Pat Cranham, BTCC correspondent
Motorbase Performance has confirmed that they will enter a three-car attack in this season’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. They will continue to use their ex Team Aon S2000 Ford Focus for the second season with promising youngster Aron Smith joining last season drivers Mat Jackson and Liam Griffin.
Last season Jackson came close to winning the outright Championship leading it for a period of time before enduring a torrid couple of meetings where he scored just one point for a fastest lap during these 6 races. The Mountune Turbo engine under the Ford’s bonnet is widely regarded as one of the best engines within the series and with other teams switching to NGTC, Jackson believes if he gets off to a strong start the championship is a real possibility and said, “2012 looks to be an exciting year in the BTCC. With the new NGTC regulations being adopted by many of the front-running teams the season could prove to be very interesting indeed. We showed last year that we have the car and skills in place to compete against the so-called ‘big boys’ and hopefully the other teams will experience some teething problems that we can capitalise on. It’s fantastic to be back driving with Motorbase for the third year in a row, it feels like home now! We have the same core personnel in place for this season which I believe will also prove key to our challenge for the outright drivers’ title.”
This all feels like a dream come true and I can’t wait for the racing to begin.
For 2012 this will be Griffin’s second season in the series and only his fourth in Motorsport. Last season Griffin didn’t perhaps make the impact he had hoped and endured a disappointing year where he scored just 2 points all year for 9th at Donington. However by the end of the year Griffin became more consistent and hopes to build upon that for 2012 and said, “Having finished consistently at the end of last season I feel I have given myself something to build on. Half the battle is not feeling out of your depth, the other half is actually not being out of your depth. I certainly feel like I have completed the first part but have to now see if I can turn that into being a bit more competitive.”
Motorbase’s final driver this year is Smith who narrowly missed out on the Clio Cup Championship last year and is widely regarded as one of the most promising drivers outside of Touring Cars. As well as competing in the Clios, brother of former VX Racing driver Gavin also enjoyed a promising meeting for Gavin’s former team Triple 8 racing at Knockhill, where he scored a single point and perhaps would have scored another if it wasn’t for an unfortunate incident behind the safety car. The 22 year old Dubliner is delighted to have been confirmed at Motorbase and said, “I couldn't be more excited about this season; the past two years have literally been building up to this moment. Motorbase Performance is the type of team I know I'll feel right at home in. This all feels like a dream come true and I can’t wait for the racing to begin.”
Motorbase are a long-term competitor in the Porsche Cup and first entered the BTCC in 2007 with a pair of Seat Toledo’s. After a fairly low-key season they switched to BMW’s and by the end of the 2008 season were becoming a regular to the podium. In the opening meeting of the 2009 season Rob Collard took the teams’ maiden victory and ran under the name of Airwaves BMW. They continued with BMW’s and to run under the name of Airwaves BMW in 2010 and with new drivers Steven Kane and Mat Jackson scored an historic 1-2 in opening meeting of the year at Thruxton.
For 2011 Motorbase took the bold decision to buy all three Team Aon Ford Focus’ and the team had their most successful season to date with Jackson taking 4 victories finishing the season eventually in 4th after his disastrous two meetings. The team ran regular Porsche Cup driver Michael Caine in a third car at Rockingham and Brands as well as James Thompson instead of Caine at the final meeting at Silverstone; however 2012 marks their first full 3 car season attack.
It’s unclear at present whether Airwaves will remain on board with to date the car testing in an all red livery. However team principle Dave Bartrum has very high hopes for the season and can’t wait for it to begin and is delighted with his new acquisition in Smith and said, “We're very excited about this season. We will be continuing with the same cars from last year, which we learnt a lot from in our first season with them in 2011. We have been busy further improving over the winter, so to also keep the continuity of Mat and Liam is very important for us moving forward this year and to welcome Aron to the team is fantastic. Aron has settled straight in to the team and has impressed us all in testing. I'm sure he will be competitive very quickly this year. Liam has had a year in the BTCC under his belt now so knows what to expect this year and we're looking forward to him hitting the ground running come round one. And with Mat, he will be starting in a car he knows well which has been further improved so there is no reason why we can't mount a serious championship challenge as we did last year, just with some better luck in 2012.”