James Cook rode two fantastic British Talent Cup Moto3 races at Brands Hatch last weekend for Barnsley’s Wilson Racing. The 13-year-old took third place in the first race and narrowly missed the win in race two finishing just 0.061 seconds behind the winner. Teammate Ryan Hitchcock took a fantastic fourth and fifth-place finish whilst rookie Luca Hopkins collected another championship point for 15th in race two after a 17th position in the first outing.
The weekend could not have got off to a much better start for Wilson Racing. In Free practice, one Ryan Hitchcock registered a lap time of 1:38.508 that put him at the top of the timesheet with James Cook just behind in second. If FP2 the roles were reversed with Cook leading from Hitchcock as the Wilson Racing boys had the other riders taking note.
Rookie teammate Luca Hopkins was learning the famous Brands Hatch GP circuit and finished the day inside the top 20.
After the dry track of the two free practice sessions on Friday, the British Talent Cup riders woke up to a damp track on Saturday morning. Cook grew in confidence in the conditions and managed to end the thirty-minute session with the fifth-best time. Ryan Hitchcock found the sketchy conditions trickier and almost high-sided at one point. His lap time would see him start race one from 15th place. Luca Hopkins gained experience as he completed ten laps during qualifying setting his three fastest lap times during the final four laps. He would start in 21st place.
Twenty-eight riders lined up on the grid for the first 14-lap race, with the three 13 year-olds representing Wilson Racing among them. Track conditions had improved significantly since the morning qualifying session so the riders were all on slick tyres.
When the lights went out Cook quickly made up one place to move into fourth. Hopkins maintain position in 21st on lap one but it was Ryan Hitchcock that made the biggest opening gains. He launched his Honda Moto3 machine off the line soaring 7 places in the 2.4 miles that made up the first lap.
On lap three Cook went under Mounsey at Stirlings Bend to move into third place. The two leading riders had made the most of the clear track in the opening laps and were almost 3 seconds ahead. Hitchcock was continuing his progress as he entered what was to be a race-long battle with Johnny Garness for fourth and fifth spot. Hopkins was making progress as well. The number 41 of Wilson Racing was now riding inside the top twenty.
Cook then got his head down and started to work on pulling in the leading two riders. Over the next nine laps, he closed the gap on the race leaders. In the closing stages of the race Cook was battling for the race win. He moved up into second place. On the final lap, Evan Belford managed to regain second place and James Cook crossed the line third to earn his first podium of the season.
Hitchcock spent his race tucked in on the back wheel of Johnny Garness and timed his last lap overtake to perfection to cross the line in 4th position.
Luca Hopkins overtook Evan Pendrill on lap seven. He managed to hold off any fightback for the remainder of the race crossing the line in 17th position.
With grid positions set from the best lap times of race one, James Cook lined up on pole position and Ryan Hitchcock in second. Hopkins improved his position also starting from 16th on the grid.
Cook slipped to third into the first corner but by the end of the lap was running in second position and on the back wheel of the race leader. Hitchcock didn’t get away from the line as well as he would have hoped dropping back to sixth on the first lap whilst Hopkins gained three positions.
Cook and Belford were able to break away at the head of the race and the two challenged each other for the race lead for the entire 12 laps of the race. Positions changed regularly. On the ultimate lap, it was Cook that led the race but with just half a lap to go Belford managed to pass Cook. Cook pressed hard through the fast final bend of Clark Curve he was unable to regain first place. He crossed the line just 0.061 seconds from his first win.
Hitchcock managed to make up for his start as he latched onto the back wheels of two riders battling for third position. At the halfway stage Hitchcock was up to fourth as the battle intensified for the final podium position. Hitchcock went on to cross the line in fifth place, achieving another strong result.
Hopkins was embroiled in a multi-rider battle for the lower points scoring positions. He competed with Stephenson and Dobson and finished 15th in a close battle for 12th. He has finished every race this season so far and collected points in all but one.
Gary Wilson said,” I am really pleased for James. He has been close to the podium before and now he has two in the same weekend. He almost took his first championship win! Ryan was also strong all weekend. The progress we have seen from those two riders after joining us last year is really encouraging. That’s what makes this job so enjoyable. Luca has never ridden this circuit before and again was in the points in the second race. He is gaining confidence every time he goes out and I am delighted with all three of them.”
The next British Talent Cup event will be at Thruxton on the weekend of 30 July to 1 August.
Photos: Kerry Rawson