Mat Jackson was delighted after an impressive performance at Croft left him just nine points of the championship lead heading into the BTCC's seven week summer break.
The Airwaves Racing driver resisted the challenge of WSR pair Nick Foster and Rob Collard to take victory in race three, and this was after coming within a whisker of beating Matt Neal to the win in race one.
On a drying track, Jackson chose to start the first race with slick front tyres and wet rears. This would prove to be an inspired choice after a safety car period cancelled out the time lost in the early stages. Jackson started the last lap in fourth but scythed his way past Jason Plato and Rob Collard before coming to within 0.055s of Neal on the run to the finish line.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Jackson was delighted to see the strategic gamble pay off.
“Qualifying left us in a lowly 9th and looked like it was going to be a hard weekend ahead. Race morning produced some unfavourable conditions and left us with a difficult decision to make on the tyres. In the end we took a risk by going against the grain of the majority of the grid and opted for a mix of slicks and wet. We knew it was going to be tough, but bided our time and stayed on the track to let the circuit dry out; that was when things came our way and we managed to get up into 2nd on the final lap, narrowly missing out on another victory.”
“The result meant we had a good start position for race 2, unfortunately with the success ballast we struggled with the added weight and to match the pace of the less laden guys, but were happy with 5th and the points for the Championship.”
Fifth in race two became third on the grid for race three, and Jackson took full advantage, but admitted that the WSR BMWs gave him a run for his money.
“We had a great turn of luck with the reverse grid for race 3 to start in third. I knew we needed a good start to get past the new global Focus and the ever fast starting BMW to stand a chance and luckily managed to overtake on the first lap. Collard put us under a lot of pressure but the Focus held out in front and we bagged another great win. I'm delighted for the team and the sponsors to go into the break on the back of such a fantastic result and on a personal level it feels great to finally get my first win at Croft and get that monkey off my back.”
Teammate Liam Griffin had the scariest moment of the day in race two, after clipping the tyre stack at the Jim Clark Esses and spearing off the track with damaged suspension. Fortunately, the Ford Focus didn't make contact with any barriers and ploughed into the adjoining field.
After the Airwaves Racing crew repaired the car, Griffin did make it out for the third race, finishing 16th, and was pleased with the progress made this weekend as he reaches the halfway stage in his rookie year.
“I struggled with the mixed conditions this weekend and found race 1 particularly tough having only ever raced at Croft once before in a rear wheel drive car. To be honest in race 2, there's been a lot of talk about farmers having concern with the recent droughts so I just thought I'd help them out and have a look at how their crops were doing, and I'm pleased to report that we're in for a bumper yield this year! On a more serious note, the Airwaves boys did an amazing job turning the car around for me again in just over an hour for race 3 and I really started to learn the circuit, so there are some positives that we can take away and work on over the seven week break.”
Airwaves Racing also lead the Independent Teams Championship heading into the summer hiatus, and team manager Oly Collins is already targeting improvements between now and Snetterton.
“A fantastic result today after what was quite a difficult day yesterday. Mat drove brilliantly in all three races to give us a nice big point's haul to help us in our Championship push. It will be interesting to see how the next seven weeks pans out; we have a lot of work scheduled in during the break to further improve the Airwaves Focus, as long as TOCA don't try and slow the turbo cars down anymore, as you would have to say that this weekend the naturally aspirated cars have had incredible pace despite their lack of winter development. A massive well done to all the guys and girls at Airwaves Racing for working so hard to achieve this weekend's result.”