The Knockhill circuit near Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland, hosted the fifth round of the National Superstock 1000 Championship last weekend, and Richard Cooper - onboard his Buildbase Suzuki GSX-R1000 - added yet another win to his season’s tally to take a commanding 38.5-point series lead into the middle of the year. Just before he heads to Donington Park, where the National Superstock 1000 series joins the World Superbike circus, we grabbed him for a chat.
Cooper won last Saturday’s [29 June] race around the short, bumpy, and finicky circuit from pole position after setting the pace in qualifying. He was again on pole for race two on Sunday, but as the heavens opened and despite having a go at leading, the Suzuki-mounted pilot raced with the championship in mind and settled for a comfortable second place, ensuring he left Scotland with his championship lead intact.
He said afterwards, “Before the weekend I’d not won at Knockhill for 20 years, so it was good to get back onto the top step. The bike worked well all weekend, even in the horrible conditions for race two. But it was a bit like the round before at Brands, where I decided 20 points for second was better than a DNF. We left with the championship lead so I’m happy enough.”
It’s been a dream start to the year for Cooper, who narrowly missed out on the championship with Suzuki in 2017, the debut year of the latest GSX-R1000. So far this year he’s never finished off the podium, and has won at every round of the season so far.
At the season-opener at Silverstone his win in race one ensured he bookended his winter break with victories, after he dominated the final British Superbike race of 2018 with a start-to-finish victory for the Buildbase Suzuki team. He then went on to win at Oulton Park, Donington Park, and Brands Hatch.
“It was the perfect start to the year to be fair,” Cooper reflected. “Especially after winning the last race of last year, too, as well as the Sunflower Trophy and Race of the Year victories as well. But I felt comfortable from the off this year.
“At Oulton the conditions were a bit tricky, but I actually wanted to put a dry rear in and I think we could have done so and won comfortably, but with the championship in mind we played it safe. So in the end I had to manage the tyres to pick up another win. That was a bit of a bittersweet weekend to be honest, because we were so strong in the dry in practice and qualifying that our lap time would have put us ninth in the first Superbike qualifying session. But to be annoyed about that shows the place we’re in with the bike and our confidence.
“Donington and Brands were pretty similar with the conditions and both dry and wet races, and days like that can lose you a championship. In those conditions I have to think about the fact we’re fighting for a title and not take any risks, and settling for second is sometimes okay with a healthy championship lead.”
With the World Superbike paddock rolling into Donington Park this weekend [5-7 July] Cooper will be back in action as the National Superstock 1000 Championship joins the schedule, before the second half of the main British Superbike Championship calendar comes into effect, with races taking place at Snetterton, Thruxton, Cadwell Park, Oulton Park, and Donington Park, before the season finalé at Brands Hatch on 18-20 October.
After a dominant start to the year for Cooper and his Buildbase Suzuki GSX-R1000, the Nottinghamshire ace will be looking to continue that form for the remainder of the season and lift the title in October.
“I’ve always said that the aim, this year, is the championship. The GSX-R1000 has finished twice in the last two seasons, and I want to deliver the team and Suzuki the championship. It’s not going to be easy and it’s a competitive class with some good teams and riders. But we’re hoping to be at the top of the pile in October.”