Josh Cook ready to turn up the heat
BTC Racing’s Josh Cook has endured a challenging start to his 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign but the Bath racer is focussed on making a return to the front for the remainder of the campaign.
Cook has frequently been one of the fastest drivers on track during the opening four events of the season, but few could have predicted the reasons as to why race wins and podium potential has often turned to despair.
Temperature issues with his car, contact with a team-mate, race disqualification and one of the biggest accidents of his career so far have combined to deliver one of the most bizarre and unfortunate starts to a season ever.
“It has been challenging, but you make your own luck and you’ve just got to get on with it,” said Cook. “We hoped to be making a championship challenge this season and I know we have the expertise within myself, the team and the car to do that, but so far we’ve just had a series of circumstances that haven’t gone our way.”
He qualified inside the top ten for the opening two events at Donington Park and Brands Hatch, and even took a podium in the reversed grid race during the curtain raiser, but Cook confirms that this didn’t tell the true story behind-the-scenes.
“We have a great chassis and a great car,” he said. “But we were suffering massively with temperature problems during the first two weekends. Team Dynamics had a part that could alleviate those problems on their car and unfortunately this wasn’t made available to us until the third race weekend.
“Donington and Brands just happened to be two of the hottest weekends ever and the situation conspired against us, as we lost two events simply trying to manage the temperatures in the car.”
With the car finally running at full tilt for Oulton Park, Josh immediately put his BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R on the front row of the grid at the Cheshire circuit.
“I was actually gutted not to get pole,” he continued. “It was one of those laps where I was a few tenths up coming into the final corner and everything was perfect. I didn’t want to risk it too much and was maybe just a little conservative through there.
“I only held P1 for a matter of seconds. I knew as soon as my engineer came on the radio, I could tell by his voice that we’d been pipped, and Rory [Butcher] had just snatched pole from us.”
Undeterred, however, Cook produced one of his best ever drives in the Oulton Park opener as he eventually saw off Butcher before cruising clear to take an on-the-road victory.
“It was a great race and a great feeling as I crossed the line – nobody can take that away from me,” reflects Josh. “I realised something wasn’t quite right as the roller went in. I heard that dreaded scrape and started to get a little concerned. I remember hitting the kerb pretty hard as I went through the chicane during the race and that’s where it came from. It wasn’t an engineering error or anything like that and the car wasn’t quicker because of it – it was picked up during the race, but the rules are the rules and I have to respect that.
“It hurts but I’ve benefited from the rule in the past when I think it’s happened to Ash Sutton and Tom Ingram so I can’t really complain – rules are rules.”
Cook then suffered contact with stable-mate Michael Crees in the second bout before finally getting to show his true pace as he surged through the order to take ninth in the final encounter.
If the luck hadn’t been with Cook so far then even worse was to follow at Knockhill when a puncture – picked up because of debris – forced the young talent into a huge accident in the first race.
The BTC Racing squad produced a herculean effort to repair Cook’s car in time for race two before further misfortune followed.
“Absolute credit to everything the guys did,” Cook notes. “When we pulled out of the garage after the repairs – just minutes before race two – I think pretty much every other team lined the pitlane to give us a round of applause.
“I was winded immediately after the accident, but my first thought was that I needed to let the team know about the car. I borrowed a phone from one of the marshals, phoned my Dad and the crew chief Paul.
“I was able to tell him all of the damage so he could start prepping the parts. Had we have not acted so fast then we wouldn’t have made it, but that’s testament to everyone involved in the team. We could have just packed up and gone home, which would have been totally understandable, but everyone wants to keep fighting.
“I wasn’t feeling fantastic following the accident – it was a really big hit and I was diagnosed with concussion post-Knockhill.
“Ordinarily I would have needed to take a three-week break but I had a couple of MRI scans in Cambridge. I’ve started to feel good in the last week or so and my reflexes are back to normal, but if it wasn’t for the ‘Rescue Racer’ programme I wouldn’t be racing here this weekend.”
Looking ahead, Cook is a Thruxton specialist having won here on each of the last three occasions. He also holds the lap record around 2.36-mile track and has set more fastest laps than anyone else… surely he is set to have a good weekend in Hampshire?
“That’s the plan,” he concluded. “I’ve got a good record here and I feel completely at home at Thruxton. It’s a circuit I love and it also suits the car too.
“Of course, I want pole position and race wins but it’s about having the right mentality too. I know we have an even better race car on a Sunday than we do on a Saturday so I’ll be confident we can move forward – we just need to make sure we’re in the mix.
Incredibly, Cook’s #66 machine suffered with a misfire and brake issues during Thruxton qualifying and he eventually had to settle for tenth of the grid, but here’s hoping for an upturn in fortunes later today and for the rest of the season…
“It hasn’t been the perfect start to the season but we’re looking forward and we can still turn this into a positive.”