The sixth round of the British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton was by far the best weekend of the 2013 season for Airwaves Racing, both Aron Smith and Mat Jackson claiming podium finishes as the team’s road to redemption hit a new high.
The Kent-based squad had yet to visit the rostrum during the first half of 2013, but a year on from the NGTC Ford Focus’ debut at the same Snetterton 300 circuit, the team returned to the business end of the BTCC field as they fought for outright success in the final two races of the day, Smith claiming two podium finishes while Jackson took the flag in a personal-best second place in the third and final encounter.
The team’s strong weekend started on Saturday at the Norfolk circuit as Smith claimed the team’s best qualifying performance of the season with sixth on the grid for Sunday’s race. It was not all smiles however, as the Irishman also sufferred a nasty accident in the same session moments later when he lost control exiting Riches corner and slammed the Focus into the barriers, Smith emerging unscathed in the shunt.
The Irishman’s car was repaired overnight and the team then achieved a solid pair of results in race one as Smith hung onto sixth place, team-mate Jackson climbing up to eighth with a fine move on championship leader Matt Neal at Brundles.
“The weekend started off really positive for us having a P6 in qualifying”, said Smith, “and I’ve always said that once we qualified well we’d be on for a really strong weekend as our cars just get progressively better in all the races.”
Race two was finally the Motorbase squad’s breakthrough of 2013 as Smith came through a thrilling encounter in third position by the chequered flag, claiming the team’s first podium finish of the year while Jackson backed him up all the way in fourth position.
The final race was then the icing on the cake for David Bartrum‘s team as the two Airwaves cars both emerged on the podium in a chaotic encounter. Jackson ran a comfortable second behind eventual winner Gordon Shedden for his best result of the season, while Smith grimly held onto third place after fending off a race-long rear-guard action from Adam Morgan.
Smith described the Snetterton visit as the best weekend of his career, and emerged from Sunday feeling that the team’s season has taken the u-turn it needed.
“The car was perfect all weekend. It was the most I’ve enjoyed driving the car this year because it was so much better than what we’ve experienced and it was nice to be back at the sharp end where we belong. To get our first podium for everyone in the team means something to me, but it means so much more for the rest of the team because they’re the ones that have put in the late nights to get the car ready.
“A sixth and two podiums is best weekend that I’ve ever had in my career and we’ll go to Knockhill now with a car that we know we can battle at the front with.”
Team-mate Jackson was equally relieved to finally get the results that the car has been missing so far during the 2013 season, and relished the feeling of being a genuine contender for victory once again as the team head to Knockhill on August 24-25 in higher spirits than ever.
Jackson said: “Obviously it’s a year on from when we came here with the new NGTC Focus; we had a P4 then, so to go better and come away with a P2 is fantastic. It’s a massive turnaround for our season from where we’ve started and to come here and be able to challenge for wins is mega and I feel sure that going forward now we can deliver the results we need to be back in the mix of the championship.
“Everybody has worked so hard back at Airwaves to get the car in the place where we know it should be and the start of the season was not the way that we wanted to start.
“We knew that we were more than capable of delivering wins and it’s been massively frustrating – but the second half is certainly going to be interesting to watch because both Aron and myself are back in the mix. To come here today and take away three podiums between us is awesome.”