[W]est-Cumbrian-born Comet Craig Cook finally secured the British Championship title after three successive heartbreaking years as runner-up in a sensational British Final at Belle Vue’s National Speedway Stadium last night!
The well-deserved win not only gives Cook the biggest victory of his career, with his name added to the illustrious list of winners of that famous trophy, but it also gives him the wild card berth for the British Grand Prix at Cardiff on Saturday 22nd July – and no doubt West Cumbrians will flock there to cheer on their man, on what promises to be another ‘special night’ in the career of Craig Cook – without doubt the greatest speedway rider to come out of Cumbria!
Having top-scored with 14 points from his five qualifying rides Cookie progressed straight to the Grand Final along with Newcastle’s Steve Worrall, with both riders taking advantage of home track knowledge as Belle Vue is also their home circuit in the SGB Premiership.
There they were joined by Redcar’s Ben Barker and Ipswich & Wolves rider Rory Schlein (the first Australian-born rider to take part in the event since 1974), who had finished ahead of seven-time champion Scott Nicholls and defending champion Danny King in the semi-final.
Cookie had first choice of gate positions and selected the inside gate but for a lap it looked as if it might all go wrong for the new Team GB skipper before he powered under Steve Worrall at the end of the opening lap to go on to claim his maiden British Championship amid wild scenes of celebrations in the Cook camp.
Understandably, Craig was in jubilant mood after continuing his purple patch with the biggest win of his career so far.
“I’m just over the moon,” he said.
“I got an unbelievable reaction from the crowd, and I can’t thank everyone who has supported me enough.
“My family, friends, sponsors, engine tuners – I really have a great amount of people behind me who helped me get here.
“It means an awful lot to be stood here holding this trophy, it’s something I’ve been working hard to achieve for a long time and I’m just pleased to finally get there.”
Supporters were treated to some thrilling action all evening, played out in front of a live tv audience on BT Sport, who must surely have been delighted with their first live domestic speedway meeting coverage.
This featured some excellent races and none more so than Cookie’s titanic battle with fellow West Cumbrian Richard Lawson in heat 6 – which was arguably the race of the night as they fought tooth and nail for four laps before Cookie just got the verdict at the chequered flag.
Cookie’s Comets team manager Tony Jackson was with him in the pits throughout the meeting and afterwards could not hide his delight at seeing his man on the top step of the podium!
“Absolutely brilliant, what a night, and no more than he deserves after all the hard work that he has put in,” enthused Jackson.
“He was so determined to finally get this title tonight, which is one he has been unfortunate to miss out on in recent seasons due to circumstances not necessarily of his own making; but now he has finally done it and they can’t take that away from him!
“He was clearly the best rider on show all evening and he just took one ride at a time, with his pit crew making adjustments as needed and we kept him abreast of what he needed to do with regards the points situation – then he just went out and did the business with some incredible racing.
“Following on from his success in the GP semi-final qualifier in Italy on Saturday this caps an incredible three days for him. He has raised the bar again this season and to claim the wild card berth at Cardiff is the icing on the cake.
“He has had that wild card berth in the past but this year he is much more ready for it and could really do something – he certainly won’t be going there just to make up the numbers that’s for sure – and there are bound to be lots of Comets fans that are now planning a weekend in South Wales in July to cheer him on!”
Comets owner Laura Morgan added: “I personally, and we as a club, are absolutely delighted for Craig and thrilled at his success.
“To have the British Champion in your team is a great honour and he is a worthy champion, who has clearly been the best British rider so far this season – his results at home for Workington and Belle Vue, and abroad in the World Championship qualifying meetings are testimonies to that.
“He will certainly get a fantastic welcome when he returns to Derwent Park with his British Championship trophy on Sunday when we face Newcastle in our Knockout Cup replay, first leg fixture, which has a 1:00pm start time; with the second leg over at Newcastle taking place at 7:30pm the same day.
BRITISH FINAL QUALIFYING SCORERS: Craig Cook 14, Steve Worrall 11, Ben Barker 11, Rory Schlein 10, Danny King 10, Scott Nicholls 10, Richie Worrall 9, Chris Harris 9, Richard Lawson 9, Paul Starke 6, Lewis Kerr 5, Lewis Rose 5, Kyle Howarth 4, Stuart Robson 4, Jason Garrity 3, Carl Wilkinson 0, Jack Smith (res) 0, Andy Mellish (res) 0.
- SEMI-FINAL: Barker, Schlein, Nicholls, King.
- GRAND FINAL: Cook, S.Worrall, Schlein, Barker.
COMETS UPCOMING FIXTURES:
- Thursday 22nd June at 7:30pm: Ipswich v Workington (SGB Championship)
- Sunday 25th June at 1:00pm: Workington v Newcastle (Knockout Cup 1st round Replay, 1st leg)
- Sunday 25th June at 7:30pm: Newcastle v Workington (Knockout Cup 1st round Replay, 2nd leg)