Sabre Cook Knows How Big This Moment Is
The only woman on the grid in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America has a lot to prove—and she’s ready.
There’s no obvious “tell” in Sabré Cook’s eyes when she’s excited, happy, sad, or focused. That’s because the 29-year-old driver in the #37 Kellymoss Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car treats what’s going on around her as information she can use, absorb, and then analyze in a hurry. It’s been that way since she was a girl, as she was growing up on the Western Slope of Colorado in Grand Junction. The lone female driver racing in the 2023 Porsche Carrera Cup and the first female driver in Kellymoss’ team history isn’t guarded because she’s one of one on the track; she’s always in a hurry to make the most of what’s in front of her.
And that is: another chance. Another chance to be a professional racer, the thing she knows she was born to do. Another chance to prove herself in a space where far too many still question why it matters if there aren't women on the grid. Another chance after a promising career buffeted by financial challenges, a global pandemic, and a particularly devastating crash.
Now midway through her rookie Carrera Cup season at Kellymoss, the winningest Porsche racing team in history by podium count, Sabré Cook is settling in nicely. She's finished in the points in six out of eight rounds so far, including a sixth-place statement in Miami last month when the series served as a support race for Formula 1's grand prix weekend.
Though she's on a new stage, she's long been used to the pressure. “I started driving at 8, and was competitive at around 10,” she says without batting an eye. She was a champion by 13, on the national karting circuit by 15 and competing on international tracks by 15. Her rapid climb is a testament to her concentration and unwavering focus on doing as much as she can, as quickly as she’s able.
“I liked school in general, and I great up around interesting things. I got to build forts and play with lizards, but when I was karting I realized time slowed down for me. I remember thinking, ‘This is amazing and what I want to do with the rest of my life,’” she says.
That intense drive has served her on- and off-track. It’s propelled her among other female drivers with the same intention: break through to increasingly larger motorsports platforms and elevate women to the highest levels of racing. Cook is aware of the expectations others have for her, including her team boss Victoria Thomas, but they pale in comparison to those she has for herself.
“I think it’s a part of my nature to expect a lot of myself and push myself,” Cook says. “I was born with it. When I was a child, my mom said if I helped her clean I would scrub and scrub until my fingers were raw because I didn’t think it was clean enough. I’ve gotten better at managing my expectations, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully switch it off. I don’t think I want to.”
Her days start off almost identically, by design. She thinks of three things she’s thankful for and three things she wants to complete—she calls them her “gratitudes and manifestations.” Each day is a little different, but during her races in Miami last month, the same gratitude popped up nearly every day: how thankful she is to be driving for the most successful team in Porsche Carrera Cup North America.
Though, it wasn't like it was gifted to her. Cook's path to the number #37 car reads far differently than most in a series known for both its intensive young driver development programs and deep-pocketed competitors. After her championship karting career and growing up in Grand Junction, she continued her formal education in 2012 at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, a highly prestigious engineering university in the U.S., incredibly difficult to get into—and also a school that not many women attend.
She raced when she could while juggling classes, showing up on weekends sometimes without much seat time—if any—in the car she was racing, and drive the wheels off.
“I didn’t realize how dumb it was at the time,” she says. “It was trial by fire in race weekends all the time.”
Cook progressed through SCCA events with few sponsors, raced in F4 and F2000 races when she could and absorbed all the data she could handle. She’s an engineer after all. She quickly earned a place in the highly competitive, prestigious, and grueling Infiniti Global Engineering Academy in 2018 that included a placement in the Renault F1 team. Working alongside some of the most talented engineers in the world in the pinnacle of motorsports is an achievement on its own, but Cook knew she wanted more. Instead of working on the car, she wanted to work in the car as a driver.
When she qualified for the inaugural season of the all-female open-wheel W Series in 2019, she had her first real chance. She dove in fully, driving as much as she could across two continents, with little time to spare for herself beyond learning and challenging herself. She finished the year in 12th with one fastest lap under her belt. It was the start of something, she felt sure.
But Sabré Cook's second season in the W Series—delayed a year by the Covid pandemic—would challenge her in ways she couldn’t have imagined. In the first race, on the first lap, in the first turn, her car was struck by two others in a horrific crash. Her vertebrae was compressed and her hip was nearly crushed. Later surgeries would uncover that her hip wasn’t correctly attached after the crash; despite the injuries, she would compete in eight more races that year.
“I was in so much pain, you could see it in my face everywhere I went,” she says. “The races [this year] in Long Beach were the first time since the beginning of 2021 that I’ve gotten into a car without pain.”
Cook took 18 months to fully recover from her surgery, working tirelessly in the gym to rehabilitate her hip and back, all while looking forward to what was coming next. During her recovery, she also reached out to Victoria Thomas at Kellymoss Racing about somehow working with the team. Thomas, who owns the team with her husband and serves and the company's CFO, told her to sit tight.
Little did Cook know Thomas was making moves of her own to find Kellymoss' next driver and do something about the woeful lack of women in racing. Working with IndyCar pioneer Lyn St. James, the first woman to win Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Thomas put together an all-female scholarship competition in 2022 in which 12 supremely talented women jousted for one spot on the team. Cook hung on through rounds of interviews, fitness evaluations, and media-savvy tests, eventually coming out on top after a final driving test and securing her seat for 2023.
“[Sabré is] the real thing,” Thomas says. “It doesn’t matter what she looks like or anything like that. When she’s in the car, she’s a competitor first and foremost.”
That’s partly why Cook might be hard to read to some. Her first practice in Miami was spoiled by technical issues, something that was evident when she returned to the pits but hardly a setback for her weekend. Despite having less track time than she wanted—on a tough, awkward course, no less—she qualified in the top half of the 40-car grid and finished sixth in the first, making up 12 places from the start. A ninth-place finish wrapped up her best racing weekend in years.
An impressive finish for sure, but one that she could improve on, she says. With unflinching accuracy, she rattles off the opportunities she had to pass rivals sometimes laps in advance in specific corners with a near-photographic memory. It’s all part of the way she analyzes data, looking to capitalize on her opportunities.
In fact, that was one of her gratitudes for the morning before the race. She says she’s grateful for her team at Kellymoss and she was grateful for her opportunity to make up time she lost in the first practice, where she was unable to make it to the track. Her third gratitude? Her emotional resilience kept her competitive in qualifying.
And there is still much for her to learn, this she knows. This past weekend saw rounds seven and eight of the Porsche Carrera Cup at Watkins Glen, where Cook finished 13th and 14th respectively, a tiny step back though still a very strong showing for a rookie campaign. But that's the nature of progress.
“I have a big delta to make up to everyone here with seat time in the cars and experience on the tracks. Everything I need to do pushes me in my day-to-day. I need to do that extra time in the gym, I need to do a little bit more in every workout. Every little delta will get me closer to what I want to do,” she says.
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