Having seen his dream of riding in this season’s Moto3 World Championship vanish into thin air, Swindon rider Max Cook could have been forgiven for feeling a little sorry for himself.
However, instead of giving up all hope, the 2017 Motostar British Champion has secured a ride in the Pirelli National Superstock 600 Series and plans to return to British shores with a bang.
Last year proved to be a “rollercoaster” for Cook as the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the start of the Moto3 Junior World Championship and also disrupted his preparations for the campaign.
But once the championship got under way in July, Cook quickly found his feet and was battling in the leading back as early as race one.
Cook then broke the lap record in the next round in Portugal, a record that had stood for five years and was previously held by current Moto GP star Fabio Quartararo.
Disaster struck in round three though as the Swindon teenager high-sided in the middle of the race in Spain and broke his pelvis in two places.
Amazingly, Cook recovered in time to make the next round in Aragon and, even more miraculously, came home fifth and recorded his best-ever finish in the championship.
The coronavirus pandemic though continued to hit the sport and with team budgets slashed, Cook, rather than going full-time and riding in the full Moto3 World Championship this season, found himself without a ride for 2021.
Fortunately for Cook an opportunity arose with FS-3 Racing to make a return to the UK on the British Superbike scene in the Superstock 600 Championship. And it is something that Cook plans to grab with both hands.
“I had a pretty good year, it was a bit of a rollercoaster of a year but overall it was a pretty good year for me,” said Cook reflecting on 2020.
“Covid has had a big effect on me. When it first kicked off in March there was nowhere for me to ride, nothing open in the UK. I luckily got out to Spain for some pre-season testing early March but as Covid got worse we were one of the last flights to come back to the UK. It affected me physically but also mentally.
“Then November time, because all the sponsors and stuff had pulled out and everyone’s budget had been shot, there was almost no money left to progress me into the next step which was Moto3 World Championship. It was a big shame when I heard there was nothing more they could do for me.”
FS-3 Racing boss Nigel Snook and Cook’s rider coach Danny Webb have played a key role behind the scenes and helping him secure a ride for 2021 as he explained.
“My first thought was it is not over,” added Cook, on hearing the news he could not ride in the Moto3 World Championship. “It was hard to take in and it took a few weeks for it to sink in but at the time I walked out and got straight on the phone with Danny Webb, my rider coach, and he said we’d get something sorted.
“And since then we’ve worked really hard to get a ride for this year. The spirits have been high. It is sad for obvious reasons but you have to be positive, everything happens for a reason, it could be a blessing in disguise.
“Now I am happy to be back and racing in Britain. It will be a faster bike than I’m used to but the good thing is that all of the bikes are the same specification, so it is more of a rider talent contest than anything else.
“That does go a long way because people watch it and it helps them to spot who the best rider is.
“Nigel (Snook) the owner of FS3 has been a sponsor of me for some time now so he has come and helped me out so I can race. I am incredibly grateful to him for giving me this opportunity.”
Reflecting on last season which saw him finish 13th in the Junior World Championship, Cook said: “After lockdown, the championship was delayed, it didn’t start until July and it usually starts in mid March, the winter break was really long. When I got on the bike I totally forgot how to ride because it had been about eight months since I had last rode the bike. All my muscles just didn’t work, I was ruined for like two days and had to adjust again to the bike.
“We had a two-day test where I learnt to ride the bike again. Had a one day break and then it was straight into race weekend for round one. I had a really good round, my personal best qualified, then my personal best race because I caught up the leading pack and was in amongst the leading group for the first race.
“The weekend after was another race in Portugal and I ended up taking the lap record which has stood for four or five years by Fabio Quartararo, who is now one of the front guys at Moto GP. That was pretty special and one of my biggest achievements.
“Then there was a month break in the middle of August and one of the hottest races I’ve ever done. In race one, got one of the fastest laps and then I caught up with the leading group and then I high sided in the middle of the race and broke my pelvis in two places. That put me out for the next two races on the next day. That was the big low point, I didn’t get to prove myself really.
“I had some really good treatment from Core Clinics, called shockwave therapy. I had it twice a week and it sped up the healing process. I was back on my training in two weeks in the end to make sure I could ride it again, looking back on it now it was pretty impressive.
“It was a four-week break in the end, I just wanted to make sure I could ride a bike so Wilson Racing gave the me the chance to do a round at a club meeting around a big track to make sure I could ride a Moto3 again. I did that the week after and got two second places.
“Two days later I was on a plane to Aragon. On the medical test they couldn’t believe I could walk, run,jump so I really impressed the medical staff and the team.
“That was one of the most satisfying weekends for me because it felt like I was proving people wrong. In race one, I finished fifth and was then battling in the top group with a semi-broken pelvis. I think it matched a best result for a British person in the championship.”
Now all eyes are on this season and the Bennetts British Superbike calendar which starts at the end of May. And joining him there will be his 14-year-old brother James who is competing in the British Talent Cup.
“I think it will be a good year, racing with my brother,” added Cook. “He’s in the British Talent Cup and he is going to be running at the front so if I can be running at the front as well then it will be really good. A good story for the Cook family I guess.”
Cook remained cautious about his title chances in the Superstock 600 but admitted he is in it, to win it.
“I don’t want to say too much but my goal is to win it,” said Cook. “FS-3 have put together a really good package for me. I’ll do everything I can to be at the front, it won’t be easy but we will see how we go.
“It is hard right now to really plan anything. My intention was to go on track days around the UK and re-learn the tracks to get as much of an advantage as possible.
“Getting my head around the British tracks is definitely a priority before the season starts. Gym work and physical exercise and cycling and all that but at the moment there is only so much you can do.
“We are all in this together, everyone is struggling. You have to think how lucky I am to be racing, there are a lot of other people in much worse situations.
“It was all planning for full time on the bikes. I was hoping to go to the world championship but now we have to find sponsors, fund my racing, get a job in the day and train and sort all the other stuff in the evening.”