One-On-One With Formula 2's Warwick Rooklyn 03-Jul-01 By: Ryan Lahiff One-On-One With Formula 2's Warwick Rooklyn For former World Champion Sailor Warwick Rooklyn, 2001 heralded a change of scenery, from water to dirt! www.rally.com.au's Ryan...
One-On-One With Formula 2's Warwick Rooklyn
03-Jul-01 By: Ryan Lahiff
One-On-One With Formula 2's Warwick Rooklyn For former World Champion Sailor Warwick Rooklyn, 2001 heralded a change of scenery, from water to dirt! www.rally.com.au's Ryan Lahiff goes one-on-one with Rooklyn on the changing face of rallying, the future of Formula 2 and the challenges of moving from Champion sailor to forest racer.
Ryan: You've had a varied background from circuit racing to sailing and now rallying, of all the changes of discipline how hard has it been moving into the Australian Rally Championship?
Warwick: Certainly although the move to rallying is a real challenge, it is easier than when I first started motor racing from sailing. When I first went circuit racing all I knew about cars where they needed oil in the engine, fuel in the tank & air in the tyres! In fact, I must admit that my first half day at the go kart track at Lithgow NSW was spent going the wrong way around the circuit. The main challenges for me so far in rallying has been that I hadn't driven competitively for over 5 years when I last drove with Mark Larkham at Bathurst in the V8. When I was circuit racing, I was just a driver. So setting up my own team was a different ball game. The team as a whole is now starting to work well and I'm feeling more comfortable about this side of it. As for the actual driving of a rallying car in competition, I'm pretty happy with my car control and the progress I've made in terms of speed so far this season. The biggest challenges for me have been and still is reading the road as really it's a pretty foreign enviornment for me to be on. Pace notes are a huge area of untapped speed gain for me, the ability to be able to write consistent and accurate notes will take some time yet. Also to be able to be able to be on maximum attack and be comfortable enough mentally to hear and visualise what Linda (Long) is calling is taking some time. She's been in a pretty tough position this season as she's had to do all the normal administration etc, but has had to coach and advise me during recce. Also sometimes I need her to repeat calls which obviously puts extra pressure on her and disrupts her rythmn.
Ryan: In contrast to the other sports you've been involved with how well is rallying doing to get it's name on the map?
Warwick: Certainly with what's going on in the World Rally Championship it is doing a great job! I'd view it as an extreme sport and it's exciting to watch. In terms of Australia, I believe that the concept of Super Special Stages as in Canberra, is the right way to go and it's bringing the sport to the people rather than expecting the people to go to the sport. I think the ARC obviously has some challenges to meet in the future as first and second places are pretty predictable. I think Group N goes without saying - it's very healthy, but the smaller car class needs work. One thing I have noticed about the sport in Australia is that outside the three manufacturers involved, there isn't much independant corporate sponsorship involved at a team level.
Ryan: If there was one aspect of rallying you could change, what would it be and why?
Warwick: I would make the Super Special Stages a bigger deal. Definately two cars at a time in an amphitheatre environment with some other type of entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights at every round. I know this is easier said than done however I think it would get a lot more people witnessing the cars first hand. You only have to look at what Stadium Supercross did for Motorcross Racing and look at what the promoters are doing and the crowds their getting to answer the question.
Ryan: Formula 2 has seen a decline around the world over the past couple of years, should Australia be heading down a similar path or should we be nurturing the small car class to promote younger drivers?
Warwick: Formula 2 world wide got far too expensive for it's own good, just like Super Touring cars in Europe. I think it's absolutely essential to have a well performing but relatively cost effective class for not only drivers to progress but also engineers, mechanics and sponsors. If you compare rallying to open wheeler circuit racing, there is no clear progression through the ranks as far as I can see.
Ryan: How do you personally see the competition in Formula 2 within the Australian Championship?
Warwick: I don't believe that we are doing as quick a stage times yet as when guys like Rick Bates, Dean Herridge and Ross MacKenzie were at their peak of the class. There are a few relative new comers to the ARC and the stage times in Queensland amongst the top three F2 competitors was quicker than last year's top three, when Possum and Neal from what Linda researched were slightly slower on some of the same stages. Obviously we need more cars but there are plenty of people interested in seeing what happens with Super 1600 at an International level. It's only a matter of time until we have a resurgence of a small car capacity class that's cost effective but still exciting to watch and drive. The one thing I really love about our Omega Smeg Daihatsu Charade GTi is it feels and sounds like a proper race car, it just needs a six speed sequential gearbox!