Another challenging weekend for Airwaves Racing ended with a glimpse of promise this weekend (June 8/9) during round 4 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)...
Cheshire’s picturesque Oulton Park circuit provided the backdrop to a drama filled race weekend that saw the Airwaves Racing squad suffer yet another run of torrid bad luck; securing two top ten finishes; despite showing promising pace in the Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST next generation touring cars.
An uneventful qualifying session on a blistering track on Saturday afternoon left the Airwaves Racing drivers with much work to do during Sunday’s three races. Mat Jackson and Aron Smith ended the session in P11 and P17 respectively; as Smith’s #8 Focus struggled with an intermittent overheating problem on his engine issue that hindered the Irishman’s progress throughout the session.
Sunday’s opening race started well, with both Jackson and Smith making good ground through the pack in the opening laps. The good news proved to be short lived however as the Smith’s engine issue kicked in during lap 4, relegating the Irishman through the ranks - eventually forcing the #8 Focus into the pits for an early retirement. The #7 Focus ST’s improved pace and set up paid dividends for Airwaves Racing team-mate Mat Jackson, with the 32 year old managing to pick his way through the field to cross the line in 7th position.
A momentous effort in the Airwaves Racing garage to pull a rabbit out of the hat during the midday break, saw the Motorbase crew successfully changed Smith’s engine against the clock in an impressive 1 hour 15 minutes; allowing the Irishman to join the back of the grid for the start of race 2. The team’s hard work was rewarded with a sterling drive from Smith – making up an impressive 11 places to come home in P14.
Jackson looked to be on for a strong top 5 finish during the opening laps, when disaster struck once again following a coming together with Tordoff’s MG – causing damage to his #7 Focus which could only manage a crawl to the finish to end race 2 in P20.
With a new set up and last minute coolant repairs to Smith’s Focus forcing a pit lane start; both Airwaves Racing NGTC’s started the final race of the day from the back of the pack. Once more, both Airwaves Racing drivers showed their remarkable race craft as they picked their way through the packed grid, battling to the mid field within the first eight laps – with Smith collecting an, albeit short-lived, fastest lap time on the second lap. As has been the story too frequently thus far this season, luck played a cruel trick on the Airwaves squad once more, with Jackson’s charge through the field thwarted by a similar issue to the damage experienced in race 2 – forcing an unscheduled pit visit and return to the back of the pack. Despite a gallant effort from Jackson, it proved too little too late and the #7 Focus could only muster a P19 finish for the last race of the weekend.
Smith’s final race of the day proved to be more positive, with the Airwaves Racing driver producing a stunning drive from the back of the grid to secure the team’s second top ten finish of the weekend and some much needed championship points.
Addison Lee Motorbase team-mate Liam Griffin had a more successful weekend to further boost his Jack Sears Trophy campaign; collecting another two class wins in his S2000 Focus ST during Sunday’s opening and closing races. A judicial reversal of the opening race results leaves Griffin just one race win off the top spot now, with everything still to play for at the next round.
Despite suffering another frustrating weekend, the Airwaves Racing squad have made promising steps forward with the pace and set up on the NGTC Focus ST’s and now have a two week break to put the lessons learned this weekend into practice before the racing gets underway when The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns for round 5 at North Yorkshire’s Croft circuit on June 22/23.
Motorbase Performance Team Manager Oly Collins said: “As bad weekends go, that has got to be right up there. We just haven’t had a break - despite being confident we had made good progress leading up to and during this weekend. Fundamentally a poor qualifying result hurt us amongst a very competitive top twelve.
“Both drivers were dealt some really bad luck today but we have to pick ourselves up and work hard to make Croft our turning point.”
Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said: “We’ve really made progress with the car this weekend. I think we would have had three top five finishes this weekend, but performance wise we had a few issues that cost us that, which is a real shame but we’re still learning.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now and we’re moving in the right direction – we’re challenging the Honda’s and faster than the Toyota’s and I feel comfortable with the direction that we’re heading in.”
Airwaves Racing driver Aron Smith said: “It’s been a little bit of a troubling weekend; and it’s unfortunate because we’ve done so much testing and developed the car so much from where we were – but we just never got to show our hand to be fair.
“We had engine issues in qualifying on Saturday which affected us in race 1 and forced the retirement. I’ve never seen a team work so hard to change an engine between races; because it’s one of those things that you don’t even make it out at all and even though we had to start at the back, we still made it to the grid, which was impressive.”
“Now we have a much clearer direction going into the next round which is really positive. Hopefully Croft will be a turning point for us.”
Addison Lee Motorbase driver Liam Griffin said: “All in all I’m pretty happy with the weekend. Race 1 was a bit disappointing with the result being reversed, but the ying and yang came through with us getting another win in race 3.
“Overall the weekend was a fair result; Lea Wood had the pace- but to come away with one of the trophies from the weekend is a good result for us and a good sign for the championship.”