RICHARD Cooper put the cherry on a perfect seven days with victory in this afternoon’s Race of the Year at Mallory Park.
To make the spoils sweeter, he edged his Buildbase Suzuki team-mate Bradley Ray to the top honours as he stamped his name on the ROTY trophy.
Cooper’s win comes less than 24 hours after he dominated at Bishopscourt with a Superbike hat-trick, beating Danny Buchan in the closest event finish ever to bag the Sunflower Trophy in his first visit to the track.
And his success in Northern Ireland follows his British Superbike win at last weekend’s Brands Hatch finale, where he beat a downpour of rain to dominate the race.
But in qualifying this morning at Mallory Park it was Cooper’s Buildbase compatriot from the Superstock 1000 ranks, Billy McConnell, who beat him to pole position by just two tenths of a second while Lee Jackson completed the front row.
And when the lights went out, the Aussie grabbed the lead as Cooper and Ray tucked in behind, soon breaking away from Jackson in the fight for fourth.
McConnell held station at the front for almost the entire first half of the 20-lap scrap, but on lap 10, after levering Cooper aside, Ray slipped into the lead as McConnell dropped to third.
The pace at the front soon proved too much for the former British Supersport champ and all he could do was settle for podium honours as he watched Ray and Cooper pull a gap.
Cooper slowly cut Ray’s advantage before making a pass on lap 14, but Ray limited his damage to little more than a quarter of a second and struck back on lap 17 only for Cooper to get him again the very next time around.
And despite Ray’s advances in the closing corners after nearly breaking his own lap record from last year, Cooper held on to take the crown a mere 0.128s ahead of Ray, with McConnell a further four seconds back in third.
Another four seconds adrift was Jackson, who fended off OMG Suzuki’s new recruit Luke Mossey.
Fellow Superstock 1000 front-runners Leon Jeacock and Alex Olsen took sixth and seventh, while road racing star Ian Hutchinson completed the top eight.
*Image: Graeme Taylor