Craig COOK became only the second Edinburgh Monarchs speedway star to lift the Premier League Riders’ Championship trophy when he rode to glory at Sheffield’s Owlerton Stadium on Sunday.
Cook’s name is now inscribed alongside Armadale legend Peter Carr, who captured the silverware at Coventry’s Brandon Arena back in 1997. Carr retired from racing a few years ago, but he was still on hand to provide assistance in guiding Cook to his deserved triumph.
Cook revealed: “Peter’s involvement steered me to lift the trophy because he helps me with my engines, and he is an invaluable member of my support team. I owe him a massive thanks for all his assistance and advice this season.
“Peter has done a fantastic job, but my dad does a lot as well, just as much as Peter in fact. My dad builds the engines and Peter helps my dad understand them. Peter knows engines inside out and has been involved in speedway for so long. My dad likes listening to Peter because he is learning things from a rider’s perspective.”
Asked if Carr, who was nigh invincible round the Lothian arena when he rode for Monarchs, offered him any advice as to how to ride, Cook replied: “He does! But there is only so much you can tell any rider, and Peter, of course, rode differently from me, but any help I need, Peter is always willing and on hand to assist and there is always another question I want to ask him.”
Cook’s success is a fitting reward in a year when he has topped the Premier League averages and he said: “It’s a massive achievement to have my name on the trophy alongside so many other notable winners. No-one can ever take this away from me. My name is there and I think I have proved to everyone in the Premier League what I can do.”
It was a nerve-jangling time before Cook could savour the champagne, as the Grand Final had to be run three times after Workington’s Rene Bach and Somerset’s Jason Doyle crashed in the previous two attempts.
This turned out to be a massive blessing in disguise for Cook, who added: “When I got to the starting line the first time, my clutch had burned out in the race before and I hadn’t noticed, so when I dropped the clutch I missed the gate.
“Luckily, because of the delay I sprinted to the pits and slapped on a new set of clutch plates, otherwise it could have been disaster for me. Thank God for the re-runs.”
Eventually it came down to a two-man showdown for the crown between Cook and Rye House ace Anders Mellgren. “I was sitting around for so long, but I knew exactly what I needed to do,” said Cook. “I got my head down and did the job. I went wide but still passed Anders but he showed me a wheel.
“If he had been a little harder, he could have pushed me and blocked my run. However, I clamped him and got out into the dirt and I put in four perfect laps and took the win quite comfortably.”
Cook was quick to pay tribute to Edinburgh, who stuck by him this year after he lost his way a little towards the end of last season. He said: “I definitely want to ride for Monarchs again in 2013 because they have made me so welcome. I didn’t think I’d be made so welcome. It felt strange when I left Workington to join Monarchs, but Edinburgh is my home now, the crowd is awesome and it is such an enjoyable place to ride.”
He added: “A lot of people underestimated how well Edinburgh would do this year. Even I underestimated them. But we made a couple of team changes and bringing back Jozsef Tabaka was a classy move. I hope he is back next year.
“We may have lost out in the play-offs and KO Cup, but I don’t think Edinburgh should be ashamed of their performance this season. We were predicted to finish bottom of the table, so to eventually finish in fifth spot and get a shot at going for the championship was a fantastic effort.”
On his personal plans for the future, Cook said: “I’ve got some really big decisions to make over the winter. I would like to double-up again but my Elite League club, Belle Vue Aces, are talking about riding on Friday nights, so that would rule it out because Monarchs race on the same evening.
“I would also like to explore the possibility of racing in Sweden and Poland, but there are rumours that the rules surrounding doubling-up might be changed at the Promoters’ AGM, so I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Ironically, Cook could end up with some domestic team silverware after all. Somerset Rebels have given him three guest bookings to replace Jason Doyle who was injured at the PLRC, and with the Rebels through to the play-off final and the League Cup final, he has a chance of lifting gold.
“It would be nice if I could help Somerset win the league, though obviously it would have been nicer had I been able to do it for Edinburgh,” he added.