Taking men to the cleaners in motorsport

Melani Cook next to her Volkswagen Fox in Killarney during the Womens Day themed Power Series where she finished 7th overall. Cook says women have enough drive to compete in the male-dominated motorsport.

Kraaifontein racing car driver Melani Cook is not one to be easily intimidated.

In fact, she goes out of her way to prove herself before there can be any doubt of her ability.

Despite competing in a male-dominated industry, when she takes to the track in her Volkswagen Fox, all she sees is another competitor to beat.

She says her whole life has been about cars and speed and racing at the Killarney International Raceway circuit makes her feel at peace and at home.

Her whole family are petrol heads and her father, Albert Cook, has been competing in rallies since the late 70s. At the weekend, father and daughter were side by side in the Women’s Day themed Power Series.

Cook got the better of her old man on the day but was modest about the outcome and says it was only because her father’s car had problems on the day. He is usually faster than her as he has a bigger and better engine, she says.

Cook, 29, started racing competitively in 2004 in the stock cars mini class in the Cape Hell Drivers series.

An accident in a race as a teenager back in 2005 left her scared for her life and she contemplated calling it quits but 10 years later she was inspired to get back on the track after watching stock car racing with friends.

“In about two weeks I got the car and joined racing mid-season but I did the full season the following year and ended up winning the championship in Pink-Rods.”

After that win she made her way to the main circuit as her team felt she was ready to go up against the big boys.

In September 2018 she took part in her first main circuit race in Port Elizabeth and has not looked back.

Cook races in the Fine cars during the Power Series and is part of the Lambert Racing team.

At the weekend, during the Women’s Day themed Power Series, she came 7th overall in a field of 14 drivers.

“In the last race meeting before this I rolled my car but I have an amazing team behind me, so it has been a lot of learning.

“For me racing is in my blood but I treat it as a hobby.

“I am doing this for fun, I don’t take it as a job, it is way too stressful to take this sport as a job.

“My main goal is to do better times with my car and only then can I even think of going for a bigger motor.”

Cook says women are more than capable of taking on the men in the industry.

“There is no special treatment because you are a female, when we take to the track there are no genders, it’s all about competition,” says Cook.

She was also a member of a biker club and says feeling that adrenalin everyday is what keeps her alive.

Outside of Killarney racetrack, Cook spends her days as a sales representative for a leather goods company in Bellville.