Mat Jackson marked both his and Motorbase Performance‘s return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship by topping Thursday’s Dunlop group test at Snetterton.
The 2.97-mile 300 circuit in Norfolk played host to the two-part tyre test for what proved to be 24 drivers present, topped in the end by former BTCC runner-up, Jackson, who returns for the rest of the season along with the Motorbase Ford squad he claimed two victories with in 2014.
Jackson focused predominantly on outright qualifying pace, topping the afternoon session with the day’s best time of 1m57.216s after a helpful tow from Warren Scott‘s BMR Racing Volkswagen CC put him 0.152s clear of the latter’s team-mate, Colin Turkington.
Reigning champion Turkington had topped the morning session, the Northern Irishman one of those who also carried out testing of a new Dunlop SportMaxx tyre compound being assessed for 2016. While three current compounds were also utilised, the new rubber was also used by Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden and Andy Priaulx.
Triple Eight driver Jordan was third for MG while Jason Plato – a four-time winner already this season – was next up ahead of Priaulx’s West Surrey Racing BMW.
Priaulx was a top-10 runner throughout the seven hours of action for BMW, setting his best time on 2015 rubber. Turkington and Jordan’s best lap times were set during race simulations, leaving the results somewhat inconclusive.
Team BMR’s Aron Smith ended the day sixth ahead of the again impressive Tom Ingram (Speedworks Toyota) and the Honda Yuasa Racing duo of championship leader Shedden and team-mate, Matt Neal. Sam Tordoff rounded out the top 10, the WSR driver entering in the best form of all following pole position and a second victory of the season at Croft recently.
Returns to the driving seat of BTCC machinery came for both Robb Holland and James Cole meanwhile, the former having his first outing in the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis vacated by Simon Belcher.
Holland finished 22nd of the 24 drivers after completing a total of 79 tours of the Snetterton circuit, while Jackson’s new team-mate James Cole worked tirelessly on race simulations in the second Motorbase Focus ST.
Kieran Gallagher shared driving duties of his own Team HARD Toyota Avensis with team boss, Tony Gilham, the latter beating the lap time of his own driver. Nicholas Hamilton meanwhile finished 19th, completing a further 55 laps for AmDTuning.