Ford's Mat Jackson is hopeful of converting his eye-catching British Touring Car Championship free-practice form into a run good enough for P6 in qualifying later this afternoon at Snetterton.

Motorbase Performance returns to the BTCC grid this weekend following a forced sabbatical from the series after the race-winning squad lost their title sponsor at the end of 2014.

Jackson marked his return to the championship by setting the sixth quickest time in FP1 while Motorbase newcomer James Cole - United Autosports refugee - finished up 24th on his 'official' debut run aboard the Ford Focus.

Related Articles

"It's been a long winter, an extended winter. It's been frustrating. We very much planned to be here and the plans didn't materialise so it's been frustrating but we're back," Jackson told crash.net.

"The support has been great from the sponsors that we've got and we've managed to put a program together, which means we're back for the final half of the year. First weekend back, Snetterton - so far so good."

Motorbase's 2015-spec Focus ST challenger will contest the weekend with a redesigned and newly assembled motortune EcoBoost engine. Jackson has already lauded the impact of the revised power-train and believes it has 'filled the gaps' which last season's engine left.

"Historically the engine we had didn't suit the regulations last year. Although it wasn't a bad engine, we just didn't have the power we needed in the right places. So the guys have designed and built a new engine and this is the first weekend that we'll run it.

"It feels like we've filled in the gaps that we had on the old engine. We feel positive. We've done a lot of work on the chassis and a lot of testing while the others have obviously been out racing. The car is feeling very strong, we're feeling hopeful."

Despite having set the sixth quickest time, Jackson said the majority of work carried out so far this weekend has been geared towards finding a suitable race set-up, rather than looking for the ultimate one-lap pace.

"We're in the mix. P6 is great, we did a race run and we're still in that position," Jackson continued.

"The biggest area we've lost on is racing, obviously from not being on the grid. We haven't done any race runs and we know it's important, especially round here, to make sure that the tyres will last.

"We haven't had to carry any tyres over from previous races, so we had to go out on four new tyres and the times were consistent during the race run. Let's see what we can do in qualifying.

"If we can be in the top-six, we'll be happy. We're still a long way behind in development, in terms of race distance. It's going to be tough but we know what we're up against."