MOTOR RACING: AIRWAVES Racing driver Mat Jackson had to work hard this weekend at the Croft Circuit but got his just rewards with three top eight finishes and narrowly missed out on a podium in the final race of the day but keeps him in the hunt for championship glory at the midway point of the British Touring Car Championship season writes Andy Parsons.
Qualifying proved difficult for Jackson following two interrupted free practice sessions earlier in the day on Saturday and he then found himself amongst drivers trying to find their own qualifying space when he was on his “hot lap” which in all meant Jackson could only manage 15th place on the grid for the first of Sunday’s three races.
Jackson was fully aware in Race 1 that with his grid position of 15th he had to try and steer clear of any incidents that may occur.
This he managed, and following all manner of mayhem at the first chicane, crossing the line at the end of the first lap Jackson found himself in ninth place on the tail of Alain Menu’s Chrome Restart VW and Jackson then made a further place when they both managed to pass the MG of local racer Sam Tordoff in the MG towards the end of the race but all in all it was a fantastic result for Jackson.
The second race proved just as difficult for Jackson who had to use all his race-craft early on when a charging Tordoff tried to pass him heading into the first corner.
He managed to keep Tordoff behind him and was then able to settle down and pull away from the MG driver.
It looked like Jackson would finish the race where he started until an incident between Menu and Plato saw the VW driver end up in the gravel trap elevating Jackson to seventh place.
It was then a question of waiting to see which ball would be drawn for the reverse grid in race three.
It then got even better for Jackson when Matt Neal was excluded for failing the ride height check which elevated Jackson to sixth place
The ball that was drawn was number 10 but there were several penalties that needed to be applied and once sorted Jackson was fifth on the grid for the final race. Jackson made a good start but once again there was chaos early on which Jackson managed to avoid. Pirtek’s Andy Jordan had taken full advantage to steal the lead.
From here Jackson held station in fourth behind Jordan, Jack Goff and Rob Collard.
As the race progressed it was clear Goff’s tyres were going off and Collard began to put pressure on him and seeing this Jackson closed up to Collard just in case either made an error.
As it was Collard moved past Goff at the hairpin and Jackson was able to follow, elevating him to third.
However, Jackson had the fast-charging Gordon Shedden behind him and despite his best efforts was not quite able to hold him off and was passed with a couple of laps to go leaving Jackson to come home in fourth place.
But a delighted Jackson said: “Wow that was hard work. From where we were after qualifying to come away with an 8th, 6th and 4th is fantastic.
“We still have work to do to catch up with the Honda’s and BMW’s but hopefully we can do this during the mid-season break and come back stronger.”
As in race two Jackson again profited from a stewards decision post-race when Gordon Shedden was handed a five second time penalty following an incident with Jackson during the race meaning Jackson was promoted to third and another podium finish for the #6 Ford Focus ST.
The BTCC now takes its mid-season sabbatical and will return on August 2 at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk.