Rob Coote’s journey to 400 Thunder glory may very well have taken longer than most. In fact, if you ask Rob, he’ll cast your mind all the way back to 2005 which is when the veteran racer got tired of watching from the sidelines, and decided to scratch an itch that had been plaguing him since he last hung up his helmet back before Sydney Dragway was even opened!
“We used to race back in the Castlereagh days,” begins the Sydney-based racer, referring to western Sydney’s famous (and long-since shut) Castlereagh Drag Strip; a common fixture in the memories of many of the state’s more seasoned racers.
A much-younger Coote’s yearning to race between off-street meetings grew too great and in the 70s he admitted to taking his supercharged HG Monaro out fishing for victims on the street more often than he should have, frequenting Sydney’s then hot-spots.
“Castlereagh shut down and it was going to be years until we got a track again, so I hung up the boots and focused on my business instead,” explains Coote, who turned that focus in to a nationally-renowned engineering business, through which he’s been able to give back to his peers and fellow racers by assisting with bespoke parts to keep cars on the track.
Fast forward to 2005 and Coote took the plunge and ordered a McKinney chassis from the States. “It took me a long while to finish the car off!” jests Coote who has only had 18 months of seat time in the Championship-winning chassis. He goes on to speak of the great relationship he shares with fellow racer and 400 Thunder Pro Alcohol Champion Gary Phillips.
“I can only speak volumes of him; we help one another along the way and he’s been a great help getting the car set up… We built a really stout car, it’s way too fast, we’re forever trying to slow it down but that’s a great problem to have. I love chasing the car!” exclaims Coote.
Coote goes on to explain that, as the field develops and adapts to the new technologies influencing the sport, including the advent of turbocharging, competition in all classes including Supercharged Outlaws can be tough. “Outlaws is a really stout class, there’s a lot of really good cars in there,” he begins, however the combination he and the team fronted, coupled with a consistently-strong season, was enough for Coote to string together a shot at the title.
Heading in to the final round of the season, Coote explains that he hadn’t let the pressure of the 400 Thunder Championship ruin his run at a Winternationals title. “I didn’t think we were in with a shot at the Championship,” admits Coote modestly. “We had a little idea of how we were going – I mean, we were hoping to have a shot at the Championship!”
Coote goes on to explain that, more than the Championship, the chance to put on a show for the Queensland crowd really fuelled he and his team. “I love the Winters and I love Queensland, it’s an awesome place to go racing and gets great crowds. Running up against 24 other cars in the field, 400 Thunder should be pleased with the show they put on,” he adds.
Coote’s weekend at the Winters finished early, bowing out to Jake Donnelly in Round 3. Backing up his blaze approach to the Championship, Coote took the team and his family out to dinner down the road on Sunday evening when photographer Grant Stephens rang him to let him know he’d won the 400 Thunder Championship!
“It’s unbelievable, I can’t describe it!” he says looking back on the victory. ”After a long season it was a great reward for my team, I’m absolutely honoured. Plus, being the first, it has taken pride of place in my house!” he exclaims.
Unrelated to the Championship win, Coote has attracted a new sponsor for next year’s season which would suggest that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him.