AS the pressure builds for Alex Rullo, the 16-year-old WA motorsport prodigy looks at how the stress can be of benefit rather than a hindrance.
This comes into play both on and off the track.
There have never been as many commitments in the Trinity College student’s life as there are this year, with his debut in the Supercars Championship.
The excitement peaks this weekend when he races in front of his home crowd at Barbagallo Raceway for the first time as a Supercar driver. As the youngest driver in the sport’s history, he’s being watched more closely than any other rookie in the field.
Reporters around the country want to ask him questions.
Then, somewhere in between, he still has to be a school student.
And while he isn’t old enough to hold a driver’s licence, he has earned the right to challenge some of the best racers Australia has ever seen, names like Craig Lowndes, Mark Winterbottom and Jamie Whincup.
It is an intimidating schedule for a high schooler, but Rullo handles the pressure with a maturity beyond his years. It is a maturity he believes was influenced by a family tragedy three years ago: the loss of his mother to cancer.
“Losing mum was pretty tough,” he said. “But they say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and I think it’s true.
“Getting through that stage of my life… I think I’ve really matured. You wouldn’t think you’d get positives from that but mentally I think I’m really tough.”
Rullo considers himself set for the best race of his short career in Perth after a promising showing in the last round at Phillip Island.
The Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport team driver describes the step up in competition from last year’s Dunlop Series as a “big learning curve”.
Last month, he had his race cut short in wet Tasmanian conditions when the front end of his Holden was mangled in a 12-car pile-up that put star driver Will Davison in hospital.
But tyre wear, rather than wet weather, will be his concern for the Perth Supersprint.
“Everyone around me has had a lot more experience than me so I think getting used to that has been the main thing,” he said.
“Being the home round, I want to back it up with some good results
“Especially after the potential we had at Phillip Island; we showed some really good pace there but couldn’t get the results on the board.
“We’ll have to look out for tyre wear… just that rear tyre; it will be a big talking point over the weekend.”
Off the track, professional sporting life has also been a learning curve for the teenager.
Media commitments were originally a daunting prospect, but Rullo now views them as a chance to develop his marketing abilities.
“It’s great for social awareness,” he said. “It was pretty tough when I first started, I was pretty shy but now I’m really into it.”
He views marketing as a potential area of study post high school, saying he is working hard on “developing my own brand and a lot of social media work”.
It keeps him focused on securing his graduation certificate at the end of this year. But ultimately, he would rather be racing.
“It’s pretty hard with school in the way,” he admitted. “I haven’t got too long left…It will be good to get it over and done with.”