RICHARD Cooper rocketed to a pair of dominant victories in Thundersport’s cutthroat GB Racing 600 Elites at Mallory Park.
Battling the 1000cc giants of GP1 aboard the Hawk Suzuki GSXR600 just wasn’t enough for the National Superstock 1000 title contender, so he decided he’d try his hand at arguably one of the fastest 600 grids in the country outside the National and British championships.
Up against British Supersport contender Matt Truelove and Knockhill’s National Superstock 600 polesitter Tom Neave, in addition to all the usual suspects, the mini Cooper didn’t seem at all shaken as he sat on the seventh row of the starting grid on Saturday while Zak Corderoy, Chris Hellewell and Lloyd Shelley enjoyed the view from the front row.
Young Irishman Caolan Irwin hit the front after the first lap, and shortly thereafter Hellewell took over at the helm, but they were both taken by surprise when the inch-perfect Coopes edged into a podium position just as Truelove nabbed the lead on lap six.
And it only took the flyweight Suzuki rider another 53 seconds to slot into first position, where he began stretching out a gap. When he crossed the line, Cooper was over four seconds clear of Truelove and nearly nine seconds ahead of Corderoy. Lloyd Shelley came home first of the Sportsman in fourth overall, with Bobby Varey and Ben Wotton completing the podium.
Unsurprisingly, the finishing order from the first race happened to match the front row for race two under the Mega Laps system: Cooper, Truelove, Corderoy. And from an advantageous pole position, it was yet again Cooper who hit the front early on.
Truelove wasn’t having it, however, and he attacked on lap two with a successful move that kept him out front for the next two laps. Cooper retaliated on the fourth lap and Truelove did exactly the same just a lap later. But at half-distance, Cooper decided party time was over as he put his head down and gapped the chasing pack by 2.5 seconds at the chequered flag, with Truelove and Neave rounding out the rostrum after a close battle with fourth-placed Corderoy.
Shelley took Sportsman honours once again and Varey managed another runner-up finish, while Ryan Cooper took a tight third.
With pole position vacant in race three due to a missing Cooper, it was Truelove who stormed out front early as Corderoy and Neave were hot on his heels. But any efforts to take over at the front were fruitless as the leading Lincolnshireman crept away lap by lap.
Corderoy held the runner-up spot until nearly half-distance when Neave’s pace proved too much for the former Aprilia Challenge champion and he was forced to settle for third after 12 laps of racing, almost six seconds off the runner-up spot and over eight seconds off Truelove in first.
Following Shelley’s early retirement, Varey took the Sportsman win ahead of Alex Laureys and Cooper.
William White still holds the 600 Elite points lead with 217, but Corderoy’s rostrum performances allowed him to close the gap by 13 points to sit on 164, 34 clear of Brendan Mallinder with 130.
*Main and action image: Ian Boldy
*Bike image: Zak Corderoy Racing