nearly ending in disaster for the British hopeful.

The Friday stages brought more weather changes. In line for the second stage it started to snow. It was fortunate that Louise had took the safer option of using the road snow tyres for these two stages though the tyre would perform nothing like the competition equivalent. Louise took zero risk through the stage but the fresh layer of snow caused a lot of issues with traction and trying to slow the car down in time.

Louise found Friday night that she had made the cut. Louise was in the top 60 and had succeeded to take part in the 4th and 5th legs of the rally on the stages around Monaco.

The car was not going great, 3 blown dampers, worn drive-shafts and a worn jolting steering rack were not helping the cause. The suspension was clunking severely through the hairpins and the driveshafts were a worry, so a very cautious drive through to not agitate the issue. The drive-shafts were changed to a better second hand set for the Saturday stages which helped calm Louise a little, but they were still second hand, not new. “It would be great to have new spares ready to go but we struggle just to replace what is needed on the car let alone build a spares package” said Louise.

Louise made the final day and took part in the famous WRC Powerstage. Louise decided to continue to cruise to the finish and with only 1 pass recce to make notes on the stage, it was not a time to start trying her luck. Louise struggled to write her notes quick enough to fall in line with the recce schedule due to her note writing inexperience. Louise only managed a 1 pass recce for a number of stages.

 “ I just wanted to finish the Rallye Monte-Carlo, it may be dull but it was my goal before the rally as I know my Fiesta ST could not catch the PWRC rivals in their 4WD Subaru Impreza’s and Mitsubishi Evo’s. Even though we just cruised the Fiesta through the rally, it was still so full on and stressful. We achieved our goal though and I am so pleased as anything could have happened with the car, the gearbox has never done more than 400 miles on a rally and was now faced with 1200,  so that was a constant worry. We did it though, we got her to the end and gained second place in the PWRC, a result that we could never have imagined, but we had to be there at the finish to take it. I may have driven like my Grandma, but it would have been crazy to do anything else and risk it all, I am really, really pleased with the result!”

With 2nd place in the championship and to be the first ever female to make the podium in the PWRC, Louise has taken another small step towards her highly ambitious goal of being the first female to win the World Rally Championship. On a high, Louise is now working hard on raising the £70,000 required to contend the rest of the season the next round being the Greece Acropolis Rally in May.

Louise Cook Ends First Year Beautifully

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.

Cookie’s Getting Attention

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate release 10/06/2011
Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship

Jim Clark International Rally 27/28 May 2011

IRDC – BRC Driver Improvement Scheme positions after round four

It’s surprising how a four
week gap between rounds three and four of the Dulux Trade MSA British
Rally Championship sees a big change in the top ten positions of this
year’s keenly contested IRDC Driver Improvement Scheme.

Eight new names have now
appeared in the top ten after the first asphalt rally on this year’s
calendar, The Jim Clark International Rally which was round four of the
2011 Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship.

First place is now held by
19 year old Daniel O’Brien, the St Albans based Northern Irishman and
2008/9 Irish Rallycross Junior Champion, driving an independently run
Ford Fiesta in the closely fought R2 category.

Proving that Ireland is
well represented in this year’s championship is Martin McCormack from
Draperstown, currently holding second place in another independent R2
entry, this time a charismatic Citroën S3, displaying allegiance to
Citroën Racing France and the family run directional drilling company.

Currently a worthy third
and representing the female presence in this year’s championship is 24
year old Louise Cook from Maidstone who has striven hard to raise the
necessary money to compete in this year’s series and whose R2 Ford
Fiesta displays a plethora of small companies who Louise has persuaded
to support her and advertise on her independently run car.

The IRDC Driver
Improvement scheme is calculated after each round of the championship
and shows the greatest percentage improvement in driver’s stage times.
The results are worked out and facilitated by Tim Hobbs, international
co-driver and an acknowledged authority on international rally driver
seeding for many years.

Competitors now have more
than enough time to catch their breath before round five of the
championship, which is held on 19/20 August when the second asphalt
rally of the 2011 series; the 120 stage mile Toddsleap International
Rally runs out of Antrim Northern Ireland.


Kent’s female rally driver, Louise Cook, contested her fifth ever gravel rally this weekend, The Pirelli International Rally, based in Carlisle. The event was the third round of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship. Louise was looking forward to the rally with her car engine management faults behind her.
The rally kicked off Friday night with a ceremonial start at Carlisle Racecourse and then straight off into the 1st stage. With only one pass of the stage in reconnaissance, some dodgy pace notes and what appeared to be a lot of wheel spin due to the extra power, Louise took no chances and got off to a steady start bedding herself in with the car. Then it was off to the rally party, where teams signed autographs and mingled with the fans before heading back into the forest in darkness. With no night driving experience, except the odd late night shopping trips to Bluewater, Cookie knew it was going to be a difficult stage. Despite the lack of experience in the dark, Louise held her position in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy for the overnight halt.
It was an early start on Saturday with the crew setting off at 7am for the first loop of stages.
“The morning went okay, it took me a while to get into it as I struggled with believing in my own pace notes. Nearly every corner in Kielder is over a blind crest, so you really have to have a lot of confidence in your notes. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have that level of trust in my note writing yet, not after just 3 gravel rallies. So, I suffered.”
On the second run through the morning stages, Louise set some creditable times amongst the modern faster Fiesta R2’s, leaving 3 R2’s in her wake.
“Once I had been through the stages once, I knew that my notes weren’t massively off, and I started to trust them more and more. Once I’d had a few over excited moments and got the car back from various ditches, the Killer Kielder forest did not seem as bad as all its hype. It was pretty amazing to realise how far I have come after only 2 gravel rallies since Pirelli last year. There was one section where I was absolutely flat on the rev limiter and having 4 wheels off the ground over crests at over 100 mph, I would never have done that last year! It was a nice benchmark.”
With Cookie’s confidence on the up, the car was on the down. The forever hard working service crew found a gearbox leak in a 10 minute service
and it became evident on the road section that what was thought to be wheel spin, had been the clutch slipping from the start and Cook’s stage times suffered as a result “I have no idea how much time it cost me, I lost a lot of confidence. The diff was unlocking and I would start to under steer off the road, when I needed the front wheels to pull me round, the clutch was giving way and the car had no drive. It was a shame, but at least I wasn’t out of the rally, I kept it going, even though it was scary at times. I managed to keep her on though after about five or six moments where it could have all been over. I will keep positive and take what I have learnt from this rally and use it on the next one.”
Louise came home still holding her 5th place in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy, top 10 in the F2 Championship and still leading the BRC Ladies Cup. It’s onto tarmac for the fourth round of the Championship, the Jim Clark Rally up in the Scottish Borders, a rally that Louise competed in last year. “I am really looking forward to the next one, I have more tarmac miles under my belt, so I hope to close the gap on the next round.”