Mat Jackson starred for Airwaves Racing at the first round of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
Jackson – now in his second season with the Motorbase Performance run team – improved his finishing position from race to race through the triple-header BTCC weekend, starting with a hard fought fourth place in the first race, pressuring Tom Chilton in the newer design Ford Focus.
Jackson then initially ran second in race two, taking the position moving around the outside of James Nash on the first corner, before having to cede position to Gordon Shedden at Surtees, the Scot completing his own charge through the field after earlier problems.
The final race of the day saw Jackson put in arguably his strongest performance of the day, and showed off the power of the Ford Focus/NGTC engine combination the team had moved to over the winter from the BMW of past years. Starting from fifth Jackson survived contact with James Nash off the start line to run fourth at the end of the opening lap.
Fourth became third on lap five when Jackson's turbocharged Focus got the better of Paul O'Neill in the normally aspirated Chevrolet Cruze – one of many times during the day that illustrated the power of the new-spec engines.
Jackson's day was complete when Andrew Jordan fell out of second place with a puncture, giving the Airwaves driver a second podium of the day, and points enough to take second place in the drivers' points behind Jason Plato.
“It's great to have a start like this but there is a long way to go,” said Jackson. “We have started well and we can only get better. It's been tough a time learning the new car. We have made some great changes and it's building up the profile of the car well. This weekend has put us in a great position.”
His new teammate Liam Griffin, however, had a more troubled day, beginning with a clash with Rob Collard on the formation lap before the first race that forced the postponement of the Carrera Cup graduate's BTCC race debut.
From the back of the grid Griffin's race two efforts were hampered by an unwanted pitstop for a puncture. The final race finally allowed Griffin to demonstrate the pace he was capable of, and though he ended the day without any points he lapped within six-tenths of his more experienced teammate.
“It's been a very successful weekend,” said team principal David Bartrum. “I think we are eight points behind Jason Plato in the championship in second place so we are quite pleased with that. We were hoping for Liam to have settled down in the car in a bit more but it is quite a learning curve in British Touring Cars. I think he needs a bit more time to settle in but I think he will surprise a few people this season and will get faster and faster.”
“Mat Jackson is exactly where we thought he would be and we have had three very good results from him. We had a fourth, a third and a second but not the elusive win. We had two Independent wins with some good results against the works teams, which is great. But from the point of view of the Championship, which is what we are here for, if we bank points like this at every round we have a good chance at the title. It is the first leg of a ten round Championship, we are in a very nice position good position and it can only get better.”