Nothing but truly remarkable racing was the order of the day as the BTCC took on the twists and turns of the Donington Park circuit.
Any attempt at predicting the result was an impossible task, which led to nail biting action and legendary battles. The star of the day would emerge as none other than #RacingForHeroes driver Josh Cook, who received the most live television coverage of any other driver across the weekend.Following his sensational sixth in qualifying, Josh’s performance on race day has more than proven his worth as a future champion of the BTCC.
Ever since the opening race weekend of the year at Brands Hatch, Cook has caught the eye of the entire touring car community with his strong consistent driving ability. As a graduate of the Clio Cup, Cook is no stranger to close quarter racing. He may well be a rookie in the series, but after his performances already this season you would be mistaken for thinking he is a long serving name within the ranks.
In the first two races, Josh delivered two strong drives, finishing 13th and 7th respectively. What was noticeable across all the teams on race day was the effect of the soft tyre on race performance. While many other drivers on the soft tyre would slip down the ranks in race one, Josh Cook was able to deliver a balanced drive that left him one of the highest soft tyre finishers.
Cook’s 7th place finish in race two left him in the running for the reverse grid pole in race three. Following the scandal with Rob Austin at Brands Hatch which saw him admitting to purposely choosing himself for pole, the reverse grid draw would be changed so that an independent party would undertake the responsibility. So when it was revealed that Josh Cook had secured his first ever BTCC pole position for race three, the satisfaction was even sweeter. Ahead of the final race, Cook was both optimistic and aware of the challenge ahead,
“The car has had pace all weekend. I am just looking forward to what we can do. A podium is realistic, but it won’t be easy”
The final race of the day would not only go down as one of the greatest BTCC races this year, but in recent memory. Initially Cook lost out to the fast starting Collard, but it was not long before Cook was right up on the BMW bumper. The charging Cook soon took Collard and set about building up a strong lead out front. From the moment the lights went out, the touring car world got behind Cook in a massive show of support that lit up the social media streams.
However, following an incident between Jack Goff and Sam Tordoff the safety car was deployed on track, bunching the field up and losing Cook what was his ever growing lead. Even with a masterful restart from Josh as the safety car peeled in, the hard charging Aron Smith in the BMR Volkswagen was soon on Cook’s tail.
Despite Smith’s best efforts, there is no intimidating a Clio driver and Cook held firm out front. As the laps began to count down it was beginning to look like Cook could hold off Smith, until the two came together at the Craner Curves sending them both shooting off onto the grass. Somehow both drivers managed to recover with astonishing car control and would both continue to the end. Although initially annoyed, stating that the Power Maxed crew had that race in the bag, Cook believed it was nothing more than a racing incident,
“He came up to me and we've shook hands, its racing. If we didn't have things like that then it would be boring to watch, I say more of it to be honest”
The final few laps were just as thrilling as those that preceded them; with Cook on a recovery drive he soon made his way back up to the leading group who were squabbling from position. As the chequered flag dropped, Cook crossed the line in 7th which is a momentous achievement considering his off.
The weekend may have been dominated by the big names at BMR and Honda, but the true spotlight from Donington should fall on none other than Josh Cook. His racing ability was proven last year in the Clio Cup UK and his transition into the BTCC has already shown staggering results. He may be a rookie in this series, but he is a seasoned racer with a refined set of skills,
“When I see a car in front I don’t look at the name in the window. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just an obstacle in my way!”
Moving forward onto the next round of the championship at Thruxton in May, Cook lies 13th in the drivers’ standings on 27 points and 1st in the Jack Sears Trophy with 100 points; his nearest challenger is Kieran Gallagher on 83. Having praised the ever increasing speed and performance of the car over the Donington weekend, Josh Cook is hoping to move even further up the grid.
The first six rounds of the championship have undoubtedly proven that the British Touring Car Championship is one of the greatest race series around the world, and Josh Cook has cemented his position as a rising star and unquestionably a future champion.
Josh Cook and #RacingForHeroes - Supporting our injured through motorsport
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Article by Lewis Glynn
Photo Credit: BTCC.net