Airwaves BMW has taken the wraps off its 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship driver line-up and a brace of major new sponsors at the series' media day at its home circuit of Brands Hatch today (Tuesday) – with Mat Jackson, Steven Kane, Leyland Paints and The Money Shop all coming on-board for the fast-approaching campaign.
Jackson is one of the few drivers in the current BTCC field to have won in both front and rear wheel-drive machinery, with seven victories in his family-run BMW 320si in 2007 and 2008, and four further triumphs in Racing Silverline's Chevrolet Lacetti last year, still only his fourth season in the hotly-fought series.
One of the most successful and consistent contenders since making his full-time return to the championship in 2007 off the back of a title-winning run in the SEAT Cupra Cup UK – having initially competed in the BTCC's 'Production Class' back in 2001 – the 28-year-old is the acknowledged fans' favourite for his hard-charging style inside the cockpit and sunny demeanour out of it, and he hopes his prior experience of racing a Bee-Emm will pay dividends over the coming months.
“It's fantastic to be back in a BMW,” enthused the 2008 BTCC runner-up, “and with Airwaves on-board it's definitely time to 'kick up a gear'! It would be an understatement to say that exciting times lie ahead. I feel this could be a great partnership; all of the team have the same focus and mine is no different – to win. With our new team partner Moneyshop.tv, I just hope that we can be cashing in as early as Thruxton!”
Those sentiments are echoed by Kane, who competed for Motorbase Performance – as the team was known before Airwaves joined in 2009 – two years ago, finishing inside the points in just over half of the races, including a trio of second places as he increasingly found his feet in tin-tops following a formative career spent mainly in single-seaters, during which the Ulsterman had progressed as high up the ladder as the World Series by Renault.
“It's great to be back in the BTCC, especially with Motorbase Performance and Airwaves BMW,” underlined the 29-year-old. “The last time I raced the BMW at Brands Hatch, I finished second twice – [so it's] time to 'kick up a gear' and start winning!
“I tested the car at the end of last year, back at Brands, and it's very clear that the team, and car, have moved on. I have great respect for David [Bartrum – team principal], and I think he has really put a great team together. With Mat, I will have a fantastic team-mate and I'm sure we will form a good partnership both on and off the track. This will enable both of us to have a real good shout for the title!”
Bartrum, for his part, could scarcely contain his enthusiasm for having paired together not only the two highest-scoring competitors from the final round of 2008 at Brands – the last time Jackson and Kane raced against one another – but also for having secured the support of both Leyland Paints and Britain's leading cheque-cashing business The Money Shop to accompany title sponsor Wrigley's Airwaves.
What's more, with both drivers boasting an excellent record around super-fast Thruxton, scene of the 2010 curtain-raiser in just under a fortnight's time – with Jackson having prevailed there in a BMW and Chevrolet as well as in the SEAT Cupra Cup UK, and Kane going unbeaten around the Hampshire track in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB in 2007 – hopes and expectations for the opening meeting are undeniably high.
“Frankly, I couldn't be happier,” Bartrum confessed. “We know Steven's potential well, having worked with him in the Carrera Cup before the BTCC, but then the chance to add Mat to the line-up was something really worth working for – his record in just three seasons in the BTCC speaks for itself. Our guys have a pretty solid record round [Thruxton], while I know that some of the other teams don't...but we'll see, come Easter weekend.”