AIRWAVES Racing driver Mat Jackson had to work hard at the weekend for points at the Croft circuit but got his just rewards with three top eight finishes, whilst also claiming a podium place in the final race of the day, writes Andy Parsons.
The results in North Yorkshire keep the Henley-in-Arden ace in the hunt for championship glory at the midway point of the British Touring Car Championship season.
Qualifying proved difficult for Jackson following two interrupted free practice sessions earlier in the day on Saturday and he then found himself amongst drivers trying to find their own qualifying space when he was on his ‘hot lap’, which in all meant Jackson could only manage 15th place on the grid for the first of Sunday’s three races.
So to race one with Jackson fully aware that with his grid position of 15th he had to try and steer clear of any incidents that may occur. This he managed and following all manner of mayhem at the first chicane, crossing the line at the end of the first lap Jackson found himself in ninth place on the tail of Alain Menu’s Chrome Restart VW.
Jackson then made a further place when they both managed to pass the MG of Sam Tordoff in the MG towards the end of the race but all in all it was a fantastic result for Jackson.
The second race proved just as difficult for Jackson who had to use all his race-craft early on when a charging Tordoff tried to pass him heading into the first corner.
He managed to keep Tordoff behind him and was then able to settle down and pull away from the MG driver. It looked like Jackson would finish the race where he started until an incident between Menu and Plato saw the VW driver end up in the gravel trap, elevating Jackson to seventh place.
It was then a question of waiting to see which ball would be drawn for the reverse grid in race three and it then got even better for Jackson when Matt Neal was excluded for failing the ride height check, which elevated Jackson to sixth place.
The ball that was drawn was number 10 but there were several penalties that needed to be applied and once sorted Jackson was fifth on the grid for the final race.
Jackson made a good start but once again there was chaos early on which Jackson managed to avoid. Pirtek’s Andy Jordan had taken full advantage to steal the lead. From here Jackson held station in fourth behind Jordan, Jack Goff and Rob Collard.
As the race progressed it was clear Goff’s tyres were going off and Collard began to put pressure on him and seeing this Jackson closed up to Collard just in case either made an error.
As it was Collard moved past Goff at the hairpin and Jackson was able to follow, elevating him to third. However, Jackson had a charging Gordon Shedden behind him and despite his best efforts was unable to hold him off and Shedden passed Jackson with a couple of laps to go, leaving Jackson to come home in fourth place.
As in race two Jackson again profited from a stewards’ decision post-race when Shedden was handed a five-second time penalty following an incident with Jackson during the race, meaning the Henley man was promoted to third and another podium finish for the #6 Ford Focus ST.
At the end of the day a delighted Jackson said: “Wow, that was hard work. From where we were after qualifying to come away with an eighth, sixth and third is fantastic.
“We still have work to do to catch up with the Hondas and BMWs but hopefully we can do this during the mid-season break and come back stronger at Snetterton.”
The BTCC now takes its mid-season sabbatical and will return on August 2/3 at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk.
Mat Jackson in action in free practice one. (s)
Mat Jackson was delighted with his efforts at Croft. (s)