Four top ten finishes for the Airwaves Racing squad- Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi bank points in all three races- Airwaves Racing #6 Focus remains only car with 100% finishing recordRound 8 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship produced a unique set of challenges for Airwaves Racing at Rockingham this weekend (September 6/7). The Motorbase-run squad came away from the oval circuit in a strong championship position with a lucrative points haul from all three of Sunday’s races that included four top ten finishes.
Saturday’s sessions proved challenging for the BTCC field with thick fog hampering early runs at the Rockingham Speedway track. A brighter afternoon proved more productive and the Airwaves Racing duo of Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi held their own on the highly competitive grid securing P10 and P11 positions respectively.
Sunday’s opening race saw the #7 Focus ST really come to life showing the same blistering pace seen at last month’s Knockhill round. With the Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST on form, double BTCC champion Fabrizio expertly picked his way through the leading cars as the race progressed and the Italian crossed the line in an auspicious P7 - narrowly missing out on 6th behind Jordan’s Honda. Mat Jackson had an equally solid opening race, and like his team-mate needed just one more lap to overcome the Honda in front of him, unfortunately the laps ran out before Mat could make his move and the #6 Focus came home in P9 just under a tenth behind Shedden’s Civic.
Race 2 proved to be a dramatic affair. With the Airwaves drivers on the pace from the get go; both Mat and Fabrizio slipped passed Jordan and Morgan in the opening two laps to slot into P5 and P6. It was then a side by side Airwaves challenge for position with Mat and Fabrizio entertaining the Rockingham crowds as they tested each other on the oval circuit. After swapping positions, and a little paintwork, the duo then set their sights on catching the lead pack as the laps unfolded. As Mat charged forward whilst fending off a gaining Rob Austin, Fabrizio was embroiled in an epic battle with Collard as the WSR racer tried to muscle his way past the #7 Focus. Fabrizio’s gritty performance delivered one of the TV highlights of the season so far but the damage sustained saw the Italian fall back into P11 to collect 5 well-earned and hard fought points. Despite looking to be gaining on Menu as the race progressed whilst still gallantly defending his position, the pace of Austin’s RWD Audi proved too much and Mat had to relinquish his spot to cross the line in P7.
Having missed out of the benefit of the reversed grid result, the final race of the day produced a mixed bag of results for the Airwaves squad. With both drivers running on the soft tyre, Mat got off to a superb start, taking both MG’s to move up into fifth as they headed into the first corner. As the race evolved Mat put in a stunning performance closing in on title contenders Turkington and Jordan whilst under attack from Plato’s MG. The Airwaves man delivered a perfect drive completed with a heroic final lap to stave off an attack from Collard; clinging onto his P5 position and securing his third top ten of the weekend. Fabrizio also made good progress during the opening laps, making his way up into eighth and enduring an almighty battle with Sam Tordoff. Unfortunately the results were short lived and the #7 Focus fell back in closing laps, finally settling in P13 as the chequered flag dropped.
Jack Clarke’s Rockingham weekend continued where the Crabbie’s Racing driver left off at Knockhill last month, with the BTCC rookie securing another best to date result with two points finishes during the weekend’s three races. Despite having never raced at the oval circuit before, Jack showed excellent race craft and maturity and looked set to break into the cusp of the top ten before a delayed start in race 3 put him on the back foot. A promising first race result and likely third points finish also looked to be on the cards before the #44 Focus ST was side swiped by Moffat, dropping the Crabbie’s-backed Focus down the order.
The weekend’s results see Mat Jackson maintain his second place position in the Independent Drivers’ Standings with the 33 year-old being the only driver to have scored points in every race so far this season. The Airwaves Racing squad also remains the only team to have its 100% reliability record intact with the #6 Mountune-powered Focus ST’s perfect accomplishment underlining the fantastic consistency of the Motorbase-run squad. The BTCC now has a short three week break before the penultimate round at ‘the home of British Motorsport’ Silverstone on September 27/28.
Team Manager Oly Collins said: “An interesting weekend! Another strong drive by Mat and we’ve come away with another three solid top 10’s for Mat which keeps us in touch with a respectable overall championship position come the end at Brands. Mat’s 2nd in the Independents’ which is the maximum we can achieve with Colin and his untouchable BMW. So we’ve got to forget him aim to stay ahead of Jordan and Collard and see where that puts us overall. Great to see Fabrizio getting the car close to his liking and we’re hoping we can fine tune that at Silverstone and get some good results for him and the team. Jack really drove well this weekend, a really good recovery drive in race 1 after falling to the back through no fault of his own and then two good points finishes. He could and should have been in the top 10 this weekend if all had gone right for him.
“Full credit goes to the team as always. We’re extremely proud to have such a good reliability record this season with all 3 of our Ford’s. Mat having 100% finishing record, with Jack not finishing only 1 race and ‘Gio’ 2, all due to accident damage shows that. That’s down to guys working on the cars behind the scenes who deserve full credit.”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “Obviously P10 in qualifying and then P9, P7 and P5 in the races is a great weekend for us in terms of points. We’ve gone forward in every race and we managed to stay out of trouble and bring the car home with very limited damage so overall I think we’re in a good place. We’ve kept our place to challenge for the championship, fourth in the overall standings and we’ve managed to finish every race again – we’re the only team and driver to have managed that.
“The last couple of laps in race 3 were really close. The tyre degradation was massive and we struggled quite a lot and Collard was obviously very close, but we managed to hold him off and bag a hard fought fifth place. We’re close to the Independents championships but we need to keep bagging these finishes. We need to be consistent and we need to keep bringing the Airwaves car home in the best place we can. Silverstone should be good for us, we have a good record there and the National circuit suits the Focus well.”
Airwaves Racing driver Fabrizio Giovanardi said: “Until now I haven’t really been that happy in the car because I wasn’t understanding what to do to get the best out of it. Today [Sunday] I have to say that it clicked. The first race was quite nice the feedback from the car was good and we got a good result. The second race was nice too until mid-race and then I had a big drop off that we’re still trying to find out the reason for. Third race again, the car started very fast and was very easy to drive, in fact I did a really fast lap, and then at one point the front end just disappeared and we dropped back.
“It’s been a strange weekend; I was happy and then sad but I think that we have made a breakthrough now and hope that at Silverstone we will be back the front again.”
Crabbie’s Racing driver Jack Clarke said:“It was a disappointing start to race day as unfortunately I was taken out on the first lap which put me 40 metres off the back of the pack and it meant I had to come from 31st. I just had to drive my way forward and make the most of the soft tyre and we ended up in 18th which was a good performance as it was good to come through the pack. We struggled in race two on the hard tyre and had a lot of under steer but I got the head down to break into the points which was pleasing. Come the final race, the stall at the start was a mistake by me and I was kicking myself but to come through to 14th from the back was very rewarding and I was happy to collect a few more points.
“I am getting a kick out of improvements as the line on the graph keeps going up and in the right direction. The progress we are making, makes the team, sponsors and I really motivated as we press forward. We couldn’t quite put the performance on paper as our pace would have put us higher, it was just one of those what could have been weekends. We know internally that we have made a big step forward and for Silverstone, Motorbase Performance have a good record there and the Ford Focus ST goes well on the National circuit so we could be on for a big marked improvement.”