DESPITE a major electrical fault with the starting gate mechanism, Edinburgh Monarchs’ top rider Craig Cook remained on full power and booked his place in next month’s British Speedway Final at Wolverhampton, after a dramatic semi-final round at Armadale Stadium last night.
Cook and Birmingham’s Elite League star Danny King headed the list of seven qualifiers for the Midlands showpiece with 14 points each from their five outings. Cook’s only defeat came at the hands of King who headed him home in heat 11, King becoming the first visiting rider since last July to beat Cook round Armadale.
Cook had never raced any Elite League opposition at the Lothian Arena before and was eager to prove he could live with the more illustrious top-flight boys. And this he did with some aplomb despite his loss to King.
Cook was in full flow to claim the notable scalps of three time British champion and King’s Brummie teammate Chris Harris in a cracking rerun of heat 20, and he also got the measure of Swindon’s small-track expert Edward Kennett, swooping on the first and second turns, to leave his rival chasing air. And while Cook maintained qualification was his main priority, he was delighted to finish equal first on the night alongside King. “My main aim was to get through to the British Final for a second time,” said Cook. “And I’ve done this. Last year I went into the British Final with little expectation, this time I’m going there to win and I feel good about my chances. It was pretty hairy at times on the track but I was so pleased to beat Chris Harris and Danny King, they are class riders and I feel pretty satisfied at how things went for me overall.”
Harris, who will be going for a fourth British crown on May 13, must have felt slightly jittery about his hopes of making that trip when he was excluded in the seventh race for diving underneath Kennett. However Harris is too doughty a campaigner to get knocked out of his stride by a mere disqualification and won his remaining rides, bar his last, when Cook lowered his colours.
Kennett also made it through despite a third place in his final outing thus ensuring that all three Elite League performers, who were on a hiding to nothing had they failed, were able to return south knowing they had taken care of business without too much bother.
While the focus was inevitably on the Elite League trio, there was plenty of activity in the race for the other qualifying places and Newcastle’s Premier League duo of Stuart Robson and Richie Worrall gave the Geordie support lots to cheer about as they both chalked up 11 points each to book their Wolverhampton passage. And they were joined by Glasgow’s Premier League star James Wright who crept in on eight points. But Monarchs’ other representative Derek Sneddon missed the cut after picking up just six points. The meeting drew a crowd of almost 2000 and Monarchs bosses seem certain to pitch for the right to stage it again in 2014.
Qualifiers: Craig Cook, Danny King, Chris Harris, Richie Worrall, Stuart Robson, James Wright, and Edward Kennett.