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Mixed fortunes for Airwaves Racing at Brands Hatch

March 31st 2014

Two top ten finishes for Airwaves Racing at Brands Hatch opener

Airwaves Racing experienced a mixed bag of results at local Brands Hatch circuit this weekend (March 29/30) as the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season kicked off in spectacular style. A promising start for the Airwaves squad was cut short by a series of incidents that marred what could have been an impressive start to the Motorbase-run squad's 2014 campaign.

The weekend started well for Mat Jackson who managed to secure a solid P9 spot during Saturday's qualifying period. Airwaves Racing team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi suffered a minor throttle issue which cost him time in qualifying with the Italian coming in at P18 despite being just over half a second behind the Jordan's pole position. Crabbie's Racing driver Jack Clarke managed a P25 in difficult conditions with the #44 Focus ST suffering some suspension damage.

Giovanardi secured two points finishes for Airwaves Racing at Brands Hatch

The first of Sunday's three races started well for Mat in the #6 Mountune-powered Focus ST with the Airwaves man getting a good start off the line to moving up three spots up into P6 as the opening lap unfolded. With the Focus showing promising pace early on, Mat looked to be on for challenging for a strong podium before a reckless move from BMR's Aron Smith shunted him off the track. Mat did well to recover, but the incident dropped him back ten places back into the mid field forcing him to re-join the race back in P16. With damage to the rear wheel of his Focus, he struggled for the remainder of the race and crossed the line frustrated in P15.

Fabrizio had a less eventful race through the midfield, managing to make his way up into the top fifteen for a points finish but struggled with pace resulting from a slow puncture in the left front tyre and crossed the line ahead just ahead of Mat in P14. Jack Clarke's Crabbie's Racing Ford fared better with the former F2 driver putting in a solid debut appearance on his home-track, managing to make up an impressive six places and to bring the #44 Focus ST home in tact in P19.

With much work to do from the results of race 1; the Airwaves Racing squad had a hard task ahead of them and things looked to be onto a promising start. With all three Motorbase drivers getting a good start off the line, an opening lap melee threw the field into disarray with all three Motorbase drivers managing to escape unscathed. Fabrizio took full advantage of the ensuing chaos to slot into P9. Unfortunately, for the second time of the day, Mat fell foul of BMR's Aron Smith when the Irishman passed him illegally under the safety car period – closely followed by Smith's team-mates Scott and Goff – relegating the #6 Focus down into 14th place and leaving Mat with little chance of making up the lost ground on the short Indy circuit. Both Fabrizio and Mat pushed hard for the remainder of the race managing to salvage two points' finishes for the Airwaves Racing squad; ending the race in P9 and P12 respectively. Jack delivered another mature performance during race 2, pushing his Crabbie's Racing Focus hard through the demanding track whilst managing to avoid contact and brought the #44 across the line in P19.

Jackson's weekend marred by opening race incidentsA grid reshuffle following time penalties applied to the three BMR cars saw Fabrizio and Mat join the grid in P9 and P12 for the final race of the day. With both Airwaves Racing drivers making a strong start, the Motorbase Focus ST's were right in the mix of the action before a spin from Fabrizio sent the Italian sideways down through Paddock Hill, firing the #7 Focus off the track and across the grass, narrowly missing the barrier before re-joining at the back of the field. Despite a brave fight back through the packed grid, Fabrizio just missed out on a points' finish to end the race in P16. Mat pushed hard throughout the race, battling with the MG's and Adam Morgan's Mercedes to close the gap on the lead pack and Shedden's Honda in the closing laps. A final push saw the Airwaves man claim a much-welcomed P7 finish for the team and the highest placed finish of the weekend for the Airwaves squad.

Crabbie's Racing driver Jack made it trio of solid finishes in his opening BTCC weekend, with his best drive of the day justly rewarded with P17 and his third top twenty result of the weekend. Having made up an outstanding eight places over the course of the weekend, Jack stamped his mark on challenging for this season's Jack Sears Trophy award during the weekend's 2014 season opener.

Airwaves Racing leave Brands Hatch in fifth place in the team standings after a frustrating weekend that saw the squad secure two top ten finishes that did little to reflect the pace and capability of the team. The squad is back in action again when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Donington Park on April 19/20 for round two of the 2014 season.

Promising debut for Jack Clarke with three top twenty finishesTeam Manager Oly Collins said:
"A weekend of missed opportunities through very little fault of our own on the Airwaves side.

"Both drivers had the pace this weekend to get better results but we seemed to be on the wrong end of other people's incidents. Aron Smith ruined Mat's day after three laps, shoving him out of 6th place. Brands Hatch is such a tough to overtake on, so track position is vital and it was an uphill challenge from there. Then Aron and his team mates messed it up again for us in race two because they don't know the safety car rules!

"Fabrizio had a lot of work to do after a problem in qualifying but was very unlucky not to have gained the result we deserved. Jack did a great job on his debut. Three top twenty results in this grid is a fantastic effort. All three cars showed good pace this weekend and we'll go to Donington confident of some results."

Airwaves Racing driver Fabrizio Giovanardi said:
"It's frustrating because the final results do not show the level of the car. We could be in the first five cars.

"We know which problem we have and we have to fix it because the car is sometimes fast and sometimes not under control - it's a really tough drive. But I was watching the second race and even in the third when I spun, the car was really fast again I went really quick at the back, but when you are at the back at Brands you're finished. I was just wishing for some big disaster to take the other cars out! But this is racing; you just have to say this is life and move forward."

Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson said:
"It's been a tough weekend, qualifying was very close, another tenth of a second would have put us in the top five so I think we started in a really good position.  We got a blinding start in race one and made some good places up and then we were fired off which damaged the car and put us back for the rest of the race.

"The soft tyre hurt us a little in the second race and then we had the incident with the yellow flag infringement which put us back places and basically put us out for the rest of the race. It was obviously dealt with for the final race of the day putting us in P12 and we had a good run through from there. The car felt very, very strong and thankfully we managed to salvage a good result.

"The frustrating thing is that the incidents that happened this weekend were not through our own doing and that has hurt us. We were robbed of a decent result."

Crabbie's Racing driver Jack Clarke said:
"It was definitely a baptism of fire this weekend and what I expected in that respect. We started somewhere that wasn't necessarily ideal for everyone, but we plugged away and got the result.

"The Crabbie's Racing and Motorbase guys really helped me along this weekend, it's not just the car that we're developing but also me as an aspiring touring car front runner so to have managed to achieve no DNF's and results all within the top twenty with a thirty car grid in a field like that - you know, you can't turn your nose up at that at all.

"Next stop is Donington and certainly I'd love to say that the top fifteen are well within sight now. I think that after race three, where the geometry on the car was out but we were still able to compete and finish nearly half way up the field – shows that we're almost there. The confidence that I've gained from the weekend breeds more confidence and I'm hopeful that we can translate this onto the next race."

Event Information:
Brands Hatch circuit length: 1.22 miles
Laps: 24
Race distance: 29.28 miles
Address: Brands Hatch Circuit, Fawkham, Longfield, Kent, DA3 8NG