HAL RIDGE T
“Rooke has really turned some heads”
he headline on the story in Motorsport News on November 19, 2014 read ‘Autocrosser stuns on rallycross debut’.
Exactly one year, eight months and two days later (last week), the headline on the report in MN of the latest round of the British Rallycross Championship in Belgium read ‘Rooke gives a masterclass’.
I was first made aware of Dan Rooke at the penultimate round of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship in November 2014, when the Devonian turned up at Croft with his autocross Citroen AX still in its originally intended specification with the addition of Tarmac tyres. The headline the following Wednesday was no exaggeration, Rooke raced the wheels off his car to make the podium in a competitive Super Modified field.
I sought out the timid 17-year-old after the final to discover that the outing was likely to be a one-off appearance, although he had enjoyed the experience.
Fortunately, Rooke and his family decided to enter the Supernational category of the MSA British Rallycross Championship last season and sensationally left the final round with the title.
Rooke also impressed at the RX Talent Search before the British round of World RX in 2015, and both he and his family realised that if ever a driver was going to capitalise of the increased exposure the sport is enjoying, it’s now.
The youngster assessed the European Super1600 Championship, but thanks to a not insignificant investment of faith from long-time Supercar competitor and Lydden Hill owner Pat Doran, Rooke was able to graduate to the top of the sport in Britain this year, driving a Citroen DS3 Supercar.
Rooke’s move was brave; Supercar is a big step. But, at the season opener, (fittingly at Croft) he once again stunned and finished on the podium in his maiden appearance.
In fact, only once so far this year has he not finished on the podium (due to mechanical dramas at Pembrey) and he simply dominated in Belgium two weeks ago to extend his series lead.
There is still work to do for Rooke before he can start thinking about the championship title, but he already has the opposition almost beaten mentally.
Belgium podium finishers Julian Godfrey and Ollie O’donovan, with six British RX titles between them, both admitted they had no answer to the 19-year-old’s pace at Maasmechelen. Those are big sentiments from some of the sport’s best in the UK.
Yes, the young driver has been in the right place at the right time, but you have to make the most of any opportunity, especially in motorsport. From making his rallycross debut in November 2014, come November 2016, Rooke could be a British Rallycross champion. If it happens, it will be proof that raw talent really can shine through.