Sport Motorsport The 16-year-old Supercars driver who doesn’t have a learner’s permit
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The 16-year-old Supercars driver who doesn’t have a learner’s permit

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Alex Rullo will make history in the Supercars this weekend. Photo: Getty
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As if Year 12 isn’t stressful enough.

Alex Rullo, just 16 years old, will juggle his final year of schooling at Perth’s Trinity College with what he hopes is a full season of V8 Supercars.

Not bad for a kid who is yet to finish the process of getting a learner’s permit.

Rullo – who does have an extensive racing background – made national headlines in February when he joined the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport team for the 2017 Supercars season.

He will be the youngest driver in Supercars history and, because of that, needed a special exemption from CAMS [Confederation of Australian Motor Sport] to get a provisional licence to race.

It will be reviewed after every race round, only increasing the pressure on Rullo. But ahead of the season-opening Clipsal 500, he said that he would embrace the situation.

“There’s been a lot of attention over the last week,” he told The New Daily.

“But I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone. There’s not really any extra pressure.

“Anyone’s first year as a Supercars driver is a big year.”

Rullo’s age meant his signing caused some discontent in the Supercars ranks, most notably from 2015 champion Mark Winterbottom.

“He’s not only very young, but very inexperienced as well,” he was quoted as saying by Fairfax Media.

“It’s not my problem as such, but it could be on track when you come across people who aren’t up to it.”

For Rullo, who has spent the last few years of his life looking up to the likes of Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes, that could be hard to hear, but his response reflected his maturity.

“Motivation would be the main thing I get from comments like that,” he said.

“I’d think he is a bit quick to judge there. I just want to learn a lot this year.”

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Rullo at a V8 Supercars photoshoot. Photo: Getty

To get the exemption from CAMS, Rullo was monitored in drives, medical check-ups and mental tests, while his race performances and crash history was also taken into account.

Rullo’s interest in cars and racing came from his father Peter, and he began racing go-karts at 10 before learning to drive at 13.

His obvious talent was on show in 2014 when he started racing in the WA Excel Championship Series, which he won.

Moves to the V8 Touring Car Series (2015) and Dunlop Super 2 Series (2016) – essentially the third and second tier of Supercars respectively – followed and performances were solid, without being amazing, before he got his big break.

Like Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo, Rullo hails from Western Australia, and the Red Bull driver was quick to send the teenager a message of congratulations when the news was announced.

“That was really cool from him [Daniel Ricciardo] – he’s a WA boy like me and I look up to him.”

Rullo speaks so well that he could easily be confused with a driver who is 26 and has done years of media interviews.

But, just every now and then, his youth shines through, like when he is asked to nominate the one race of 2017 he is most looking forward to.

“Clipsal will be great, just to get started. Perth will be really cool in front of my home crowd, hopefully get some support there. And then there’s Gold Coast, a really cool track,” he said, barely pausing for breath.

“I’m keen for Newcastle, too, because of the new track and Bathurst – I had a go in the Super 2 last year – but this year, the longer race, it will be great.

“It’s just an awesome opportunity for me this year. No matter what the track is, I’m excited.”

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