One of eight rookie drivers joining the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is Josh Cook, last year’s Renault UK Clio Cup runner-up brimming with optimism for his maiden BTCC campaign with Power Maxed Racing.
The 23-year-old from Bath will partner Dave Newsham at the revamped squad for 2015, both driving Chevrolet Cruze machinery carrying the Swindon powerplant as they look to showcase the hard work over the winter period of the team, which was sold by former driver, Chris Stockton.
Cook’s most recent outing came at Donington Park on Tuesday (24 March) in the BTCC season launch, finishing a credible 15th overall while Newsham was classified 11th. Although results of that test remain indecisive to the pecking order, the reliability and performance of the pair of Chevrolets crucially looked promising, pleasing Cook in preparation for his series debut.
“So far it’s been good. There’s a lot to learn but, so far, out of the box the car has been really quick”, Cook told The Checkered Flag at Donington.
“It feels really stable, there’s nothing when I’m driving that feels abnormal, so there’s a good base to build on and hopefully we can take it up towards the front of the grid this season.
“The engineers that are involved with the team, the mechanics, everybody at Power Maxed is at a really high standard. They’ve invested a lot in this team, so I’m delighted that myself and #RacingforHeroes can be a part of it.
“My car is a brand new car with a shell from RML; they’ve moved to Swindon engines, so the Cruze has been really good out of the blocks and I’m chuffed to bits with that heading to Brands.”
Cook is also relishing competition with the likes of five former BTCC champions on the 2015 grid, including double champion Jason Plato of whom the youngster worked alongside as part of the KX Akademy programme during his Clio Cup campaign.
The challenge is something Cook invites with open arms, unfazed by the experienced names on the grid around him. Cook has also set himself high targets for the new season alongside former double race winner, Newsham, looking to earn some silverware for Power Maxed Racing.
“I’ve worked with Jason Plato last year, I’ve worked with Gordon Shedden and also Colin Turkington so I’ve met these guys before. It’s going to be an interesting year but I’ve got my work cut out – I’m making sure I do everything I can, because the team that I have behind me is brilliant.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we want to aim for podium finishes. That’s why everybody is in there.
“Nobody goes in there with the aim of getting just into the top 10; we’ll do everything we can to try and get ourselves to the front. Bring it on!”
Last year’s Clio Cup runner-up Cook picked up six wins but narrowly missed out on the BTCC support series title to fellow rookie, Mike Bushell, also notching up the most podium finishes and laps led of any driver.
Cook says the biggest step taken in the transition to BTCC machinery is the power available compared to the Clio, although the overall difference he says is not as dramatic as first expected.
“It’s not a huge step from Clios – the Cruze has a lot of power. Controlling the front end is crucial for me from a driving perspective but, other than that, it’s nothing dramatic.”
Seven more BTCC rookies will fight alongside Cook for the modified Jack Sears Trophy in 2015, although Cook’s goal is to push the Chevrolet team up towards the sharp end as experience and development with the Cruze grows.
“I’m looking forward to it. Our goal is that myself and Dave get Power Maxed Racing up to the front of the grid”, he concluded. “You’ve got to be prepared for anything. If we go to Brands and it starts hailing again, then that’s just what it’s about.”
BTCC Rookies Eligible For Jack Sears Trophy:
[table id=19 /]
Note: Nicholas Hamilton will be entered for five rounds as a guest driver, therefore not eligible.