It was a tale of two halves for Redstone Racing at Brands Hatch this weekend (October 20/21) during the dramatic season finale of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
The Redstone Racing trio had a big task ahead of them following a disappointing qualifying session on Saturday afternoon that left Mat Jackson’s #4 Focus the highest placed Ford on the grid in P9 and team-mates Aron Smith and Liam Griffin ending in the session in P9 and P20 respectively.
Both Jackson and Smith got off to a flying start in the first race. As the grid jostled for position in the opening lap, Smith worked his way up to pull alongside fellow Redstone driver Jackson and take P6. The first race was progressing well for Redstone Racing with both the NGTC and #5 S2000 challenging the front runners for the majority of the 18 laps.
As Smith moved further up the ranks, capably worked his way past Newsham, Collard and Shedden to take 4th place; the team looked to be set for a good points haul before an engine fault developed on the NGTC, forcing Jackson to into early retirement with one lap to go. Team-mate Liam Griffin did well in challenging torrential conditions to bring his S2000 across the line in once piece, in P20.
An incident-filled second race looked to be the change in luck that Redstone Racing was looking for. Smith showed early promise once more after a blistering start and bravely challenged Neal and Jordan into Paddock Hill Bend to snatch 2nd position from the Honda’s. A safety car appearance on lap 2 allowed the Irishman to close the gap on race leader Onslow-Cole before the Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the Year out-manoeuvred the WSR man as they challenged through Druid’s to take the lead following the restart. Smith continued to lead the remainder of the race relatively untroubled to bring home his maiden race win, in what is only his first season in the BTCC.
Mat Jackson meanwhile once more displayed yet another of his spectacular comeback drives, expertly avoiding a number of incidents during the 18 laps to work his way through the field and cross the line in 7th place. Griffin also managed to jump up a number of places and avoid the on-track trouble to bring his S2000 Focus home in P13.
Having closed the gap on the Independent Team’s Title to just seven points; the reverse grid draw saw Mat Jackson on pole for the final race of the day, and it seemed that the Redstone Racing squad’s luck was changing. A confident start by Jackson in the NGTC looked set to deliver another win for the Motorbase built Focus, but that run of luck would prove to be short lived as the same throttle issue that struck Jackson’s race 1 lead at Silverstone just two weeks ago, struck once more. This second DNF tragically ended Jackson’s 2012 season early, taking Redstone Racing’s chances of clinching the Independent’s Title with it.
Smith drove another outstanding race, once more showing that he’s capable of mixing it with the BTCC front runners, and despite having the maximum ballast of 45kg on board his S2000 Focus for the first time, the BTCC rookie managed to work his way up to P4 from a P7 start. Team-mate Liam Griffin also put in a sterling effort, finishing his 2012 season on a high, securing a 14th place finish and his third race finish of the day.
Redstone Racing Team Manager Oly Collins said: “A very mixed day today. I was absolutely over the moon for Aron to get the win in his first full season in BTCC was fantastic, it’s been coming all year and he thoroughly deserved it.
“We had a couple of issues with the new car which is to be expected at this stage. Everything we’ve done this year with that car helps us for next year. Liam had a solid couple of races to end his BTCC career as well, which was nice.
“I would also like to say a thank you to the whole team, sponsors and supporters for getting us to this stage. It looks good for next year if we can piece everything together.”
Redstone Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “That was a tough one! It was looking like we had turned the weekend around with the reverse grid pole and the car was feeling great. We’ve had another learning weekend and unfortunately we’ve suffered another throttle failure which was a real shame as once again it has cost us another win.
“At the end of the day we’ve learnt more going forward to next season and it was mega for Aron and the team to get the win.”
Redstone Racing driver Aron Smith said: “Unbelievable! That’s the only word I can think of to describe this weekend. To come away with a win in my first year is just an unbelievable feeling.
“I always go better in the wet so once the rain came I knew I could really get my head down and go for it. The car’s been dynamite all weekend and all credit to the Motorbase guys once again for giving me such a fantastic first year. If someone would have told me that at the start of the season I wouldn’t have believed them! To finish up eighth in my first year is something really, really special and I’m very proud of what we achieved.”
Redstone Racing driver Liam Griffin said: “Those were tough conditions out there today and just finishing was an achievement, so to get a couple of points finishes at the end of the season was great. To be part of the BTCC has been a dream come true. It’s a great Championship and unbelievably competitive, it’s not until you race that you realise just how good these guys are and I didn’t quite make the bounds forward that I hoped for, but that said, I’ve loved it.
“This team has been amazing to be a part of. Between David, Mat, Aron and all the guys behind the scenes and everyone involved they really make it a fun weekend, and for me this was all about that; and there’s no better team than here for that”
Source; Redstone Racing