Airwaves BMW and Steven Kane came within a whisker of clinching the Independent Drivers championship after a thrilling day on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in the final race weekend of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car season.
Drenched in sunlight, the day's first race got off to a cracking start as Jackson jumped from 6th to 3rd, swiping aside the Ford of Chilton and the Chevrolet of McDowell. Looking strong Jackson was a man on a mission and over the next three laps closed the gap between himself and the Honda of Matt Neal.
Kane, starting from 14th, began a similar onslaught and passed newcomer Tordoff's Vauxhall for 13th on lap 5 with a tidy move down the inside at Clearways. Jackson meanwhile continued to push his BMW as hard as possible, and came unstuck as his inside rear wheel lost traction as it clipped the curb through Surtees, spinning the car violently. When he regained control he has lost 10 places and found himself in 13th. Kane, now the leading Airwaves BMW, continued to harass Boardman and eventually finished the race in 11th, earning 4 independent points.
Ben Collins who was yet to drive a quick lap following yesterday's gearbox troubles impressed from the outset; starting from dead last he moved past a selection of experienced drivers with relative ease and proved he is more than capable of mixing it up with the big boys in the BTCC. Over the race distance he made up ten places and finished in 14th.
Race two and eyes were on Kane and his efforts to win the Independent Drivers championship, and perhaps Plato, who needed a win to clinch the top honours. Kane's battle with the then leader of the standings Onslow- Cole entertained the crowds as the pair swapped paint, but it was Kane who passed on the tenth lap. Soon after Onslow-Cole ran wide out of Graham Hill Bend and lost places, leaving him in 15th. Kane continued to dazzle, working through Jordan to take 6th spot and eight independent points.
Jackson who started in 13th meandered his way through the opposition and found himself in 8th after successful battles with Nash and Tordoff. He would finish here and earn himself 5 independent points.
Again Collins in 14th drove well, made no mistakes and took the opportunities that were presented to him. He gained four places over the race and collected his first two independent points. Plato on the other hand won the round and in so doing the Championship.
The independent title therefore boiled down to the wire; in the end Kane was just 4 points behind Chilton in the standings and with Onslow-Cole starting from the back of the grid and only six points ahead of Steven, it seemed he was already out of the running.
As such Kane needed to beat Chilton by more than four points and starting from second would have to overcome pole sitter Jordan. Chilton meanwhile began the race in third, just behind Kane and with O'Neill and Collard in 4th and 5th he would have to use all of the power at his disposal to stay there.
Adrenalin pumping, the race got off to a tremendous start, Kane hot off the blocks kept his second place into Paddock, while Jordan just ahead was not prepared to lie down. Kane pursued the Pirtek driver like a man possessed, knowing he had to pass Jordan to win the title, but the turbo charged Vectra was quick and try as he might, and lap after lap boy did he try, he just couldn't find the room on Brand's Indy circuit to make the all important pass.
Collins was going well and equal pace to the front-runners until he selected the wrong gear at Paddock and lost the rear end, forcing him out of contention. A pretty harsh lesson to learn with so little time spent with the car and new gearbox.
Attention therefore turned to the pack behind. O'Neill and Collard both had Chilton in their sights, and the pair reeled him in through the bends despite his speed down the straights. Jackson, starting from 8th, also put on a real show, passing Plato and Neal before setting his sights on Collard. Pretty soon a three-way tussle ensued, but it was Jackson who eventually benefitted, moving past Collard through Paddock.
We were then left with a nail biting two laps as Jackson attempted to catch Chilton and aid his teammate. With every inch of track Jackson edged closer. He was oh so close to Chilton, but not close enough to get by and sadly it was all just a little too late. Kane, comfortably ahead of Chilton, drove his heart out and finished the season's final race in second, his eighth podium, while Jackson finished in 4th with an outstanding drive.
Kane was superb today, and he deserves to take great pride from his performance. To end the season on the podium and with such a great performance is no mean feat, and in only his second full BTCC season he was just two points shy of winning the Independent Drivers title. The entire Airwaves BMW squad are delighted with his, Mat's and now Ben's efforts and performances throughout the season.
Airwaves BMW driver Steven Kane said:
"We didn't quite have the pace in the last race to edge Andy (Jordan) but the car was good. Against a turbo charged engine we're struggling on the straights, but that is that and I didn't quite make it. All the podiums I've had this year and being the top BMW driver means a lot to me. It's fantastic to be back and I'd like to be here next year. I would like to thank all my sponsors, Airwaves BMW, Leyland Paints and The Money Shop, Hanford Sensors and LTI."
Airwaves BMW driver Mat Jackson said:
"I made a mistake in the first race and that cost me a podium at the very least, then in race two I made contact with Boardman and that ended up damaging my steering and geometry, so that race was a struggle too. Race three was entirely different and it all fell into place. Had the safety car not appeared I think I would have had the time and passed Chilton and that would have changed everything. I'm frustrated but that's racing, I'm not sure this years championship has favoured the BMW but next year I'll be back and fighting again."
Airwaves BMW driver Ben Collins said:
"My lack of experience with the cars gearbox caused me a few problems today, which I suppose I could have expected seeing as the first race was my first opportunity to test it. It was a very quick learning curve today, and I needed to make a few changes to get the car set-up just right, the stuff I should have done during qualifying. With the changes made the car felt great, and it was my error popping it into 2nd instead of 4th that put me off. I loved the experience though and working with Airwaves BMW and I'd love to be back next year."
Airwaves BMW Team Manager Oliver Collins said:
"All in all a slightly disappointing day despite the really strong race three finish. Unfortunately Steven just couldn't quite grab the win that would have given him the Independent title. I feel for Ben who was up against it today and gave a great showing. He was well on the pace by race three and I feel sure he would have had a stronger points finish had the car been set-up before race one. Mat drove a great race three and was desperately unlucky not to have gained more from the first two races. A great deal of thanks go to everyone involved from all the staff, suppliers, sponsors and fans for such a great year. We'll be back next year even stronger!"
-source: airwaves bmw