As the 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship prepares to rev back into life again with round six of ten at Snetterton this weekend, Mat Jackson has reflected that he and Airwaves BMW need to improve their qualifying pace if they are to exploit the full potential of the BMW 320si – and remain in the fight for the coveted crown.
Snetterton marks the start of the BTCC's second half following a lengthy summer break, and Jackson will arrive there sitting sixth in the title chase, 40 points adrift of the lead in a characteristically closely-fought campaign. The 29-year-old is also fourth in the Independents' standings – and Airwaves BMW atop the table – and having already tasted outright victory this season, he makes it clear that he is eager to be spraying the champagne again as soon as possible.
“I'm raring to go!” he enthused. “It's been too long without any racing! One good omen is that I've won [at Snetterton] before, in 2008, and my current team-mate Steven Kane was second – so a bit more of that would be good! We had a very constructive test day at Snetterton a fortnight ago, and the team have been working very hard to find more speed in the car.
“The BMW is arguably the strongest car out there in race trim, but we do need to be qualifying a bit higher up the grid on Saturdays to give ourselves a better chance on Sundays. I'm sure it will come. There's a great motivation among everyone in our team, and we all know the title remains a realistic possibility.”
Whilst Jackson is confident he can successfully bid for more podiums at Snetterton, he does, however, fear that the circuit's high-speed layout with two long straights will play to the strengths of his turbocharged rivals – particularly Team Aon duo Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole in their Ford Focuses.
“Ideally we need a typical hot Snetterton meeting, which will slightly reduce their power and hurt their tyre-wear,” the Warwickshire ace opined. “The BMW being rear wheel-drive looks after its tyres better than the front wheel-drive cars, and this really starts to take effect from the mid-point of a race as we come on stronger.
“Snetterton as a circuit is no Oulton Park, but it's still got its challenges. The first corner, Riches, is a double-apex fifth-gear corner at about 110mph, and the next at Sear is crucial as it leads onto the long Revett Straight – or Chilton Straight as everyone's calling it, going by the speed of his Ford down there in testing!
“Then come the Esses – the first big obvious overtaking place – but you need to have kept in your opponent's slipstream down the straight to jink out and have a go into the left-hand entry. Then it's a case of running them out wide into submission and hanging on through the right-hand exit.
“The Bombhole and Coram follow; again, these are two fairly high-speed right-handers. Mistakes through either can let your rivals get their nose in on the exit, and coming out of Coram well gives you a chance later on in the race – when people are struggling with their tyres – to have a stab into the Russell chicane. They've changed the kerbing there, which means a different approach this year. Just like the Esses, it's another great place for the fans to watch.”