Airwaves Racing leaves Scotland with three hard fought top ten finishes following a frenetic weekend’s racing action during round 7 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Knockhill this weekend (24/25 August).
Saturday’s qualifying result showed little justice to the pace and performance of the Airwaves Racing Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST’s. Despite both NGTC’s being less than half a second off pole; Mat Jackson and Aron Smith ended the session disappointed in P16 and P11 respectively.
An electrical fault put paid to any chances of progress in race two for Aron Smith with the #8 Focus losing all power on the start line - leaving Dublin-based Smith forced to sit out the full race in the garages. Mat Jackson fared better in the #7 NGTC; chasing down first Foster, Onslow Cole and then Newsham to work his way up into P9 by the midway point.
Having caught Tordoff’s MG in the closing laps, it was a flat out side by side sprint to the finish with Jackson narrowly pipped on the line to finish 9th and collect the weekend’s second top ten result for Airwaves Racing.
The final race of the day would prove just as challenging for the Airwaves Racing duo, with stop/start action during the frenzied finale. Jackson looked to be a strong contender for a high placed finish during the opening laps with his position boosted by an early safety car appearance.
Unfortunately as has been the case on a number of occasions this season, an over-zealous move by Nick Foster in the eBay Motors BMW forced the #7 Focus precariously off track – resulting in Jackson having to take evasive action to recover his position.
With Shedden’s Honda forced out of the running with a dramatic fire in the closing laps of the race and Colin Turkington later excluded from the result due to a technical infringement; Jackson saw his position later bolstered to P7; amassing another haul of points for the Airwaves Racing squad.
Smith showed impressive pace and race craft managing to battle his way through the field from the back of the grid up into fifteenth before a coming together with Bushell’s Cruze forced him off the track at Scotman’s corner and into the pits to replace a punctured tyre. Despite this foray, Smith did well to re-join the race swiftly and end the final race of the day in P16.
It was a bittersweet weekend for the Addison Lee Motorbase squad after a near perfect performance was spoiled by an irresponsible move by BTCC rookie Kieran Gallagher in the weekend’s final moments. Having already celebrated a return to form collecting two Jack Sears Trophy wins in Sunday’s opening races; Griffin was leading the final race heading into the closing laps and looked certain to claim a hat-trick of class wins before Gallagher’s actions rudely removed the S2000 Focus from the race; handing the class win to Jack Sears Trophy challenger Lea Wood in the process.
Airwaves Racing now make the long journey back to Kent as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship enters a three week break before reconvening once more at Rockingham Speedway for Round 8 on September 24/25.
Motorbase Performance Team Manager Oly Collins said: “Knockhill is always a tough place to come to as the racing is always so close. It was a real shame for Aron in race two as it effectively ended his weekend when he looked to be on for a good result on the soft tyre.
“Mat made progress throughout the day and showed some real pace in race two particularly. He also managed to pick up a decent haul of points over the weekend and move up in the standings; so now we look towards Rockingham with a positive outlook.”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “Knockhill is always a challenging circuit with very little opportunities for over taking. We’ve made good progress with the car throughout the weekend and have come away with three strong points finishes. We have some positives to take away and work towards Rockingham and look forward to a strong weekend there.”
Airwaves Racing driver Aron Smith said: “It’s a real shame that we didn’t get to see the potential in the car this weekend and qualifying could have gone our way but didn’t quite. We were looking really good for race two but cruel luck got in the way unfortunately.
“We have a couple of weeks break now to concentrate on Rockingham which has similar characteristics to Snetterton where we have a more proven set up.”
Addison Lee Motorbase driver Liam Griffin said: “Two great wins but still a disappointing end to what could have been a very, very good weekend. I’ve had Lea [Wood] behind me for the last three races and dealt with it fine but for Gallagher to come out and do that is just unnecessary.
“I would have been two points away from Lea and now I’m four, it just makes it a whole lot harder to close the gap and make the championship challenge at the end. Race three was there for the taking, but unfortunately Gallagher put paid to that. I’m a bit annoyed to be fair.”