Swindon Moto 3 star Max Cook believes a podium place at the Red Bull Rookies Cup is “just around the corner”, writes Charlie Hatfield.
In the opening round of the season in Jerez, Spain, Cook showed great pace in both races as he finished 11th in race one and eighth in race two.
Cook got his weekend off to a superb start as he qualified in eighth place on the grid – a position that ensured he wouldn’t be left behind if the leading group broke away.
The 16-year-old Swindon rider made a fast start to race one, surging up to fifth place in what proved to be a hectic opening lap.
Three laps into the race, Cook was handed a ride-through penalty after he was adjudged to have jumped the start.
Forced to ride through the pit lane before re-joining the race, Cook lost significant ground on the leading pack as he slipped back to 19th place.
Undeterred by the huge blow, Cook regrouped as he cut through the field to finish an impressive 11th place, setting times that could have seen him challenge for the podium but for the ride-through penalty.
Race two saw Cook learn from his mistake in the opener as he got a good, clean start which saw him move up to sixth place into the first turn.
Cook quickly found himself in the middle of the lead group of 12, battling for a place at the front of the pack.
A mistake from a rider ahead allowed the top three riders to break away, leaving Cook fighting for the fourth position.
The chasing pack slowly became the main focus of attention, particularly during the middle phases of the race with Cook fighting to keep his leading position in the pack.
With the end of the race in sight, he was looking strong and sticking to his tactics, which made a podium position look likely.
Executing his plan perfectly, Cook sat poised in fifth going into the final corner, which he knew would be enough to steal third in the slipstream down to the line.
But as much as he could control what he was doing, he could do nothing to prevent the rider ahead from slowing up on the apex, which cost him on acceleration out of the final corner and subsequently dropped him to eighth place.
Cook though remained upbeat, knowing that he has the pace to challenge the top riders going forward.
“I’m coming away from the Jerez experience feeling good,” said Cook. “I was in the front group during the first race and could have achieved my first podium place in the second race if things had gone to plan.
“I am a little bit disappointed as I know that my results could have been much better if I’d had better luck and if I had not jump started.
“But I now know that I have the pace and race craft to mix it at the front, this is something that gives me loads of confidence for the next few rounds of competition.
“I feel that a podium place is just around the corner! I’ve learnt so much from this weekend. I’ve gone faster and finished higher than I have ever done before in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, so there are still a lot of things to be happy about in my performance.
“I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone at the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup for an amazing weekend. My mechanic, helper and the guys in the tent for a great bike and all the support they gave me over the weekend. Finally, a big thanks to all my sponsors for getting me here.”