Josh Cook led home a SV Racing one-two-three in the penultimate race of the 2014 season to take his championship battle with Mike Bushell down to the wire in the final race of the year.
Cook started the race from third on the grid, three places ahead of his adversary Bushell, however by the halfway mark of the opening lap he was in the lead, passing Paul Rivett into Surtees after a slow getaway for poleman Ash Hand.
As Cook began to edge away, Bushell quickly worked his way into second after a slide for Rivett through Paddock Hill Bend on lap three allowed Bushell through, with Rivett left to fend off the attentions of SV trio Hand, Ant Whorton-Eales and Alex Morgan.
Running second, Bushell needed to either overtake Cook or set the fastest lap of the race to win the title with a race to spare, and his chances were aided when the safety car came out on lap seven after Dan Holland slid into the Druids gravel trap.
At the restart there was a three lap sprint to the finish, and whilst Cook away perfectly to instantly forge a gap, a moment through Clearways left Bushell with a gaggle of Cook’s team-mates right in his mirrors.
Hand, who had earlier tapped Rivett wide at Graham Hill Bend for third, led the charge and was briefly ahead through Paddock Hill on lap ten, but Bushell fought back valiantly into second on the run to Surtees.
A lap later Bushell was under attack again, with Hand, Whorton-Eales and Morgan swamping him down the Cooper Straight. After plenty of contact through the remainder of the lap, Whorton-Eales emerged in second from Morgan, with Bushell shuffled down to fourth ahead of Hand.
While the top three wouldn’t change over the course of the final lap, with Cook taking a clear sixth win of the season by 2.8 seconds from Whorton-Eales and Morgan, the latter securing a long-awaited fourth podium finish of the campaign.
“I had to do it all on the first lap, by the third corner I was passed Rivett and then I just had to get my head down,” Cook told TCF.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to anything behind me, as I had a couple of mechanical issues with the car which broke my rhythm a bit and I just focused on getting the car home.
“We got one win, we’ve got pole for tomorrow and we want the other win. I’ve just got to do that, and then see what happens with Mike and the championship.”
Bushell meanwhile lost fourth on the final lap to Hand, who made it a SV one-two-three-four finish on the road, but post-race the latter was penalised for his earlier contact with Rivett, a two second penalty dropping him to seventh behind Rivett.
That meant Bushell was promoted to fourth, meaning that a sixth place finish or better in race two tomorrow will guarantee him the title. Charlie Ladell ended up fifth in the end ahead of his WDE Motorsport team-mate Rivett.
Behind Hand, James Colburn recovered well from an opening lap spin at Paddock Hill to take eighth ahead of SV Racing pair Simon Horrobin and Paul Donkin – the latter taking a top ten finish on his Clio Cup debut.
Paul Knapp took eleventh, with Jordan Stilp a lowly twelfth after the 20Ten Racing ace suffered damage from contact at Paddock on lap one. Gary Jenner completed the finishers, while Mark Howard joined Holland on the retirement list after spinning into the Paddock Hill gravel trap.