Airwaves Racing’s challenging weekend rewarded with victory
Airwaves Racing leave Oulton Park after round 4 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on a high after a rollercoaster weekend. A disastrous start in qualifying resulting in significant damage to both Ford Focus cars saw the team battle back hard to secure their second race win of the season and fifth visit to the podium.
Despite a tough weekend, the Airwaves team can now look ahead to the next round at Croft in a fortnight’s time with their Championship challenge still firmly on track and Mat Jackson sitting in third place overall, a mere seven points behind current leader Matt Neal.
The first of the weekend’s events to take a turn for the worse came during qualifying when Liam Griffin’s Ford Focus went off track briefly, damaging the sump and depositing oil on the track at Cascades. Unfortunately for the Airwaves team, Griffin’s team-mate Mat Jackson was the first car to follow through, subsequently he lost control of his Focus as it hit the spill and sped across the grass at high-speed, leaving both cars with heavy front-end damage and a new engine required to get Griffin’s 66 car back out for the following day. Both Airwaves drivers ended the session early with Jackson in 10th position and Griffin in 15th for the first grid.
Despite the downpour in the morning, the first of Sunday’s races appeared to start well with Jackson automatically promoted to 9th position when Tom Chilton’s Ford Focus came into the pits with a fault. However, it soon became apparent that all was not well with the number 7 car as Jackson was clearly suffering from a lack of pace seeing him drop places as his engine intermittently cut-out, forcing him into the Airwaves garages. Jackson briefly made another appearance during lap 13, but another fault saw him exit the race with a frustrating DNF. Team-mate and BTCC rookie, Griffin, looked on target to secure another points finish for the Motorbase run team as he held onto 10th position for a good run, until a shunt from Paul O’Neill at Island hairpin and a large slide on the following lap saw him drop down to 16th before benefiting from a late collision between Tom Boardman’s Seat and Jeff Smith’s BMW on the closing laps, moving him up to 15th for race 2.
The second race of the day fared better for Airwaves with both drivers opting to go with slicks on the front of the cars and wet on the rear for the still wet track. As seen on numerous occasions already this season, Jackson clearly demonstrated why he has been such a strong contender in the BTCC in recent years as he systematically worked his way up the field from second to last on the grid. The Warwickshire based driver, battled well in the mid field for a number of laps with the BMW of Nick Foster and Chevrolet of Paul O’Neill, where despite a heavy bump from O’Neill, he managed to gain an incredible 12 positions. Race 2 looked set to end this way until a spectacularly badly timed move by Matt Neal on his Honda Racing team-mate ended with both being taking out of the race and saw Jackson and Griffin finish in 9th and 19th place respectively.
A change of luck was needed for Jackson and the Airwaves team to help salvage their Championship challenge from the terrible results so far, and thankfully came in the form of the reverse grid for race 3 as Jackson was randomly selected to start the final race in pole position. Despite a great start from Jackson, the sheer pace of Foster’s BMW off the start line saw the WSR driver just pull ahead of the Airwaves Focus. Undeterred, Jackson was straight onto the back of the BMW and it was clear for all to see where the talented Airwaves driver’s superior BTCC race craft comes into play as he made an excellent clear pass through Cascades to reclaim the lead.
Behind the race leaders, a dramatic crash involving O’Neill on the opening lap saw the safety car deployed as his car was collected from gravel trap at Druids, with the following race order changing as a result. Jackson restarted well and pulled away from the field where, despite having the Honda of Gordon Shedden baring down on him for the last third of the race, he managed to conserve his tyres and maintain his lead to chequered flag to pick up his second race win of the season and fifth visit to the podium. Jackson’s Airwaves team-mate Griffin continued to battle well in the back half of the BTCC pack, and again showed good pace, but unfortunately got hit hard by Collard in the closing laps and dropped back to finish a disappointing 20th place.
Airwaves Racing Team Manager Oly Collins said:
“That was a welcome result in race 3, in what has been a very trying weekend. We came here with high hopes but we were disappointed with yesterday’s qualifying result; obviously the damage sustained to both cars, but also the frustration at not being able to qualify as high as we had hoped. That put us on the back foot today, and the problem we had in race 1 with Mat’s car was a shame as it was a really unfortunate part which failed. Race 3 was a great end to this tough weekend and goes some way to paying back the team for their amazing hard work and effort. Mat drove a blinder to outpace Gordon’s Honda for the whole of race 3 and it’s great to get another win for the team. Liam had a tough weekend but I’m sure he’ll bounce back at Croft.”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said:
“It was a full on weekend of highs and lows. Saturday’s qualifying session was really unfortunate for the team with what happened with Liam’s car and then us also collecting damage in the same incident. Yet again, the Airwaves team did a great job to get the car ready and back out for race 1 but the damage we had sustained in qualifying carried over and there wasn’t a chance to run the car beforehand, so it was really disappointing to get a DNF and have to start at the back of the grid for race 2. At that point, you really know that you’re having a bad weekend, but we managed to pull back a solid 9th place result which then gave us the chance of the reverse grid for race 3. I couldn’t believe it when the reverse grid actually went in our favour, after the luck we’d had all weekend, this was actually the first time in 5 years that I’d got a pole position out of the reverse grid, so I was pretty stunned! It was fantastic to be able to capitalise on our little bit of good fortune and for the Focus to put in such a convincing win over the Honda.”
Airwaves Racing driver Liam Griffin said:
“I think a lack of experience on my part coupled with some extremely robust driving from others around me curtailed my performance and enjoyment in this weekend’s tricky conditions. Overall it’s fair to say that I’m pretty disappointed, but I’ve just got to try and learn something from it and look ahead to the next round at Croft now.”
-source: airwaves racing