Airwaves Racing saves the best ‘til last at Snetterton
Airwaves Racing managed to turn their fortunes around this weekend at Norfolk’s Snetterton circuit to come away from round 6 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with their reign as Independent Championship leaders still intact and lead driver Mat Jackson heading up the overall Championship with an impressive eight point lead.
Despite extensive development work over the seven week break, the changes implemented to the Fords did little to assist the Airwaves team to overcome their qualifying woes once again on Saturday. However, as has been the way throughout this season, a consistent and spirited approach by the Kent-based team over Sunday’s three rounds secured two solid top six finishes and their fourth win of the season, putting Airwaves Racing and Mat Jackson at the top of the Championship for the first ever time.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever led the Championship and it feels great ...
Having to start in a disappointing 13th place for the first race of the day, Mat Jackson predicted what would be his 6th place finish live on ITV before expertly working his way through the field, making up the seven places required for a strong race 2 grid place. Likewise, his Airwaves Racing team-mate Liam Griffin showed good pace and competed well against more established Championship drivers, moving through the ranks to finish the race in 17th place from 22nd.
The second race of the afternoon started well for Jackson as he immediately leapt into 4th place off the start line, unfortunately as the lead drivers tussled for position coming into the second corner of new Snetterton layout, Jackson found himself pushed out and dropped down into 8th. A further shunt from Paul O’Neill’s Chevrolet knocked Jackson’s Focus off the track and forced the Henley-In- Arden man to take evasive action through the chicane. The battle with O’Neill would continue for a number of laps as the drivers jostled for 7th place and despite a brave move by Jackson on the final lap, the Chevrolet managed to hold on to the finish line. An early retirement and DNF by Tom Chilton saw Jackson automatically promoted to 6th. Griffin continued to show progression and consistency throughout the second race, showing his capabilities within the mid field and finished in a promising 14th.
Former team-mate of Team Boss David Bartrum and well known BTCC driver; Dave Pinkney, would prove to be a good luck charm for the Airwaves Racing team as his draw for the reverse grid slotted Mat Jackson into second behind the Seat of Dave Newsham for the final race of the day. Newsham put up a good fight off the start line, but it didn’t take long for Jackson to move in on the BTCC rookie and steal the lead on the second lap where he would remain untroubled for the remainder of the race, picking up fastest lap on his way and his fourth win of the season so far. Hertfordshire-based Griffin was not so lucky, after a great start the Airwaves man was deposited heavily into the barriers coming into the first corner, sustaining substantial damage to his Mountune powered Ford Focus ST and ending his weekend’s racing with a disappointing DNF.
Airwaves Racing Team Principal David Bartrum said: “I’m a very proud man tonight, my team is leading the Championship for the very first time and I think it is a fantastic testament to all the hard work of everyone involved and the ever determined Mat Jackson. I shall be even more proud when we are having this conversation after the flag has dropped at the last race of the Championship at Silverstone come October.”
Airwaves Racing Team Manager Oly Collins said: “We spent a lot of time developing the cars over the break, unfortunately they didn’t pay off on Saturday, but we recognised this and put it right for today. It feels fantastic to be leading the Championship with Mat [Jackson] and it’s the perfect repayment for the team’s hard work this weekend. Liam improved a great deal on Sunday but the luck just didn’t go his way in race 3 and its real shame that he didn’t get the chance to continue his good work. With the strength of the Chevrolets this weekend though, it looks like parity may have swung the other way – hopefully TOCA will recognise this.”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “We had a bit of a nightmare again in qualifying, we tried something new on the Focus and it just didn’t work here, plus having the 36kg of ballast on board didn’t help our cause. It didn’t look like this weekend was going to be going our way at first either, both of the first races were a bit of a struggle, so I was quite pleased to manage a couple of top six finishes. I was amazed that the reverse grid worked in our favour again and knew that we were capable of taking the lead; it was then just a case of keeping our heads and not making any mistakes to bring in another win for the team.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever led the Championship and it feels great but I’m chuffed to bits for team boss David Bartrum, team manager Oly Collins, chief engineer Dave Potter and the rest of the Motorbase crew who run our cars. Don’t let it be forgotten we’re a privateer team taking on the bigger budget factory teams. We’re the underdogs and maybe we’re starting to get under their skin a bit going by some of the comments that have come our way – it’s all mind games and we’ll not fall for it. Everyone in the team and all our sponsors are up for this fight and there’s not a better team spirit anywhere in the pit lane. It’s put us in the best possible position for the next round at what’s arguably the most punishing circuit on the BTCC calendar, and with 45kg on board, things could get interesting!”
Airwaves Racing driver Liam Griffin said: “I had a really good start in race 1 and felt that I was holding my own out there against the likes of Andy Neate and Martin Byford. The car was handling well and I was pretty pleased with my consistency in Race 2 after another solid start. I was looking forward to the final race of the day and to be taken out of the race like that through no fault of my own is gutting, I just got shunted straight into the barriers and before I could do anything about it, I got hit again. It just seems to be the way my luck is going in the BTCC at the moment – but I’ve learnt a lot again this weekend and have some great positives to take into Knockhill in a few weeks’ time.”
Championship leaders Airwaves Racing team can now look forward to another short break before heading to Knockhill for round 7 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on the 4th September.