Airwaves Racing’s dream start to the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season ended in disappointment as the new season got underway at Brands Hatch this weekend March (30/31).
The Kent-based squad suffered at the hands of the gods at its local track during the Easter weekend’s racing action, with both Airwaves NGTC Ford Focus ST’s suffering from unexpected component issues.
Less than ideal track conditions as temperatures struggled to get above freezing did little to help the Motorbase-run squad as the team fought to find the pace seen last season with the new set up on the NGTC machines.
Race 1 would prove to set the tone for the day, where despite a strong start by the Airwaves Racing pairing, Mat Jackson’s #7 Focus collected debris from the pack, causing the car to overheat and forcing the Airwaves man down into 20th position.
Team-mate Smith battled hard to make up five places during a dramatic opening race, crossing the line in P9 to secure the team’s first set of points for 2013 season despite suffering with his own gear shift issues which continued to hamper the #8 Focus for the remainder of the day.
Reverse fortune hit the Airwaves squad for the second race of the weekend. With Jackson finding the pace in his #7 Focus, he produced another of his renowned charges through the field battling his way through to bring the NGTC over the line in P8 (later promoted to P7).
Tragically, a wiring issue on Smith’s car put pay to the Irishman’s progress, forcing the #8 Ford into early retirement from the race.
With the reverse grid draw pitting Mat Jackson in pole position for the final race of the day (following Gordon Shedden’s disqualification for ride height infringement) the Airwaves man took a strong lead from the starting line and the team strategy of saving the new ‘soft’ tyres for the race 3 looked to be a prudent call.
However, the gap was short lived as a heavy crash between Newsham and Austin in the opening laps led to the deployment of the safety car, allowing the field to catch up with the #7 Focus.
It quickly became apparent that despite Jackson’s best efforts, the Focus was struggling for pace once more with an intermittent engine fault and the 32 year-old dropped back down into P10.
Further down the field, fellow Airwaves racer Aron Smith deftly made his way through the pack, managing to make up an impressive 10 places to slot in behind his team-mate in P11 – where they would both end the final race of the day.
Conversely, the opening weekend gave cause for celebration for the Addison Lee Motorbase team competing in the Jacks Sears Trophy (JST).
After a slow start to the weekend with the S2000 Focus also battling to find pace in the freezing track conditions; Griffin came into his own during race 2 putting on a great show for the gathered crowds bringing his stunning #66 ‘black beauty’ across the line in P11 - heading up the contenders for the Jack Sears Trophy and collecting the team’s first piece of silverware for the 2013 season.
Griffin showed impressive race-craft once more during race 3 to come home in P16 and second in class - later promoted to 1st place for the JST after Lea Wood’s disqualification – and marking Griffin’s most successful weekend in the BTCC to date.
Although not the dream start to the season that Airwaves Racing was hoping for, the squad managed to score some much welcomed points during a challenging weekend and the Motorbase-run team is now focussed on looking ahead to the next round at Donington Park on 20/21 April.
Motorbase Performance Team Manager Oly Collins said: “A very disappointing weekend for the team unfortunately, especially after all of the hard work that everyone at Motorbase Performance has put in over the winter months; so to get the limited results that we did is really frustrating.
“We will work heard between now and the next round to rectify the issues we’ve experienced this weekend and will come back stronger at Donington.
On the plus side from the weekend, the whole team are absolutely delighted with Liam’s two wins in the Jack Sears Trophy which he thoroughly deserved.”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “We’ve made a lot of different changes to the set up today and we were chasing the circuit with it being so cold.
Both cars are down a different road so we’re learning twice as much data so we’ve got a lot to work with between now and the next round at Donington.
“Overall though, we’ve got a bit more of an understanding of where we are and where we need to be and feel positive that we’ve got the direction now that we need to go in to push the cars forward. We also need to iron out the reliability issues we suffered from this weekend, which we’ll do over the next few weeks.”
Airwaves Racing driver Aron Smith said: “Well, that was not the weekend we had planned for! There’s definitely more for us to learn about the car to get the most out of it but I think we kept making steps forward.
“Lap time wise we started off with quite a big deficit and closed it right down for the last race despite my car missing race 2. We have a test day planned between now and Donington in two weeks’ time, which should really get us back onto the pace where we need to be, and I think that the developments that we’ll find will hopefully put us back at the sharp end for the next round.”
Addison Lee Motorbase driver Liam Griffin said: “That was a great weekend. I came back to try and win some silverware and to have a little bit of competition, and that’s what the Jack Sears Trophy is all about.
We’ve got a few really good drivers in there that are fairly evenly matched and I think it’ll be quite a good fun season now.
“Ultimately that’s what you come racing for - to get on that podium; so to be stood there next to BTCC champions spraying champagne is a pretty special moment!”