Mat Jackson – one of the biggest crowd-pleasers and most popular drivers in the series – has confirmed that he will remain in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 2011, after agreeing terms to stay on-board at the rebranded, three-car Airwaves Racing outfit.
Jackson joined Airwaves – then Airwaves BMW – last year, but endured a generally torrid campaign brightened only by a single victory at Brands Hatch and five further podium finishes, as an anticipated title challenge rapidly fizzled out. By comparison, in 2009, the 29-year-old had triumphed in four races and mounted the rostrum in six more, whilst in 2008 his tally read five wins and five more podiums.
The Warwickshire ace even found himself pipped to sixth spot in the final drivers' standings in 2010 by team-mate Steven Kane, but he nonetheless clearly did enough to convince Motorbase Performance boss David Bartrum to retain his services to lead Airwaves' assault on the laurels this coming season, behind the wheel of one of three Mountune-built NGTC-engined Ford Focuses acquired from Arena Motorsport last month.
“This is a deal I've spent a long time looking at, and to me it makes very good sense,” revealed Jackson, who was also strongly linked to a return to former employer Silverline Chevrolet. “This time we've got everything sorted early, know exactly where we need to focus our energies and therefore have a great opportunity to hit the ground running come round one at Brands Hatch.”
The partnership is a nice fit, too, in that Jackson's family owns a Ford dealership, and the twelve-time race-winner raced a Focus in his maiden campaign of BTCC competition in the Production class back in 2001. He will be joined at the Kent-based squad by Porsche Carrera Cup GB graduate Liam Griffin, a Motorbase protégé for the last two years and a driver who has achieved success in front wheel-drive machinery in the past.
“Before Porsches I raced in the VW Cup and seemed to get on better with a front wheel-drive car, which is what I'm going back to now,” the BTCC rookie affirmed. “The Porsche season was still beneficial as I learnt the circuits and what racing on a BTCC weekend is all about. Also, if I didn't have the confidence in David and the team of people at Motorbase, I might not have gone for it – it is a major step-up.”
“2011 is a very important year for Motorbase Performance,” acknowledged Bartrum. “I'm delighted to retain Mat, who is a very strong driver both on and off the track and knows the team well. He's an extremely talented driver and he works hard. It's great to have him on-board again for 2011.
“It will be a year of learning for Liam, but he'll have plenty of support from an experienced team. He had a good season with us in the Porsches last year, and it's great that he's able to make the step-up to the BTCC.
“Things are coming together nicely ahead of the new season. We've got two of our three drivers in-place, some great guys in the team and we've got some great sponsors on-board.”
Airwaves will begin pre-season testing at Brands Hatch in mid-February and subsequently Guadix in Spain. The identity of the driver who will occupy the third seat remains unknown, but both Jackson's 2010 team-mate Kane and former Top Gear
Stig Ben Collins – who made a one-off appearance for the team in the Brands Hatch finale back in October – are understood to be under consideration.