The British Touring Car Championship season gets back underway following its summer break this weekend at Snetterton, with Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson lying a fine second in the drivers' standings. David Bartrum, team principal of the Motorbase Performance outfit that runs the Airwaves team, has given his thoughts on the season so far and what lies ahead.
“It's been a great start to this year's campaign,” he began. “To be leading the Independent Drivers & Teams against some very fierce competition is a testament to the whole of the teams hard work and it's nice for everyone to recognise that.
“As for Mat, he has been a revelation this year and is very much at home in his little red devil. We started with whole new package this year going from rear wheel drive to front wheel drive and normally aspirated to Turbo, that's a challenge in anyone's book but, like normal, we’ve taken it on and it's proven to be the right decision.
Perhaps the main talking point of the season so far has been the parity, or perceived lack of it, between turbo charged and normally aspirated cars on the grid, with Chevrolet's Jason Plato being at the centre of much of the protesting. It is something that Bartrum is beginning to get tired of.
“To be honest it's getting a little bit boring now,” he said. “After Jason’s display on camera at Oulton Park after finishing first! I think it's gone the wrong way. I would have loved to be in his position in some of the races he’s complained about this year. When he got a puncture at Thruxton it was the turbo’s fault, had he calmed his driving down he may have finished well in that race and therefore be higher in the Championship. Hasn’t he won 4 races this year and that's with two punctures, some DNF’s due to bad luck and a barrel roll. I dread to think how far ahead he would have been had that lot not happened.
“The fact remains none of the non-turbo cars have done any development this year but they just sit back rest on their laurels and hope the Championship will make it interesting for everyone. Thinking about it I might stop all development from now on and work on my complaining techniques, it would be a lot cheaper!”
The team switched from BMWs to Fords in the close season after purchasing the cars previously run by Arena Motorsport, something that Bartrum feels has turned out to be the right decision.
“I have a certain thing for the Ford brand as I have raced them myself and being from this neck of the woods and employing five Essex boys in the team it seems to fit. All I need now is some fluffy dice!” he joked.
“Seriously though it has turned out to be a good move. I was worried in January as to whether or not I had done the right thing. I loved my BMW’s but we just weren't going to win the Championship with them this year so we needed to change, for our team members, drivers and sponsors. We have a good relationship with Mountune which goes back longer than I care to remind myself of as it tends to tell me how old I am! So all in all I’m enjoying the move so far!”
Despite buying three cars at the beginning of the year the team has so far only run two of them, for Jackson and series newcomer Liam Griffin. Bartrum says he would like to race the third car but much depends on funding. The team's former driver Jonathan Adam recently tested the car.
“We’ve been testing with it and would very much like to see it on the grid helping with our Championship push, but as ever there are hurdles in the way, mostly financial,” he explained. “We have the three cars built in the workshop ready to go but we don’t really have the spares package to run three at the moment, this is nothing a little investment wouldn’t solve.
“We set out when we bought the cars from Arena to run three so we have a lot of the equipment required and some of the more major spares needed like engines and bodywork, it's more detailed items we have to be mindful of and whatever happens, if and when the third car comes out it can’t detract from what is being done with the other two cars already.
In terms of the drivers' championship, Bartrum feels that Jackson can 'most definitely' claim the title, despite some strong competition.
“Nine points can be overturned in one race and there are 15 left so a lot can happen between now and the Sunday afternoon at Silverstone in October,” he said. “The competition this year is more fierce than ever. You have two very strong Honda’s clearly, not to mention Plato who when he stops looking at everyone else and starts looking at himself will be very strong.
“The Vauxhalls are very strong this year and we don’t under estimate the Arena guys now they’ve had seven weeks to work out where they need to improve. You also have some others who will no doubt feature at the front in Boardman and the WSR BMW’s. It's all to play for.”
Motorbase has also been involved as ever in the BTCC-supporting Porsche Carrera Cup, where the team are reigning champions. Despite a slow start to the season, Bartrum feels the team will be stronger in the second half of the year.
“We are confident now we have found a suitable set up for the car which was proven with improved pace at Oulton Park and then again at the Nurburgring, so I’m looking forward to a second half comeback now. Our team have been working harder than ever so we’ll just have to wait and see if we’ve done enough. We've just completed a very successful test at Snetterton in preparation for the upcoming race weekend.”
Tim Harvey stepped away from the Carrera Cup after a difficult start to the year, handing his Motorbase car over to youngster Kieran Vernon for the rest of the season.
“Tim has his own reasons for how he feels the Carrera Cup has gone for him this year,” said Bartrum. “He has chosen to give an opportunity to put in Kieran Vernon in his place to continue to carry the sponsor's name on the car. This is fantastic for Kieran and let's hope he grabs the opportunity with both hands and gives it a good shot. My job is to look after the welfare and ambitions of five drivers in our team and I'm confident that in the second half of the season we will achieve positive results.”
Harvey bowed out with a fantastic result at the Porsche Carrera World Cup on the fearsome Nurburgring Nordschleife, finishing 13th overall and first of the GB runners.
“It was an outstanding win for the whole team,” said Bartrum. “The team has done a fantastic job in improving the car and understanding the new car for exactly what it is. Tim drove very well too, so it was very important and what I will hope will prove to be the springboard required for the second half of the season. It was also very important for us to see Tim go out on a high from the Porsche Carrera cup and what a way to do it at the Nurburgring.”