George Jackson has expressed his delight after picking up a seasons best fourth place finish during an “immense” second Renault UK Clio Cup race at Rockingham last weekend, and says outright podium finishes are his next target.
Fresh from a breakthrough top six finish from tenth on the grid in the opening race, Jackson was one of the stars of the live-televised second encounter in his Team Cooksport Clio.
Starting eighth, Jackson initially dropped to tenth during a busy opening lap, but he was only moved forward from then as he picked up the pieces from others misfortunes.
Up to seventh by the end of lap two, Jackson gained another three places on lap four when former team-mate Charlie Ladell and Luke Kidsley came into contact.
From there, Jackson got his head down and sensationally closed down a four and a half second gap to the sparring championship leader Ash Hand and three-time champion Paul Rivett.
A bold move into the Deene hairpin on the penultimate lap saw Jackson briefly snatch third, but Hand got the place back at Tarzan later in the lap.
Jackson remained on his tail though and finished within a second of the podium at the flag as he secured a maiden top four finish and a first Graduate Cup victory.
“That race was immense,” Jackson told TCF. “It was a bit hairy on the first lap, there was a bit of rubbing and a few positions were swapped and I dropped back a bit.
“There was some hustling and bustling in front of me though, with guys having to defend and attack, so with clean air I was able to close the gap and take advantage of some incidents to move up to fourth.
“I saw Paul [Rivett] and Ash [Hand] having a scrap quite a way ahead. That was slowing the pair of them down, so I kept my cool and gained on them. At one stage I got past Ash, but it was probably a lap too soon as I could only hold onto it for about half a lap! It was incredible though.”
For Jackson, the race provided his first opportunity to go toe-to-toe with the championship protagonists at the head of the field, and the Bedford-based racer feels he fitted in well at the front.
“It’s a very different feeling on track. Once you’re up racing with them, you find it easier,” he explained.
“When you’re scrapping in the mid pack, you’re fighting yourself to make yourself go faster and gain places. The higher you get, it feels more natural, it’s free flowing and as silly as it sounds it calms you down a bit, as you know you deserve to be there.”
The maiden top four finish capped off a seasons best weekend for Jackson’s Team Cooksport squad, an outfit he only joined part-way through the campaign after initially kicking off proceedings with JamSport Racing.
“This is exactly the sort of progress I was looking for when I joined the team. Honestly I was expecting a slow start to begin with, settling into a new team that do things differently, with new people and a new set-up, it takes time,” Jackson reflected.
“I went into Croft with high expectations though, I’d had my round to settle in at Oulton and it was a case of ‘here we go, let’s see what we can do’. It didn’t quite go to plan, so I scratching my head wondering what was happening.
“It’s all come around through, we found some pace at Knockhill and it’s got better and better this weekend. I’ve made big improvements so it’s proven to be the right move.”
The breakthrough result had added poignancy for Jackson after he became a father for the first time the day after the Knockhill race meeting last month.
“I drove back from Knockhill after the race, went back to the girlfriend’s house and she couldn’t get to sleep, contractions had started. Good girl, she’d held her in over the race weekend, and we spent all that night at the hospital, and at 7.51 the next evening our baby girl was born,” he enthused.
“It’s really exciting and it’s looking like she’s my lucky charm already. She’s here today watching on in the crowd somewhere, so it was great to pull it off for the family.”
With a fourth place finish under his belt, Jackson’s next target naturally becomes a first visit to the podium places as he heads into the final two meetings of the season at Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP.
Jackson concluded: “The podium has got to be the target now. The boys at the front have got a lot of experience in the cars compared to me so it will be tough, but anything can happen and you’ve got to be in it to win it, so we’ve got to push ourselves forwards and go for the podium.”