SWINDON’S Max Cook lost further ground in the race for the National Junior Superstock title despite a podium finish in the latest round at Brands Hatch.

Cook improved as the weekend progressed to claim second in round five and limit the damage to just seven points in terms of his championship hopes.

Friday’s free practice sessions were less than productive with some mechanical gremlins in the first session and changeable weather hampering the second.

But conditions for Saturday morning’s qualifying session were perfect, and a bumper crowd around the circuit prepared themselves for an exciting afternoon’s racing.

The Swindon racer was churning out some fine sector times but, due to on-track traffic, was unable to piece them all together for one pole-worthy lap.

The 25-minute session ended with the Binch racer in sixth position, leaving Cook with a second-row start for Sunday’s race.

Adding to Cook’s frustration, championship rivals Louis Valleley and Franco Bourne had taken pole position and second place, respectively.

Cook’s team worked tirelessly on Saturday afternoon to make the necessary adjustments to the bike, therefore ensuring the Swindon racer could be competitive throughout the 14-lap race on Sunday.

Cook made the perfect start and set about implementing his strategy in order to hunt down the leaders.

By the end of lap three, Cook had taken the lead and was setting a consistently quick pace with Valleley and Bourne in hot pursuit.

The three riders broke away from the rest of the field, creating a three-second gap to fourth place.

As Cook and Valleley battled away at the front, the Swindon racer held onto the lead until lap nine.

With two laps to go, Valleley snatched the lead from Cook with a good move into the Hawthorns section of the circuit.

Despite a brave final push from Cook, his main title rival Valleley crossed the line a mere 0.002 seconds in front and therefore extended his lead to seven points.

The sixth round of the National Junior Superstock championship is at Thruxton across the weekend of August 12-14.