Cool un­der pressure


Joondalup Weekender - - Front Page - Mark Don­ald­son

AS the pressure builds for Alex Rullo, the 16-year-old WA mo­tor­sport prodigy looks at how the stress can be of ben­e­fit rather than a hin­drance.

This comes into play both on and off the track.

There have never been as many com­mit­ments in the Trin­ity Col­lege stu­dent’s life as there are this year, with his de­but in the Su­per­cars Cham­pi­onship.

The ex­cite­ment peaks this week­end when he races in front of his home crowd at Barba­gallo Race­way for the first time as a Su­per­car driver. As the youngest driver in the sport’s his­tory, he’s be­ing watched more closely than any other rookie in the field.

Re­porters around the coun­try want to ask him ques­tions.

Then, some­where in be­tween, he still has to be a school stu­dent.

And while he still isn’t old enough to hold a driver’s li­cence, he has earned the right to chal­lenge some of the best rac­ers Aus­tralia has ever seen, names like Craig Lown­des, Mark Win­ter­bot­tom and Jamie Whin­cup.

It is an in­tim­i­dat­ing sched­ule for a high schooler, but Rullo han­dles the pressure with a ma­tu­rity be­yond his years. It is a ma­tu­rity he be­lieves stems from a fam­ily tragedy three years ago: the loss of his mother to can­cer. “Los­ing mum was pretty tough,” he said. “But they say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and I think it’s true.

“Get­ting through that stage of my life… I think I’ve re­ally ma­tured. You wouldn’t think you’d get pos­i­tives from that but men­tally I think I’m re­ally tough.”

Rullo con­sid­ers him­self set for the best race of his short ca­reer in Perth af­ter a promis­ing show­ing in the last round at Phillip Is­land.

The Lu­cas Dum­brell Mo­tor­sport team driver de­scribes the step up in com­pe­ti­tion from last year’s Dun­lop Se­ries as a “big learn­ing curve”.

Last month, he had his race cut short in wet Tas­ma­nian con­di­tions when the front end of his Holden was man­gled in a 12-car pile-up that put star driver Will Dav­i­son in hos­pi­tal.

But tyre wear, rather than wet weather, will be his con­cern for the Perth Su­per­sprint.

“Ev­ery­one around me has had a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence than me so I think get­ting used to that has been the main thing,” he said.

“Be­ing the home round, I want to back it up with some good re­sults

“Es­pe­cially af­ter the po­ten­tial we had at Phillip Is­land; we showed some re­ally good pace there but couldn’t get the re­sults on the board.

“We’ll have to look out for tyre wear... just that rear tyre; it will be a big talk­ing point over the week­end.”

Off the track, pro­fes­sional sport­ing life has also been a learn­ing curve for the teenager.

Me­dia com­mit­ments were orig­i­nally a daunt­ing prospect, but Rullo now views them as a chance to de­velop his mar­ket­ing abil­i­ties.

“It’s great for so­cial aware­ness,” he said. “It was pretty tough when I first started, I was pretty shy but now I’m re­ally into it.”

He views mar­ket­ing as a po­ten­tial area of study post high school, say­ing he is work­ing hard on “de­vel­op­ing my own brand and a lot of so­cial me­dia work”.

It keeps him fo­cused on se­cur­ing his grad­u­a­tion cer­tifi­cate at the end of this year. But ul­ti­mately, he would rather be rac­ing.

“It’s pretty hard with school in the way,” he ad­mit­ted. “I haven’t got too long left…It will be good to get it over and done with.”

Main pic­ture: Chris­tian Har­tung

Alex Rullo fo­cused and ready to race in the Aus­tralian Su­per­cars Cham­pi­onships at Barba­gallo this week­end. In­set: In ac­tion in Tas­ma­nia.

Learn­ing curve... the af­ter­math of a crash dur­ing the Tas­ma­nian Su­per­Sprint in Launce­s­ton last month.

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