A stunning win in the wet ensures the battle to be the first ever BTC Champion continues into the final race
Max Cook took an impressive wet weather victory in the penultimate race of the season at Valencia, recovering from a more difficult start to work his way to the front and then pull away in style. 29 points down going into the round, Cook needed to score big to stay in with a shout at taking the inaugural British Talent Cup and that he did, over four seconds clear of points leader and key rival Rory Skinner by the flag. Skinner took that sensible second and played the long game in the tough conditions to make his advantage 24 points heading into the final race - and Skinner vs Cook is now the duel that will decide the Champion after a crash for former contender Thomas Strudwick in Race 1.
Off the line it was Strudwick who took the holeshot, confident in the conditions and putting in an impressive first lap. Behind him Skinner played it a little safer to slot into second from pole, with Cook getting swallowed up into the middle of the top ten in fifth. He wouldn't stay there long, however, putting the hammer down and making his way through as others fell foul of conditions.
The first key name to fall from the fight at the front was Fenton Seabright, with the star of Round 1 taking a lowside tumble and up and ok but out of the leading group. Then there was an even bigger shockwave that changed the colour of the race, with Strudwick suddenly falling out the lead and out of contention for the Cup. Rider ok but left to dejectedly walk away, the crash leaves him fighting for second overall in the final race of the season.
That crash had left Skinner at the front, but as the laps ticked on, Cook was free of the pack and had recovered from his tough start to get into a serious rhythm. From 3.8 seconds the gap began to shrink and shrink until Cook was tucked in behind the number 11, and the Englishman made a move the next time down the Start-Finish straight. Safely ahead, he then unleashed his rhythm once again and began to pull away until crossing the line in clear air.
Skinner didn't fight back and took a safe 20 points to extend his lead and leave himself in the driving seat for Saturday's season-closer, with the fight for third then lighting up the track. An incredible battle throughout much of the race saw Joshua Whatley come out on top and the 13-year-old pulled the pin to perfection. Four tenths clear of the multiple-rider scrap heading into the final lap, Whatley took the podium by eight tenths at the flag for another impressive rostrum finish.
The man to just lose out was Cameron Horsman in P4, with Jack Nixon completing the top five. Franco Bourne was a little further back to take sixth, with Brian Hart in P7. Jonathan Campbell, Harvey Claridge and Charlie Farrer completed the top ten, the latter despite a crash. The rest? Testament to the conditions, they joined Strudwick and Seabright on the list of DNFs.
24 points is Skinner's lead now as the last race of the season gets closer on Saturday - and Cook is the only man in with a shout at stopping him. How can he do that? Simply by winning and hoping the Scot makes a mistake...find out how it plays out and who takes the inaugural crown from 16:15 local time in Valencia (GMT +1).