Before this year’s National Hot Rod World Final at the Foxhall Heath stadium, there was a lot of talk about 16-year Perry Cooke, whom qualified for his World Final having missed the first few World Qualifying rounds.
However, after picking up heat wins at the Hednesford Hills Raceway and at the Skegness stadium on Good Friday – Cooke was in a position to qualify for the World Final going into the final World Qualifier at Aldershot.
Thankfully for the young singing star, his main rivals Shaun Taylor and Lewis Shelley ultimately hit mechanical issues which ruled them out of the running. This left Cooke to pick up the necessary points over the course of the day and qualify for his first World Final.
At just 16-years of age, this potentially makes Cooke the youngest ever participant in a National Hot Rod World Final.
Speaking about this statistic, Cooke admitted: “I felt at the time that there was extra pressure on me. However, after speaking to my team they told me that my main objective going into the race (the World Final) was just to finish. This helped eased the pressure somewhat.”
Cooke qualified in 23rd position in his first ever hot laps session – which is quite an achievement considering drivers with a lot more experience who’ve done it before still struggle with.
With constant rain fall the day before, the track was incredibly dusty and dirty – especially offline around the outside. Bearing this in mind, Cooke managed to bring the car home in 13th position, making up 10 places from where he originally qualified.
“I had a chat with my team before the race and we went on the assumption to start off in a very calm and collective way, trying not to use the outside until at least lap 30,” said Cooke. “I was fortunate enough to get under a few people whilst they tried the outside line.
“I was absolutely over the moon to finish 13th! It was a long race, the most laps I’d ever driven until that point was 40 (at the Thunder 500 meeting two weeks prior) and with so many casualties in the race, I have to say I was overjoyed.”
The ‘road-to-gold’ gets underway again this Saturday night with the first 2020 World Qualifier taking place at the Birmingham Wheels Raceway with 25 cars currently booked in, including the new World Champion Rob McDonald.
Having missed the first few rounds of last year’s campaign before having to start off the back in his first three meetings, Cooke is looking forward to getting a full World Qualifying season under his belt.
“This year we can attend all of the World Qualifying rounds,” confirmed Cooke. “I also won’t have to start from the back as we did for the first three rounds of last year. Having said that, I think I will be a red top for the first round at Birmingham.”
Looking beyond Birmingham this Saturday, Cooke is excited about the National Championship weekend at the Hednesford Hills Raceway, and also about the prospect of racing in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“I’m really looking forward to the national weekend at Hednesford, again just to gain that more experience of the big meetings,” said Cooke. “But the old man (Melv) is very keen to get me over to Ireland, so we’ll be going to do the British at Tullyroan and the Irish Open at Tipperary as well.
“My main objective this year is just to gain more experience and become a much more consistent and on pace driver.”
Like with every other driver on the grid, Cooke has a big team of supporters behind him to help keep him on track.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank my team, which without them none of this could happen,” said Cooke. “Each person plays an individual part of the team. From set up, to tyres, to body work, to even putting the petrol in. I’d like to thank my family too, who all come along to support me and although they are nervous, they always enjoy the experience.
“And last of all but by no means least I’d like to thank everyone who supports me around the stadiums, from older people who may have watched my Dad to the younger people that are now watching me.”
I’d like to thank Perry Cooke for his time and wish him the best of luck for Birmingham this Saturday and the rest of the year.
By Jordan Hollands