ROUND eight of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship produced a unique set of challenges for Airwaves Racing at Rockingham at the weekend, but the Motorbase-run squad rose to the occasion to come away from the oval circuit in a strong championship position with a lucrative points haul from all three of Sunday’s races.
Henley-in-Arden’s Mat Jackson had a solid opening race and needed just one more lap to overcome the Honda in front of him, but unfortunately the laps ran out before he could make his move and the #6 Focus came home in P9, just under a tenth of a second behind Gordon Shedden’s Civic.
Race two proved to be a dramatic affair as Jackson slipped past Jordan and Morgan in the opening two laps to slot into P5. It was then a side by side Airwaves challenge for position with Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi entertaining the Rockingham crowds as they tested each other on the oval circuit. After swapping positions, and a little paintwork, the duo then set their sights on catching the lead pack as the laps unfolded.
Despite looking to be gaining on Alain Menu as the race progressed whilst still gallantly defending his position, the pace of Rob Austin’s rear wheel drive Audi proved too much and Jackson had to relinquish his spot to cross the line in P7.
Having missed out on the benefit of the reversed grid result, the final race of the day produced a mixed bag of results for the Airwaves squad. Jackson got off to a superb start on the soft tyre, taking both MGs to move up into fifth as they headed into the first corner.
As the race evolved, Jackson put in a stunning performance, closing in on title contenders Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan whilst under attack from Jason Plato’s MG. The Airwaves man delivered a perfect drive completed with a heroic final lap to stave off an attack from Rob Collard, clinging on to his P5 position and securing his third top ten of the weekend.
The weekend’s results see Jackson maintain his second place position in the Independent Drivers’ Standings, with the 33-year-old being the only driver to have scored points in every race so far this season.
The Airwaves Racing squad also remains the only team to have its 100 per cent reliability record intact, with the #6 Mountune-powered Focus ST’s perfect accomplishment underlining the fantastic consistency of the Motorbase-run squad. The BTCC now has a three-week break before the penultimate round at ‘the home of British Motorsport’ Silverstone on September 27/28.
Team manager Oly Collins said: “An interesting weekend! Another strong drive by Mat and we’ve come away with another three solid top tens for Mat which keeps us in touch with a respectable overall championship position come the end at Brands.
“Mat’s second in the Independents, which is the maximum we can achieve with Colin and his untouchable BMW, so we’ve got to forget him aim to stay ahead of Jordan and Collard and see where that puts us overall.
“Great to see Fabrizio getting the car close to his liking and we’re hoping we can fine tune that at Silverstone and get some good results for him and the team. Jack really drove well this weekend, a really good recovery drive in race one after falling to the back through no fault of his own and then two good points finishes. He could and should have been in the top ten this weekend if all had gone right for him.”
Jackson said: “Obviously P10 in qualifying and then P9, P7 and P5 in the races is a great weekend for us in terms of points. We’ve gone forward in every race and we managed to stay out of trouble and bring the car home with very limited damage so overall I think we’re in a good place.
“We’ve kept our place to challenge for the championship, fourth in the overall standings, and we’ve managed to finish every race again – we’re the only team and driver to have managed that.
“The last couple of laps in race three were really close. The tyre degradation was massive and we struggled quite a lot and Collard was obviously very close, but we managed to hold him off and bag a hard fought fifth place.
“We’re close to the Independents championship but we need to keep bagging these finishes. We need to be consistent and we need to keep bringing the Airwaves car home in the best place we can. Silverstone should be good for us, we have a good record there and the National circuit suits the Focus well.”