Sabré Cook: Under the Visor

Sabré Cook’s name was chosen to make her stand out – but in the end it was the sharp brain and exceptional driving skills that did the talking.

Sabré (pronounced Say-bruh) said: “My mum Melissa wanted it to be different and she heard her friend mention a French name which she really liked. I think it’s cool – although I do have to explain the pronunciation to most new people I meet.”

As a respected member of the W Series race team, Sabre’s 160mph laps are attracting the attention of plenty of new faces in the motor racing world – but she didn’t always enjoy driving at high speeds.

 The 24-year-old explains: “I suppose I was always destined to be on a race track in one way or another. My dad used to race motocross and super cross in the 80s until he retired, started a family and found karting as a fun replacement. Then in 2001, along with my uncle, grandpa and an additional investor, he decided to build a race track and try to turn it into a profit. 

“Most of my childhood was spent at the race track trying to help run the family business and I got my first kart aged 8. Initially I was so excited but then I spun out and scared the c*** out of myself (I didn’t realise you had to brake on corners). So I started driving really slowly and earned myself the nickname ‘Driving Miss Daisy’.

“There was also a sticker on the back of my kart with the cartoon of a girl – and the caption read: ‘You’ve just been passed by a girl’. I hated it.”

But it was when the teasing intensified that Sabré decided to fight back. She said: “This little boy was teasing me about being slow and at the back. I remember crying later on to my dad and saying: ‘If I had a faster kart I could win’.

“I just decided I was going to start winning and I did. Looking back on it, I felt like I wasn’t really living before that incident. But then the lights came on and I fell in love with karting. It also meant that me and my dad started to bond over motorsports and spent countless hours at the track together.”

It didn’t matter to Sabré that most other girls her age were going to the mall with their moms and playing with dollies.

“I remember purposefully refusing to play with Barbies and sold a whole bag of mine for a few dollars at a garage sale. My parents weren’t pleased as they were more expensive than a few dollars.

“I also hated the colour pink and refused to wear it. I didn’t want to be a girly girl. I wanted to be seen as being just as strong and good as the guys I was hanging out with, including my brother Tristan who is two years younger.”

“I enjoyed getting dirty and running around in mud. And as a teenager, I often wore boys’ clothes and cut my hair short.

“But at the same time I was one of the those children who wanted to please my parents and do what made them happy.”

Sabré progressed from a Comer 50 kart through Comer 80 to a faster Mini Max. She eventually won her first World Championship in a TAG Junior kart aged just 13.

She said: “I swept the whole weekend and I remember slowing down at the end thinking: ‘Wow! That just happened. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life It was like time slowed down.”

Just four years later, Sabré became the first female to win the SKUSA Pro Tour National Championship. She recalled: “When I got called up on the presentation stage, the entire room stood up and started clapping and I felt so appreciated. A couple of girls in the audience later told me they carried on racing because they were there watching what I had achieved that day and I’m really proud of that.

“I want the attention to be on how I drive, not what gender I am or how I look. Being in the zone in a car on the track is definitely a unique feeling. There are days when I don’t feel in tune but when it’s all going well it feels powerful and fun. You have to trust yourself and your car but I still have a lot to learn.”

Aside from amassing trophies on the race track, Sabré has won impressive plaudits in the classroom – a factor which secured her a place at a prestigious US university called Colorado School of Mines and eventually propelled her into a sought-after traineeship at the Infiniti Engineering Academy run by Infiniti in Milton Keynes, UK, and Renault F1, also in UK-based Enstone.

She currently works at Infiniti Technical Centre as a test engineer resolving noise issues and will go to Renault F1 next month to work in composite design. Sabré is focussed on achieving her ultimate dream of being an Indy car driver and head F1 race engineer.

Sabré said her love affair with F1 began when she was a teen. “When I was around 15/16, I made a poster of the F1 season and taped it to the back of my bedroom door so I could keep track of all the drivers and teams.

“Mark Webber was my favourite driver because he dealt with things so well and seemed really level-headed,” she said.

Now Sabré is edging closer to her own F1 dream as part of the W Series team. She said: “I didn’t know what to expect from the first race because I’d never raced a car in Europe before. The racing is tight and the whole experience is unreal. I’m not used to all the elaborate hospitality and benefits we are receiving. It’s incredible and I’m really grateful to everyone involved.

“I would love to win the series but I’m going to be realistic and improve my performance.”

Qualifying for W Series was an emotional moment for both Sabre and her dad Stacey. She said: “When the evaluation events were on he couldn’t sleep. He is really proud and super excited.”

Sabré’s other number one fan is her chocolate Labrador Amicus (meaning ‘friend’ in Latin) and when she is not walking with her dog she enjoys hiking, cycling, reading, camping, musicals, painting, drawing and driving her go kart at her family’s track.

“The biggest thing I’m focussed on now is simply being happy – and I think that’s all about balance.”

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