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Cookson has 2021 racing plans in place on the Isle of Man

By James Driver-Fisher | Grassroots | Published: | Last Updated:

Veteran racer Mike Cookson had big plans for the 2020 campaign, which included running two superbikes at the Classic TT for the first time.

Having enjoyed some great success last year, the Welshpool ace had been plotting an even bigger and better return to the island than before.

Cookson has spent more than 20 years racing around the iconic 37.73-mile Isle of Man TT circuit himself on a sidecar, having first tackled the mountain course as a newcomer in 1995.

After claiming 19 bronze replicas over the past three decades, with a best finish of sixth in the Sidecar TT, these days he also enters his own privateer team in the Classic TT, which is raced around the same circuit only on older machines.

Father-of-four Cookson, who also has three step children and “countless” grandchildren, also races regularly in the Pre-TT Classic meeting, which takes place at the 4.25-mile Billown circuit, in Castletown, the weekend before TT practice week.

Alas, all racing on the island has been cancelled this year. The Pre-TT Classic had been due to take place last weekend, and TT practice the first week in June this year, followed by the main race week.

Cookson has also been a fan of the Classic TT races since their inception in 2013, a meeting that is raced alongside the Manx GP.

Both had been due to return during the last week of August and first week of September before the pandemic struck.

Cookson – who began his racing career riding solo bikes, competing in grasstrack, speedway and on the circuits before falling in love with sidecars – had previously acquired a Classic 750 Suzuki Superbike to enter in Classic TT as a team manager.

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The bike is a replica of the Team Durex Suzuki, ridden by the likes of Jamie Whitham in the late 1980s, which was built by former rider and engineer, Shropshire’s Rick Leddy.

Cookson and his team had first hoped to enter the bike in the Classic Superbike Race, to be ridden by his former passenger and Manx GP rider, Alun Thomas, but with a crash in 2016 and a flooding carburettor in 2017, he admitted it had been a steep learning curve.

Thomas' entry was turned down in 2018 but, late in the day, Cookson – who has been a mechanic by trade all his working life and now runs a coach company in Welshpool, called Cookson Travel Ltd –secured top 10 TT rider Sam West, from Warrington.

West managed to finish a fine eighth place for the team and was also was the first Suzuki home.

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Last year, Czech roads star Michal Dokoupil rode his Cookson Travel Suzuki 750 to a superb 10th place in the Classic TT Superbike race.

He also clocked a lap of 119mph, which meant he too was the fastest Suzuki rider during the race.

The bike was solely looked after by Cookson, who again played the role of team owner and mechanic and even tea boy all week, ensuring it was a proper privateer’s effort.

“It made the achievement of coming away with a top 10 for the second year, and a Silver Replica for Indi even more enjoyable, as most of the teams had several mechanics and team members, and a much bigger race budget,” he said.

Cookson and rest of the team had hoped to be involved again this year, as Indi was confident, with a few minor adjustments and a little more practice time, he could crack the 120mph average lap speed – before the plug was pulled last month.

"We are obviously disappointed that the Manx GP and Classic TT has been cancelled, but think its definitely the correct decision and fairly expected," said Cookson, who would have been returning to the island for the 26th year in 2020.

"The risks of having so many people on such a small island are just too high, and nobody can foresee how the situation will be in August.

"It's a shame but hopefully by next year there will be some normality and racing can go ahead."

However, despite the pain of not being able to race this year, Cookson said the break had at least gave him more time to prepare for 2021 – which included becoming a two-rider team.

"The plan for next year will be the same at present, and for once there shouldn't be any mad rush to get things finished in time for 2021," he said.

"As far as preparation for the event goes, a second classic superbike has been built in the same spec as the Durex Suzuki 750 that Czech racer Michal 'Indi' Dokoupil rode to 10th place last year.

"The plan is to run two bikes in the superbike class.

"The engines are with racer/engine builder Gary Gittins, from Bishop's Castle, as we speak, so we are hoping for a little bit more power than last year.

"The plan is to compete at the Pre-TT Classic at Billown, the Classic TT and possibly other events later in the year.

"Indi was keen to ride again in the Classic Superbike and Pre-TT Classic. He rode brilliantly in 2019 and it was great he was involved with the team.

"We were looking to have Veronika Hankocyova ride the new bike at the Pre TT in May, alongside Indi, so with regard to this year everything was falling into place.

"Indi had ridden the bike last year to 10th with a lap of 119mph, so with a little more power and practice time he was confident of making a 120mph-plus average lap.

"But, as usual at the TT, just having both bikes finish is the main goal, anything else would have been a bonus."

James Driver-Fisher

By James Driver-Fisher

Motorsport journalist and entertainment and food reviewer for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star.

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