Points from the reserve riders were a problem throughout 2023 for the Plymouth Prow Park Gladiators, but they are hoping to improve that considerably with Jacob Hook the first of two signed to fill those berths for next season.
The 21-year-old, from Brisbane, Australia, regularly chipped in with points for the Edinburgh Monarchs and then Berwick Bandits in last season’s Championship, while he was also a regular top scorer for the Monarchs’ National Development side.
Now, he is swapping Scotland for England after being the fifth Gladiator confirmed for the 2024 season, joining Ben Barker, Alfie Bowtell and the Thompson Twins, Dan and Joe, with the younger twin partnering him at reserve.
“I am super stoked to be back in the Championship next season, it is where I want to be,” Hook said. “I want to get up further and I feel that Plymouth is going to help me to do that and progress this season.
“I like the track there, it is tight and technical and I have ridden it a few times, but I think it will help me develop, for sure.
“I know Garry (May) quite well and he seems like a great bloke. It seems like there is a really good atmosphere down there with the fans and the riders and I wanted to be a part of it. I haven’t ridden for Garry before, but I guested for you guys at Glasgow (scoring 4+1) last season.
“I think we should be looking to make the play-offs. Everyone wants to be the number one, but we have to make the play-offs first, so we just have to take each meeting as it comes and keep progressing and hopefully, when it comes to the play-offs, we’ll be at our peak and it all falls in our favour.
“Me personally, I want to enjoy it and improve the average I have at the moment, keep moving forward and get more and more comfortable on the bike on the British tracks. And improve those starts!
“I think it’ll be a really good thing for Plymouth that they are making the track just that little bit bigger and create a few more race opportunities if you do miss the start, but my aim is to make those starts so you don’t have to worry about anyone in front of you.”
Riding in Australia is very different to the UK, of course, as there is no league structure, so all the meetings are individual affairs. But Hook hopes that after an indifferent year in 2023 and after his recent success back home, he can hit 2024 hard and continue his improvement in the sport.
“I had an up and down year really,” he said looking back on 2023. “I started the year at Edinburgh and got dropped from there before I got picked up by Berwick. I actually broke my collar bone riding in the Under-24 league in Poland and got dropped by Berwick and then re-signed for them.
“It was definitely an up and down year for me, but it was a lot better than my first year and that is what I took from it. I learnt a lot on and off the bike, in the workshop and stuff like that, so I am going into this year with more experience and a lot more confidence behind me because I have just secured the New South Wales Under-21 championship and I am having a decent season back here in Australia.
“I am going to keep riding and training and working hard. I’m over the injury I had now and had about six or seven weekends in a row (of racing) lined up. It started with that New South Wales title and then I had the Darcy Ward meeting, the Australian Under-21s where I unfortunately had bike issues where I still came away with six at that meeting, which wasn’t great but I was hoping to come away with a lot better.
“I then came second in the Queensland Under-21 titles and unfortunately had a little incident in the Queensland Open titles the night after and wasn’t able to finish the meeting due to a little injury I sustained, but I am on the mend now and hoping to do some more riding before I get back over there.”
Team manager Garry May added: “He impressed me last year. He got dropped by Edinburgh and then rode for Berwick and he guest rode for us at Glasgow quite well and just got on with the job. He’s gone back to Oz and done well, beating James Pearson in the final of an Under-21 championship.
“We decided to go a different way this year with some power at reserve. We have suffered bad in the last two years and we had to do something and I think it’s the only way to build a team.
“I am hoping that he will be down there (at reserve) in a weakened league scoring me points.”
The club are still seeking sponsors for the new season and welcome people and business to discuss a host of sponsorship opportunities that the club can offer. For further details, please contact Mark Phillips on firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Swarbrick on email@example.com.