By his own admission unable even to buy some good luck as the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship paused for its mid-season break three months ago, Mat Jackson has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes of late - and heads into the final two meetings on the calendar off the back of a six-race unbroken run of podium finishes.

Following a first, second and third at Knockhill - a circuit that had never much shone upon the Warwickshire star in seasons gone-by - Jackson arrived at Silverstone last time outing riding the crest of a wave and expecting good things. He would far from disappoint.

A breakthrough in qualifying saw the Racing Silverline contender plant his Chevrolet Lacetti firmly on pole position for the first time this year, three spots and the best part of three tenths of a second ahead of team-mate Jason Plato. And from there, following an assertive early pass on Airwaves BMW rival Rob Collard, he would be unchallenged en route to a second consecutive triumph in Sunday's opening encounter - even if some wondered whether he would be asked to move over for his title-chasing team-mate once the sister car got through into second.

"Racing Silverline went there knowing that the Chevrolet was going to be good and that Silverstone was going to be one of its stronger circuits," Jackson told Radio, "and the guys at RML did a fantastic job of making sure the car stayed together. In qualifying, I think a lot of it is myself; the car's obviously quick and Jason's been on the pace - he's been too bloody quick all the way through! - but finally we matched him. I'm pleased in myself because I think we made a bit of a breakthrough with qualifying.

"[As regards team orders], we race for ourselves. Obviously I'm not going to do anything silly, and we're a team at the end of the day. We've got to try and work together; there's no point in working against each other. As far as the wins go, I want the wins and he wants the wins, and we'll battle it out and that's how it is."

Indeed, it could almost have been a hat-trick of glories around the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing', as Jackson similarly led away in race two, only for a misguided set-up in the changeable weather conditions to leave him with precious little grip and at the mercy of a hard-charging defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi in the leading VX Racing entry.

"Race two was a bit of a strange one really," the 28-year-old acknowledged. "We made some changes for dry conditions and it rained, so it didn't work in our favour. It was frustrating, because we just didn't have any grip at all. Jason was coming through, and he got past us and obviously went on to win the race, which was great for the team. For myself, we came home in third; I think Fabrizio's car was handling very well - obviously the Vectra's a much longer wheelbase car than we've got, and more stable in those conditions. On slicks in the wet, our car's all over the shop and very unpredictable."

In the circumstances, the bottom step of the rostrum was far from unrespectable, and left Jackson sitting seventh on the starting grid for the third and final race - what would arguably produce his finest performance of the weekend, as he rapidly rose up to second and then successfully hunted down and passed Collard for the lead once more, only to be taken somewhat by surprise when the BMW man refused to let him get away. What followed was one of the best displays of defensive driving seen in the BTCC for some time.

"Race three was fantastic," enthused the Henley-in-Arden ace. "We knew from where we were we had to get a good start and we got a blinding start - going into Copse we were alongside Johnny Herbert and from there we didn't look back. We out-braked him down the outside into Maggots, and that really was the race made. It gave us enough of a break from the guys behind, and we could concentrate on breaking that tow and getting away and catching Rob.

"We caught Rob and thought 'okay, we're a bit quicker', so I was just backing off a bit once we got in the lead. I think I thought that once we got past Rob we'd be gone, and it didn't happen. When I finally got back to putting my foot down there was nothing left in the old girl, and I thought 'Jesus, he's right on us and maybe I shouldn't have backed off'. He found a second wind and it was great racing against him; he was 100 per cent professional and that's what the championship is about - good, professional, hard, clean racing and that's what we had all day.

"The danger was that he'd get the run on us on the exit of one of the corners, and obviously the Beemer is quick off the corner. It was really just trying to back him up so that we could just get the jump, and that when we got into the braking zone he wouldn't be all over the back of us. Luffield was the key to that, and he was constantly buried in my back bumper; he'd give us a bit of a bump there, and that would push us up the track."

A scant two tenths of a second was all that separated the fiercely-duelling combatants at the chequered flag, and the combination of results enabled Jackson to vault up to fifth in the title standings, just 16 points adrift of fourth-placed rival Matt Neal, who he now has firmly in his sights [see separate story - click here]. For a driver who sat out the Brands Hatch curtain-raiser back in April, tallied just three points at Oulton Park after suffering a variety of misfortunes having qualified second and failed to score at all at Croft due a nasty bout of food poisoning, it only goes to show what might have been...

"I think for the team it was a fantastic weekend," enthused the 2008 championship runner-up at the close. "To come away with the results we did was fantastic; two wins and a third - we'd take that home every weekend if we could! Six podiums on the trot and two wins from the last two weekends is great! The racing was good and I think the fans all enjoyed it, so we were really pleased.

"The team's obviously working well and we're looking forward to Rockingham now. Obviously it's a different circuit, and whether it's going to favour us or not we don't really know. I didn't get chance to do any testing mid-season, but Jason and James [Nash] did a test day there. We'll see. I don't think it's going to be one of our strongest; I think that's a fair point to make.

"A lot of development has gone into this car and a lot of time and hard work has gone in from all the guys here in the team. Fair play to everybody that's involved - they've worked so hard to get this programme on the road, and from where we came from back at the start, with me sat on the sofa for the first round and Jason having just taken the dust cover off to race, the ground we've made is just fantastic.

"Four months ago I was wondering what the hell we were going to drive, and to get what we've got, bang in the results like this and get a team like Jason and myself is really brilliant. All the guys - Ray and everyone involved in the operation at RML - have done an absolutely mega job."



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