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News 2013: Airwaves Racing bounces back at Oulton Park

June 9th

Jackson on pace with works Hondas

Airwaves Racing bounced back with a solid performance this weekend (June 8/9) during round 4 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).

Cheshire's picturesque Oulton Park circuit provided the backdrop to a drama filled race weekend that saw the Airwaves Racing squad secure two top ten finishes with both Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST next generation touring cars showing promising pace.

A closely fought qualifying session on a blistering track on Saturday afternoon, with just half a second separating the top twelve, ended with Mat Jackson and Aron Smith in P11 and P17 respectively; with Smith's #8 Focus struggling with an intermittent engine fault that hindered the Irishman's progress.

Sunday's opening race started well, with both Jackson and Smith making good ground through the pack in the opening laps. The good news proved to be short lived however as the Smith's engine fault kicked in during lap 4, relegating the Irishman through the ranks - eventually forcing the #8 Focus into the pits for an early retirement. The #7 Focus ST's improved pace and set up paid dividends for his Airwaves Racing team-mate Mat Jackson however, with the 32 year old managing to pick his way through the field to cross the line in 7th position.

A momentous effort in the Airwaves Racing garage to pull a rabbit out of the hat during the midday break, saw the Motorbase crew successfully changed Smith's engine against the clock in an impressive 1 hour 15 minutes; allowing the Irishman to join the back of the grid for the start of race 2. The team's hard work was rewarded with a sterling drive from Smith – making up an impressive 11 places to come home in P14.

Smith positive with directionJackson looked to be on for a strong top 5 finish during the opening laps as he chased down, when disaster struck once again following a coming together with Tordoff's MG – causing damage to his #7 Focus which could only manage a crawl to the finish to end race 2 in P20.

With a new set up and last minute coolant repairs to Smith's Focus forcing a pit lane start; both Airwaves Racing NGTC's started the final race of the day from the back of the pack. Once more, both Airwaves Racing drivers showed their remarkable  race craft as they picked their way through the packed grid, battling to the mid field within the first eight laps – with Smith collecting an, albeit short-lived, fastest lap time on the second lap. As has been the story too frequently thus far this season, luck played a cruel trick on the Airwaves squad once more, with Jackson's charge through the field thwarted by a similar issue to the damage experienced in race 2 – forcing an unscheduled pit visit and return to the back of the pack. Despite a gallant effort from Jackson, it proved too little too late and the #7 Focus ended the last race of the weekend in P19.

Smith's final race of the day proved more productive, as the #* Focus responding well to the revised set-up; the Airwaves Racing driver produced a stunning drive from the back of the grid to secure the team's second top ten finish of the weekend and some much welcomed championship points.

Addison Lee Motorbase team-mate Liam Griffin had another successful weekend to further boost his Jack Sears Trophy campaign; collecting another two class wins in his S2000 Focus ST during Sunday's opening and closing races. A judicial reversal of the opening race results leaves Griffin just one race win off the top spot now, with everything still to play for at the next round.

Despite not having the best run of luck over the weekend, the Airwaves Racing squad have made promising steps forward with the pace and set up on the NGTC Focus ST's and now have a two week break to put the lessons learned this weekend into practice before the racing gets underway again as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns for round 5 at North Yorkshire's Croft circuit on June 22/23.

Motorbase Performance Team Principal David Bartrum said:
"For me it was a weekend of big strides going forward. To see Mat Jackson up there battling for position with three times champion Matt Neal in the works Honda shows our recent development work is starting to pay off.

"Had it not been for the skill and experience of Matt Neal keeping our Mat at bay in race 1 then we would have progressed further, and who knows, it could have been a podium. That result then put us in a good position for race 2 and the Focus showed very strong on the soft tyres. We made excellent progress, the tyres stayed good - you only need to look to Sam Tordoff to see how the tyres can go off and leave your car in trouble. Had it not been for the unfortunate mechanical problems, we would have been sitting pretty for reversed for the last race.

"Unfortunately lady luck was still on her tea break for the last race! After starting from the back of the grid Mat made excellent progress on the standard tyres whilst up against the majority of the other cars on soft tyre; which really threw a curve ball as everybody seemed to go at it like mad men!

"Aron also had an eventful weekend; his efforts in the last race were superb and when you look at the race pace on both of the cars this weekend I think it shows that our recent development work is paying dividends, and in our first full year as a constructor we're starting to show what the Airwaves Racing Focus can do. I for one can't wait for lady luck to get off her tea break and join us for some good racing at Croft; and hopefully she'll be on our side!"

Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said:
"We've really made progress with the car this weekend. I think we would have had three top five finishes this weekend, but performance wise we had a few issues that cost us that, which is a real shame but we're still learning.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel now and we're moving in the right direction – we're challenging the Honda's and faster than the Toyota's and I feel comfortable with the direction that we're heading in."

Airwaves Racing driver Aron Smith said:
"It's been a little bit of a troubling weekend; and it's unfortunate because we've done so much testing and developed the car so much from where we were – but we just never got to show our hand to be fair.

"We had engine issues in qualifying on Saturday which affected us in race 1 and forced the retirement. I've never seen a team work so hard to change an engine between races; because it's one of those things that you don't even make it out at all and even though we had to start at the back, we still made it to the grid, which was impressive."

"Now we have a much clearer direction going into the next round which is really positive. Hopefully Croft will be a turning point for us."

Addison Lee Motorbase driver Liam Griffin said:
"All in all I'm pretty happy with the weekend.  Race 1 was a bit disappointing with the result being reversed, but the ying and yang came through with us getting another win in race 3.

"Overall the weekend was a fair result; Lea Wood had the pace - but to come away with one of the trophies from the weekend is a good result for us and a good sign for the championship."

Event Information:
Oulton Park circuit: 2.26 miles
Laps: 15
Race distance: 33.9 miles
Address: Little Budworth, Tarporley, Cheshire CW6 9BW