Anybody backing Craig Cook to win tonight’s big Scottish Open speedway Championship, sponsored by David Harrison (Ford Motors), could be in for a major let-down.
Cook says he is using the Armadale showpiece as a testing exercise to try out different things on his bikes as he strives to rediscover the scoring consistency which shot him to the top of the Premier League averages.
Although Cook insists he is still piling up the points, he admits he has dropped below his own high standards. In order to get back on track, he admits he may have to sacrifice the opportunity to get his hands on the seasoned Jack Young Memorial Trophy. He said: “I’ll be trying a few things out this evening, so whether I finish first or last, I’m not too fussed about it. I just want to get my form back on track and back to how things were for me.”
The 26-year-old Englishman set such a high bar for himself over the first half of the season that it was always going to be hard for him to maintain.
“I was averaging 11 points per meeting and that was probably hard to keep up. Things are not going quite so well for me now, although I’m still getting double figures, but they are not as high as I had been producing and I’m not riding as well as I want to be. I will be making a few changes to my bikes and trying them out principally for our meeting at Berwick Bandits tomorrow night.”
Inconsistent track surfaces at Armadale have had a detrimental effect on Cook. “It hasn’t been ideal,” he says. “The track last week was very greasy and because water had penetrated the surface, you were hitting the dirt and it was catapulting you across the corner, it wasn’t very enjoyable, but the track staff did an awesome job to get the meeting on at all.”
Despite his intention to experiment, Cook will start as a warm favourite to be crowned Scottish Open champion. He said: “I’m not going out to finish last obviously and I’ll be giving 110 per cent as I always do. But whether the changes I make will work out or not is a different story. Hopefully everything will go right for me and I can knock out a few race wins early on. The set-ups I have been using are just not working for me and I can’t get my bikes going the way I want them to. My clutch isn’t responding to my liking either.
“Whether the bike I have been riding for most of the time is tired, I don’t know. It has done 50 meetings already. Maybe I should splash out and buy myself another bike, that is something I will have to consider.
“No-one wants to spend unnecessary money, but if that is what needs to happen, that’s what will happen.”
Among Cook’s main rivals for the title, his Belle Vue Aces teammate and former Monarchs No.1 Kevin Wolbert is one to consider for a rostrum finish. Cook said: “Kevin has had some tough matches recently and he hasn’t done that good. But I have seen a massive improvement in him over the last week. He looked on the pace and is definitely one to watch out for this evening.”
Newcastle Diamonds’ ace Andrew Tully defends the championship he won in 2012 and after his extraordinary gating exploits for the Geordies at Armadale two weeks ago, he will surely be in contention again if he can repeat the trick. “Andy was unbelievable,” said Cook. “I’ve never seen him gate so well in my life. Whatever he did I wish he would let me in on his secret. He has had a tough season and deserves a bit of luck.”
Cook finished on ten points a year ago but got knocked out at the semi-final stage. “I was a bit disappointed with that as I recall. If things go according to plan I can step up to the plate and bring the trophy home.”
Others who have a real chance are Peterborough Panthers’ Patrick Hougaard and King’s Lynn’s Aussie Rory Schelin, who is a three-time winner of the event and would equal Peter Carr’s record of four victories, if he is triumphant again.
A good outsider could be Monarchs’ own Claus Vissing, who impressed against Berwick.
Line-up for the meeting (7.15pm): K Wolbert (Belle Vue), T Pijper (Monarchs),R Wells (Sheffield), R Harrison (Workington), D Sneddon (Monarchs), J Tabaka (Monarchs), A Tully (Newcastle), M Fricke (Monarchs), T Busch (Germany), C Cook (Monarchs), H Bager (Glasgow),R Schlein (King’s Lynn), R Worrall (Newcastle),P Hougaard (Peterborough), C Vissing (Monarchs)