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 peaked last weekend when he raced 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 was 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 still 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 stems from 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 made 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.
Rullo finished the weekend on a positive note at the fifth round of the Australia Supercars Championship at Barbagallo Raceway.
The hometown hero showed pace and consistency along with determination to keep out of trouble and improve his level of driving even further.
Qualifying saw Rullo start the race on Sunday from position 23, unfortunately for race 8 he tangled with Craig Lowndes on lap 8 and received a 15-second penalty. Faced with a lock up later in the race, which sent him into the sand trap, Rullo came back strong finishing position 25 for the day.
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 and is working hard on “developing my own brand and a lot of social media work”.
It keeps him focussed 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 said.
“I haven’t got too long left…It will be good to get it over and done with.”