Maximum man Cook the Ace in the Witches' pack as hosts claim win

Maximum man Craig Cook lights up his rear tyre in celebration after heat 15.

Maximum man Craig Cook lights up his rear tyre in celebration after heat 15. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

Craig Cook was at his magnificent best as he went through the card to lead Ipswich Witches to victory over the Belle Vue Aces. 

In a meeting which was nip-and-tuck throughout, the former Belle Vue rider was untouchable against his former club, winning all five of his rides and taking the chequered flag in heat 15 to secure victory for his side. 

He was ably supported by guest No.1 Sam Masters (10+1) and reserve Paul Starke (9+1), while the Witches’ engine room of Danny King (5+1) and Jake Allen (8+1) both contributed important heat wins. 

Opening heat action with Witches guest Sam Masters leading the way.

Opening heat action with Witches guest Sam Masters leading the way. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

It looked as though the Witches had the meeting sewn up with back-to-back maximums in heats 12 and 13, coming out of the interval, before the Aces hit back with a 5-1 of their own in the penultimate race of the night. 

But Cook always looked likely to complete his 15-point maximum, which he duly did in the final race to secure the win for his side. 

The success was an important one as the Foxhall side chase the Premiership play-offs, with their next meeting coming at Wolverhampton on July 19. 

Witches skipper King won the toss and took gates one and three for his side in the first heat, where guest Masters jumped away well and held off Brady Kurtz for four laps to take victory, with Drew Kemp not able to build on a solid start as he was quickly swallowed up by Richie Worrall. 

Paul Starke takes the chequered flag in heat two.

Paul Starke takes the chequered flag in heat two. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

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Masters’ time of 55.9 secs was the quickest Foxhall has seen this season but Starke’s ride in his first outing was just as impressive as he wound it on as he went round the outside of Tom Brennan to win a shared heat two. 

King and Allen were clear and gone when Charles Wright hit the deck and then the fence in heat three, with the race awarded and the Witches taking their first maximum of the evening. Wright was shaken up but was able to walk back to the pits while work to fix the fence was carried out. 

Cook won his first ride as he out-muscled Jye Etheridge in turn one, with the race again shared with Starke at the back, before the Aces struck their first blow of the evening as Kurtz and Richie Worrall gated well and roared away to secure a maximum.  

Dan Bewley exited a tight first corner in front to beat Masters and Starke home in a shared sixth heat before the Aces suffered a blow with the news Wright couldn’t continue after picking up a shoulder injury. 

Witches guest Sam Masters chasing Steve Worrall in heat 10.

Witches guest Sam Masters chasing Steve Worrall in heat 10. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

Richie Worrall took his next ride, alongside twin brother Steve, but missed the two minutes for heat seven meaning Etheridge came in in his place. But the reserve failed to score as Cook and Kemp secured a 4-2 for the hosts which was repeated in the next race by Allen and Starke as back-to-back heat advantages put the hosts in a strong position.  

The Aces hit back in a superb heat nine as Allen was pipped on the line by Bewley, after leading for nearly all-four laps, but the action came behind them as King gave chase before running out of space on the final lap and slipping to the back of the pack. 

Another Aces heat advantage in race 10, with Masters splitting the visiting pair, squared the meeting up again at 30-30, before Cook’s heat 11 win kept parity heading into the interval as Kemp came home at the back behind Kurtz and Richie Worrall. 

Injured Witch Jordan Stewart helping guest Sam Masters.

Injured Witch Jordan Stewart helping guest Sam Masters. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

The interval came before four big heats and, as the riders returned, the Witches caught fire as the pairings of Starke and King and then Cook and Masters produced back-to-back maximums to put the Witches in control of a match which had previously been tight throughout. 

Kurtz was put in as a tactical rider in the penultimate race, as the visitors desperately searched for a spark, and they got it as the Aussie combined with Steve Worrall for a 5-1 which took the meeting down to the final heat. 

And Cook did the business again for the hosts as his maximum secured a much-needed home victory. 

Ipswich Witches:  Sam Masters (3-2-2-2'-1) 10+1; R/R for Anders Rowe; Danny King (3-0-0-2') 5+1; Jake Allen (2'-1-3-2-0) 8+1; Craig Cook (3-3-3-3-3) 15; Drew Kemp (0-0-1-0) 1; Paul Starke (3-0-1'-1-0-3-1) 9+1.

Belle Vue Aces: Brady Kurtz (2-3-2-1-3-2) 13; Ritchie Worrall (1'-2'-2-1') 6+3; Steve Worrall (1-2-3-0-2') 8+1; Charles Wright (FX) 0; Dan Bewley (1'-3-3-0-0) 7+1; Tom Brennan (2-0-1-1-1) 5; Jye Etheridge (1'-2-0-0) 3+1

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