Airwaves BMW's Mat Jackson fished the season's last Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship qualifying session in 6th place on Brands Hatch's GP circuit, affording the Warwickshireman every chance of clinching his first Independent Drivers championship. Steven Kane, who will start in 14th, sits just 18 points behind Tom Onslow-Cole who currently leads the Independent Drivers Standings.
Positively the two Independent Championship challenging Airwaves BMW drivers performed strongly in Free Practice 1 and 2, with Kane and Jackson finishing the session in 4th and 5th and 4th and 9th respectively. Disappointingly Kane, chasing a pole made some radical adjustments to his chassis right before qualifying that didn't pay off. Despite this he is confident that he has the pace as his earlier displays proved to make an impact on the podium.
Jackson on the other hand continued to impress, storming home in 6th and comfortably the quickest BMW out on track. Jackson and Kane now know exactly what they need to do and that's close the gap on the Independent Drivers leader Onslow-Cole.
Pertinently Jackson will start ahead of the Ford in the day's first race after finishing the session with a best lap of 48.885, while Kane who ended the session in 14th (49.249) will start four places behind his archrival and the man who stands very firmly in the way of his title challenge. If Kane wants to win then he must win this contest.
BTCC and Airwaves BMW newcomer Ben Collins, formerly 'The Stig', cemented the cloud of mystery that surrounds the Bristol-born driver. His Airwaves BMW suffered a reoccurring gearbox cooling issue, a hurdle that the team and gearbox suppliers, try as they might, could not overcome. Team Principle David Bartrum explained " I'm gutted for Ben as the gearbox issue plagued us from the first moment today and we couldn't get round it, even after rebuilding the box on several occasions. To make it right Ben's team of mechanics will be working through the night to effectively supply and fit a brand new gearbox before tomorrow's first race, which we hope will be the end of the problem." At present we just don't know what kind of pace Collins is capable of, but the Brands Hatch finale tomorrow presents a perfect opportunity on a very public stage, to reverse today's bad fortunes.
With a Chevy and Honda filled front two rows, three out of the top four drivers in the day's first race (Plato, Neal and Shedden) will be fighting to win BTCC's top honour, and we can be sure they will take no prisoners and numerous wing-mirrors in their quest for the Drivers Championship. What they cannot underestimate however is the desire that all three Airwaves BMW drivers will show.
Ultimately Kane and Jackson are each fighting for the Independent title, and sadly only one can be victorious, however both must play a significant role if the team are to clinch their first independent Teams championship. The climax we've all been waiting for has arrived and quite literally anyone could win it.
Motorbase Performances title challenge will be screened live on ITV4 on Sunday the 10th of October between 10.30am -6pm. Driver and team details, as well as the season schedule, can be found on www.btcc.net.
Airwaves BMW driver Mat Jackson said:
"I haven't been thinking about the championship, I'm just driving as best I can and letting fate take care of the rest. Today the car was good and quick and we have a little more pace to come. We got held up a little by traffic today and that cost me a fraction, but overall I'm happy and I we're in a strong position going in to tomorrow."
Airwaves BMW driver Steven Kane said:
"I felt the car was very strong in FP1 and FP2 and we made a few changes for qualifying as we were after pole. The truth is we went too far and lost time, but it was a learning lesson and we think we now know what needs to be done for tomorrow. There is no reason why I can't win in this car against this field."
Airwaves BMW driver Ben Collins said:
"I'm very disappointed as I didn't get to drive a lap in anger, I suppose that will come in tomorrow's first race. The guys are working overnight on the gearbox so I can only hope they can get the job done and I'm sure they will. I'm looking for a zero to hero moment and my BTCC debut would be a great place for it."
Airwaves BMW Team Principle Oliver Collins said:
"The most extreme mixture of feelings for the day we could have experienced. I'm extremely frustrated for Ben on his debut, having such bad luck and these unprecedented problems are not what we expected with one of our race cars, although we're convinced he will turn a disappointing Saturday into an exciting a positive result tomorrow.
Mat did a fantastic job today and was by far the fastest BMW in qualifying; P6 tomorrow for him bodes well. Steven got a little unlucky and couldn't put the lap he needed together. Frustratingly just a tenth would have put him 5 places up the order showing how competitive this grid really is, but I'm looking forward to a positive result from all three drivers tomorrow."
-source: airwaves bmw