Airwaves Racing have officially confirmed that they will run a third Ford Focus ST for Michael Caine in the eighth meeting of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Rockingham this weekend – with the Porsche Carrera Cup GB graduate confessing that it is 'an opportunity that I thought would never, ever arise'.
Rumours have been rife surrounding the possible appearance of the highly-anticipated third car ever since the beginning of the 2011 BTCC campaign, with many names past and present finding themselves linked to the seat. Following a series of negotiations within the Motorbase-run outfit and its sponsors, team principal David Bartrum has revealed that Motorbase stalwart Caine has been given the nod.
“Michael Caine is the longest-serving Motorbase Performance driver,” he underlined, “so we know him as well as we will ever know any other driver. Michael does everything he can for the team – he's a Motorbase team player through-and-through and is the perfect team-mate to drive alongside Mat [Jackson] and Liam [Griffin].
“The team and Michael are under no illusions that he's taking on a particularly tough task at the hardest point of the season, but with his personality, he will be a great addition to the BTCC. I know a lot of people want to see him have this chance, so I hope that all the fans will give him the support he rightly deserves.”
“It's good to finally have the third Airwaves car out, and absolutely fantastic to have Michael in the seat,” echoed team manager Oly Collins. “He's very much part of the Motorbase team, and has been for some time. After a demo run in the car at Snetterton, he got the BTCC bug as did some of the sponsors, and it's great that he's finally getting the chance to run in the BTCC and to help the Airwaves Racing team with our championship challenge.”
That challenge suffered something of a blow last time out at Knockhill in Scotland, with Jackson enduring a nightmare weekend and failing to score in any of the three races, meaning the 30-year-old has surrendered his championship lead and now trails Honda Racing rival Gordon Shedden by 23 points in the drivers' standings with nine rounds left. He will be hoping Caine can help by getting in the mix and taking points off some of his title rivals – and those sentiments are clearly mutual.
“It's an opportunity that I thought would never, ever arise and I'm delighted,” enthused 42-year-old Caine, who previously raced in British GT and at Le Mans before joining Motorbase in 2006 to compete in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, twice finishing as championship runner-up.
“I just hope that I can wear the Airwaves brand with pride and represent Motorbase and the sponsors in the correct manner to deliver the results that the team deserve and support Mat and Liam with their challenge for the championship – and in my little way, hopefully enjoy it!”
Caine sacrificed his weekend's racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Knockhill by giving up his car to Pro-Am2 title-chasing Motorbase Performance team-mate Steve Parish after the latter destroyed his own 911 during Friday practice on his first visit to the Fife circuit.
Jackson and Airwaves currently lead the chase for the respective independents' crowns. Last year, the team ran former Top Gear
Stig Ben Collins in a third car in the final meeting at Brands Hatch, albeit with limited success.