The sporting flag of Hucknall will be flying high again in the British Superbikes Championship, which races from the starting grid this weekend.
For the town’s motorcycling ace Richard Cooper is back from injury and raring to go for a second crack at the prestigious MCE Insurance-sponsored series.
Cooper, who turned 32 last month, was just beginning to get to grips with his debut season last year when injury cut his progress stone dead.
After finishing second in the Fifth Round at Brands Hatch, he broke his arm in his very next race at Thruxton, which forced him to miss the rest of the campaign.
It’s all systems go now though for the 2011 National Superstock champion, who is looking forward to his fourth season with the highly-rated Anvil Hire TAG Racing Kawasaki team, based in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
The 12-round season begins today (Saturday) at Donington Park in Leicestershire, and ends at Brands Hatch in October.
“I am really excited about getting back in action again,” said the rider nicknamed Cooperman.
“When the crash happened, I felt that my season was just getting going and I was starting to make an impression on the championship.
“I had been building up on the Superbike and had made the jump into scoring consistent top-ten placings, which was topped off by the podium-finish at Brands Hatch.
“It’s going to be very tough this season. Every rider wants to be in the end-of-season Showdown. But if I can pick up from where I left off before the injury, I should be in a good position, especially if I can be consistent.”
Cooper, who will again be sporting the number 47, is one of three riders in the Anvil Hire TAG team -- the others being Swedish Superbike champion Filip Backlund (24) and 21-year-old Shaun Winfield, son of team owner Rob Winfield. In all, there are 39 riders and 23 teams.
“There was never any reason for me to consider riding anywhere else this season,” said the Hucknall star.
“Before my injury, things were going well. Both the bike and myself were improving with every race. Some of the riders I was judging myself against made the Showdown.”
“My injury took a while to heal, but I’m feeling fitter now. I’ve been out riding enduro and doing some pit-biking over the winter. I also got some track time at Darley Moor last weekend.” Cooper fared well too in an official test session at Donington, finishing eighth.
Team boss Rob Winfield said: “We are delighted to have Richard back. It was always a priority for us. He was so unlucky to get injured.”
After Donington Park, the Superbike Championship rolls on to Brands Hatch on 17th to 19th April and then to Oulton Park over the weekend of 2nd to 4th May.
The defending champion is Shane Byrne, of the PBM Kawasaki team. Byrne is the 7/2 favourite with bookies, BetVictor, to retain his title. Cooper is listed 16th most likely to be crowned champion at odds of 80/1.