“Rooke has re­ally turned some heads”

Motor Sport News - - Sporting Scene - MN’S RAL­LY­CROSS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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.

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