This past Monday night saw Craig Cook finally able to call himself British Champion at the fourth time of asking, after the newly appointed Great Britain captain roared to glory on his home track and lift not only the British Championship at the National Speedway Stadium, but also book his place at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium for the British Grand Prix next month.
For the Belle Vue and Workington rider, it saw his victory as a culmination of hard work and determination over the winter to finally getting his hands on the trophy that has eluded him the past last three years on the trot. After finishing as runner-up to Tai Woffinden twice and then losing in the final at the NSS to the eventual winner last year in Danny King, it felt like the man from Cumbria would never there.
The field for the meeting was a quite a competitive one, as former champions took part in 7-times winner Scott Nicholls, 3-times winner Chris Harris and last year’s winner in Danny King. Another entrant making his debut was a veteran of British Speedway in a sense, through Australian Rory Schlein who was riding on a British licence and qualified through the semi’s to make his British Final bow.
While the experienced heads were in the meeting and looking for glory, it gave way to the next generation of up and coming riders who wanted to showcase their talents too and put themselves in the shop window for future World Cup selection via this prestigious meeting. There was one other tantalising reward to the winner of the meeting, as who ever finished top of the podium would receive the number 16 race jacket for Cardiff, and take part in the British Grand Prix on the 22nd of July.
In the opening heat Ben Barker stormed to victory, as he held off the challenge of the reigning champion in Danny King for the full four laps to pick up three race points, as Barker was a late substitute into the meeting after Lewis Bridger was forced to pull out a couple of days prior through injury. Lewis Rose then won first time out in his debut race in the British final, as the King’s Lynn and Newcastle Diamond man missed out on the action all took place behind. Rye House and Peterborough rider Chris Harris saw him forcing his way through the pack, with the Cornish man coming from the back and into second place and saw him very nearly catching Rose on the final lap.
Heat four saw an interesting line up with home favourite Craig Cook up against former Aces in Rory Schlein, Scott Nicholls and Richie Worrall in their respective opening race. Cook flew away from tapes and was never troubled at all, with the other riders racing for second place and saw Nicholls finishing behind the leader and closely followed by Worrall. In the second round of races, it pitted the Worrall brothers against each other in heat five, with Steve powering around the outside of his brother Richie and leaving his rivals for dead as Richie took second.
‘Cookie’ made it two wins in two after a tough battle with Glasgow and Somerset man Richard Lawson for the race win, after passing Kyle Howarth on lap two and then rode handlebar to handlebar with the dark horse of the meeting in Lawson. In the end Cook just had too much speed for his opponent to claim the win and move onto six points.
Rory Schlein then picked up his maiden win in a British Final, as he roared around the field in Heat 8 after Stuart Robson had made the gate ahead of Harris and Jason Garrity, but Schlein found plenty of room and grip to try the outside and pass them all down the back straight for three points. In the next race it saw the Australian making it two wins on the bounce with a fairly comfortable victory and saw him on six points level with the leaders.
Danny King then came to life in the second half of the meeting, with a stunning pass coming off turn two on the opening lap, as he powered his way pass the former champion in Nicholls and Stuart Robson at the front to take the lead and hold out for a big heat victory. Craig Cook then took his tally to nine-points after his third race win in Heat 11, with the Aces and Comets man making a huge cutback on the second bend to pass all his fellow rivals and was then ruthless on his Belle Vue team mate Steve Worrall, as he forced Steve to shut off on the fourth bend on the opening lap.
That win seem to have effectively guaranteed the Belle Vue man a place in the semi-finals at the very least and saw the three-time runner up looking untouchable around his home circuit. Richie Worrall kept in contention with a race win in Heat 12 after battling with Lewis Rose for the lead for a lap or so, and saw Rose losing out. Then came the shock result in Heat 13, as Rose who had just been beaten by Richie Worrall in the previous race, Rose then put the cat amongst the pigeons and inflicted defeat on Cook with a great ride to win the race.
Danny King refused to give up his British Final crown without a fight, and so saw him fending off fierce competition from Richie Worrall in Heat 14 to pick up his second race win of the night and remain in the top scorers. Rory Schlein made it three wins out of four for the debutante, following his win ahead of Ben Barker who raced Richard Lawson all the way and saw them both swapping positions throughout, before the Cornish man held on to grab second place.
Heat 16 saw Kyle Howarth being excluded after the peak on his helmet caught the tapes and after a previous warning for a false start earlier in the night it saw the Wolves and Sheffield rider being kicked out by the referee and brought in first reserve Jack Smith for his first appearance in a British Final. Jack who is son of former three-times champion of the British Final and another Belle Vue alumni in Andy Smith, saw the youngster on pace with the others in the race and that until the back-straight when the rest of field all passed him by and saw a great race out in front between Steve Worrall and Scott Nicholls.
