Sabre Cook: W Series saved my career

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Sabre Cook might have been brought up on a kart track but as she soon discovered, getting up the ladder takes more than just talent alone….you need money. And lots of it!

Most of my time is spent networking and trying to put people together… Trying to put businesses together and trying to get sponsorship.  I obviously don’t come from a large amount of resources myself.

It’s often romantically said that so and so driver is born to race.  Well in Cook’s case this is almost literally the case.  Her father was a Motocross and Supercross racer in the 1980s.  Being an adrenaline junkie at heart, he discovered karting when retired from racing.  Along with Sabre’s grandfather, uncle, and an investor he was able to build Grand Junction Motor Speedway in Colorado.  An exciting world-class kart circuit of nearly a mile in length. Sabre Cook describes an exciting childhood of base building, chasing wildlife, and hopping in karts at the track.

In our latest “In the Grandstand” interview, we sat down with Sabre Cook. She details her background, her 2019 season, and her hopes for the upcoming W Series 2021 season. You can watch the highlights of our talk below, or the full 47-minute conversation by clicking here.

Sabre Cook’s move to single-seaters

Sabre Cook proved to be a good kart racer but, as mentioned before, trying to make the step up into single-seaters needs a healthy budget.  It certainly wasn’t by design that Cook was still karting in her 20s. An age when most of her 2019 W Series competitors would be well into their car racing career.

But finally, in 2017, Cook was able to fund her single-seater dreams and was able to race in USF2000 and US F4. But even then she couldn’t afford to do testing outside of the race weekend.  She smiles sardonically as she pretends to be a sponsor saying:

Yeah sure we’ll pay for you to drive at this test where no one is there to see it!

Still, her results were enough to attract the headhunters of W Series, who contacted Cook in 2018.  Unsurprisingly, she applied and following the Austrian and Almerian tests, became one of the first 12 drivers confirmed for 2019.  It’s fascinating to hear Cook talk about how despite the applicants competing against each other for those coveted 18 seats on the grid, it was also a time of bonding and friendship.  To be suddenly thrust into a group of like-minded women all sharing a common goal and common interest was a revelation.

W Series time for Sabre Cook

As the least experienced driver on the grid in 2019, it’s no surprise that Cook’s first races were a baptism of fire.  After all, she had only competed in 12 races recognised by W Series. Quite a difference when compared to her nearest inexperienced rival who had 26 races.  Even so, she was able to demonstrate solid progress throughout the season. The highlights, of course, were bagging a podium and fastest lap at the Assen reverse grid race before ensuring she was well inside in the top 12 come the season’s end.

Sabre Cook Trophy
Image: W Series

Looking ahead to the 2021 season, Cook sees qualifying as definitely being a weak point and something she has been working on since 2019.  She’s happy with her race pace though but is still always looking to improve and do better.

When asked about whether she could be a title contender, the answer is a non-committal ‘maybe’.  Humbly, she says it isn’t something she is really thinking about when up against ultra experienced competition such as Chadwick, Visser, Kimilainen and Powell.  But her confidence bursts through as she confesses she remains optimistic she could finish in the top 5 at some events.

Sabre Cook’s time out in 2020

W Series didn’t race in 2020, aside from the virtual season, but Cook still felt it’s benefits. When asked whether the global appeal of the championship helped the sponsorship finding, Sabre was clear.

100%. I would go as far as to say W Series maybe even saved my career. Or took it to the next level […] I really have to thank them for helping me build my brand and my awareness even more.

Sabre points out benefits that may not be immediately apparent to those watching on. While fans see the racers competing doing what they do best, it’s not possible to see inside the drivers’ heads. For Sabre Cook, not needing funding for W allowed her to be more focussed and less stressed about the money. Her thoughts are somewhat echoed by Emma Kimilainen, who has also joined us In the Grandstand. Emma highlighted how she felt more refreshed when returning from a W Series race weekend than others.

W Series Profile
Image: Colin McMaster/LAT Images/W Series.

Sabre has always spent time keeping fit. From her social media posts, it looked as though 2020 had that ramped up further. However, Cook was candid in saying she was doing the same amount but was sharing more of it with the world. The pandemic may have made social events scarce, but on the flip side, it allowed more time building the Sabre Cook brand. Cook is clearly thinking long-term.

2021 for Sabre Cook

As the only American on the grid for this season, Cook is super proud to be flying the flag for the USA.  And, indeed, is more excited than nervous at the prospect.  So many fans and people were looking forward to coming to see W Series race at COTA in 2020. They were so bummed about the season’s cancellation (Cook’s words!), so she cannot wait to finally be able to race for them this year.

Other stops on the calendar that Cook can’t wait for are Spa (well obviously!) and Mexico because she compares the passionate fans to the Tifosi at Monza.  It’ll certainly be amazing to see the W Series coming through the baseball stadium section at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

The W Series isn’t the only racing that Sabre Cook will enjoy in 2021. Already this year, she enjoyed her first races in a Mazda MX5. A learning experience for Cook who smiles as she recounts understanding the close racing and the effects of drafting another car. But not only did Sabre race a new car, but she did so at Daytona! The cup was in the days before the Daytona 24hr race, an event which Cook found memorable. Not only for experiencing the iconic race but also for locking her keys in her rental car!

Sabre Cook Daytona
Image: mx-5cup.com

If you would like to learn more about Sabre Cook and hear her fascinating insights into her 2019 W Series races among many other topics then make sure you check out her full interview with GP Grandstand. And do let us know on the socials; is Jim really a low-budget Daniel Ricciardo?

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