15 September 2009
Jackson: Who'd have thought we'd be here?
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 Crash.net 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.
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