Worrall held on to beat Nicholls and put him in contention with a possible grand final berth still within reach for the man from St.Helens. Rye House Rockets team mates Scott Nicholls and Chris Harris met in Heat 17, but Richard Lawson wasn’t going to give up easily as he showed his liking for this track once again with a good battle between himself and Nicholls for second place, as with ‘Bomber’ gone it saw Lawson having the speed on his rival to get second place and move into fifth place in the qualifying standings.
Steve Worrall booked his grand final place with a stunning win in Heat 18 over King and Schlein, with the latter two racing each other hard along with Kerr with all three swapping places over four laps. Richie Worrall and Ben Barker then had a good tussle for the lead in the following heat, as for the first three laps of the race it was Worrall leading until Barker charged hard and had the speed to move ahead of Richie and book his semi final place.
In the final qualifying heat it saw Craig Cook showing his passing ability yet again, as he was last of the gate before getting a lot of drive outside of both Lewis Rose and Paul Starke and that saw the Belle Vue and Workington man power his way to the front and make it four wins out of five. With the Belle Vue duo of Cook and Steve Worrall both advancing to the Grand Final, it saw the two remaining place up for grabs and was between a determined Ben Barker, a battling Rory Schlein and two riders that wanted to lift that title once more in Scott Nicholls and Danny King.
The semi final was without doubt the race of the night. Firstly it saw Ben Barker taking the lead on the first bend to which the Redcar Bears man held on to, whilst the remaining riders passed and re passed each other for the duration of the race and finished with Rory Schlein picking up second in the semi final and booked his place in the final along with Barker. It meant that with King finishing outside the top two places that we would have a new British Champion for 2017 and a new name on the trophy too.
With the grand final forthcoming, it was anyone’s to win and saw it anything than straight forward win. As the tapes flew up it saw it a surprise with Steve Worrall making the better gate and saw Ben Barker going wide in to the dirt on the second bend to generate speed and that allowed Craig Cook to roar up the inside of them all and join his Aces team mate at the front. Worrall who had ruthlessly been cut off by Cook in the qualifying heats, saw him almost returning the favour as he was holding onto the lead.
However on the first bend of the second lap it saw Cook diving up the inside of Worrall and taking the lead from his Aces team-mate, as Worrall was not about to give up hopes of winning the title, but he was forced to settle for the runners up spot as Cookie took the British title in front of his home supporters and finally land the big one. The GB star received a standing ovation and the traditional bumps for winning the meeting to complete a fantastic week for the Cumbrian man, as following the appointment as him taking over as captain for the forthcoming World Cup, he followed up his win in Italy at Grand Prix challenge semi-final last Saturday with the British title.
1. Carl Wilkinson (Scunthorpe) – 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 0
2. Danny King (Leicester/Ipswich) – 2, 0, 3, 3, 2 = 10
3. Ben Barker (Redcar) – 3, 1, 2, 2, 3 = 11
4. Jason Garrity (Leicester/Redcar) – 1, 1, 0, 1 = 3 WITHDRAWN
5. Lewis Rose (Kings Lynn/Newcastle) – 3, 1, 0, 0, 1 = 5
6. Kyle Howarth (Wolverhampton/Sheffield) – 1, 1, 2, X, 0 = 4
7. Lewis Kerr (Somerset/Scunthorpe) – 0, 0, 2, 3, 0 = 5
8. Chris Harris (Rye House/Peterborough) – 2, 2, 1, 1, 3 = 9
9. Steve Worrall (Belle Vue/Newcastle) – 2, 3, 0, 3, 3 = 11
10. Richard Lawson (Somerset/Glasgow) – 3, 2, 1, 1, 2 = 9
11. Paul Starke (Peterborough) – 1, 2, 1, 0, 2 = 6
12. Stuart Robson (Rye House) – 0, 0, 1, 1, 2 = 4
13. Richie Worrall (Glasgow) – 1, 2, 3, 2, 1 = 9
14. Craig Cook (Belle Vue/Workington) – 3, 3, 3, 2, 3 = 14
15. Scott Nicholls (Rye House) – 2, 3, 2, 2, 1 = 10
16. Rory Schlein (Wolverhampton/Ipswich) – 0, 3, 3, 3, 1 = 10
17. Jack Smith (Belle Vue/Glasgow/Belle Vue) – 0 = 0
18. Andy Mellish (Belle Vue Colts) – 0 = 0
Semi Final: Barker, Schlein, Nicholls, King – Time: 62.66
Grand Final: Cook, S.Worrall, Schlein, Barker – Time: 62.40
(Courtesy of Speedway Updates:)