Championship leaders Airwaves Racing cross the border this week to defend their 8 point lead at the top of the leader board as round 7 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reaches its most Northerly point at Scotland’s Knockhill circuit this coming weekend.
A four week break after the BTCC’s last outing at Snetterton has given the Motorbase-run team time to reflect on their sensational weekend of results at the Norfolk track back in August. Despite a challenging qualifying session, the Airwaves Racing Team fought back hard to secure two top six place finishes and their fourth win of the 2011 season, putting them and lead driver Mat Jackson to the top of the Championship standings for the first time in their history with an eight point lead.
After only five years of competing in the BTCC and with this being the debut season that David Bartrum’s team have run the Mountune powered Ford Focus ST cars, the small independent Kent-based team have more than proved their worth within the Championship as serious title contenders.
At the start of the season few would have expected Airwaves Racing to be challenging the likes of the manufacturer backed giants of Honda and Chevrolet at this point and it is a real testament to the skill, talent and camaraderie of everyone involved with the team; the majority of whom are ‘weekend warriors’ and not full time employees; that they are at the top of the BTCC standings and competing at the very pinnacle of British motorsport. This is one team that doesn’t rest on its laurels.
Although the twisty and undulating characteristics of the Knockhill circuit are not best suited to the Airwaves Focus, and with a hefty success ballast of 45kg on board for Championship leader Mat Jackson, the Airwaves Racing team are confident of three strong finishes and a consistent points haul to keep their Championship position intact.
Round 7 of the BTCC featuring races 19, 20 and 21 take place at Knockhill Circuit on Sunday 4th September. Live coverage of Sunday’s events will be shown on ITV4, itv.com and also in HD from 11.30am – 6pm; with itv.com featuring live streaming online of Saturday’s qualifying session between 3.05 and 3.35pm.
Airwaves Racing Team Manager Oly Collins said: “I know some teams take pride in 'beating us at qualifying' but those teams haven't carried any success ballast into qualifying like we have been this year! That said, we are still under performing on a Saturday and it’s something we're working hard to improve, however we will not compromise our focus in free practice sessions which is predominantly on getting a race day set up. We have always performed well on race day and that’s no fluke. If you're the best car/driver and team on Saturday you can get one point, on a Sunday you can get 51 points, we're leading the Championship so I think the team is doing a great job!”
“It’ll be interesting to see how the ‘parity’ debate plays out this weekend; personally I think Knockhill has a similarity in characteristics to Brands Indy. With all the turbos on full song at the start of the season the Chevy dominated at Brands, since then all turbo cars have been reduced in power and the Chevy has been lightened by 25Kgs so I would expect a Chevy 1-2 by some margin in qualifying. I think TOCA had it closest at Croft earlier in the year, but like I say we'll see there's nothing we can do about it, TOCA have an independent group of experts working on getting it right so we have to put our trust in them, whoever they are!”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “Leading the championship heading into the final leg of the championship is great and is testament to how well the car and team are working, the only down side is that we have to carry the 45KG of success ballast that is attached to the championship lead which, when you look at the base weights of the cars, we are some 70kg heavier than the Cruze of Plato which is a huge difference especially around a circuit like Knockhill.”
“Am I surprised that we are where we are? Not in the slightest. I have full confidence in mine and the teams’ ability and actually think we should be leading by even more points! For sure it will be a tough weekend due to ballast, we do struggle through the slower corners as we don’t have any engine braking but all we can do is the best with what we have got.”
“I’m looking to take away 30 points as we have tried to do so far in every race ‘Points make Prizes’ and this weekend will be no different from our perspective as we need to remain in the hunt until the last round, There is still a long way to go!”
Airwaves Racing driver Liam Griffin said: “Due to the restrictions on testing, I haven’t been able to get any additional time in the car over the break, which is unfortunate. I have fond memories of Knockhill as it’s where I celebrated my first ever win in the VW cup back in 2009 so I would hope that my knowledge and confidence of the track will come into play. I’m really hoping to manage to complete all three races and have an incident free weekend as a start and also to improve my qualifying and build on the race pace of the car.”
“In regards to my thoughts on my season so far, I would say simmering is the best description! I have the potential to get the hang of it but it hasn’t happened yet, this was always a two year plan for me and I’ve made progress in this highly competitive field. I’ve just got to look to build on this year as a learning curve and come back stronger next year. I’m really enjoying competing at this level and I have to be honest and say it’s been a lot tougher than I expected, once you’re in the mix you really do realise just how seriously competitive the BTCC is!”