British Touring Car Championship leaders Airwaves Racing make the long trip north of the border to the tight, twisty Knockhill circuit this weekend, looking to defend their slender eight point Championship advantage in the drivers’ Championship.
After securing their fourth victory of the season, their fourth reverse grid race victory of the season, the team has spent the latest four week break reflecting on their results at Snetterton which ultimately saw Mat Jackson leaving with the Championship lead.
Now in their sixth season at the top level of British Motorsport, and their first using the Mountune powered Ford Focus ST’s, the small independent team have proven themselves worthy of being right in the mix with the Championship leaders.
At the start of the season, nobody has expected the Airwaves Racing team and their ‘Red Devils’ – the Ford Focus – to be up at the front, challenging the manufacturer backed teams of Honda Racing and Silverline Chevrolet. It is a real testament to the team and all of their hard work and endeavour that they are where they are and the team doesn’t rest on its laurels. The team are on top and deservedly so.
Jackson, in his second season with the team isn’t surprised that the team are at the top: “Am I surprised that we are where we are? Not in the slightest. I have full confidence in mine and the teams’ ability and actually think we should be leading by even more points! For sure it will be a tough weekend due to ballast, we do struggle through the slower corners as we don’t have any engine braking but all we can do is the best with what we have got.”
The short, 1.3 mile Knockhill track won’t be the best track for the Airwaves Ford Focus, and with 45kgs of Ballast on board during the two free practice sessions, qualifying and the first race of the weekend, the team expect a Chevrolet one, two in both qualifying and the race – something Oly Collins, Airwaves Racing team Manager explains: “It’ll be interesting to see how the ‘parity’ debate plays out this weekend; personally I think Knockhill has a similarity in characteristics to Brands Indy. With all the turbos on full song at the start of the season the Chevy dominated at Brands, since then all turbo cars have been reduced in power and the Chevy has been lightened by 25Kgs so I would expect a Chevy 1-2 by some margin in qualifying. I think TOCA had it closest at Croft earlier in the year, but like I say we’ll see there’s nothing we can do about it, TOCA have an independent group of experts working on getting it right so we have to put our trust in them, whoever they are!”
He added: “I know some teams take pride in ‘beating us at qualifying’ but those teams haven’t carried any success ballast into qualifying like we have been this year! That said, we are still under performing on a Saturday and it’s something we’re working hard to improve, however we will not compromise our focus in free practice sessions which is predominantly on getting a race day set up. We have always performed well on race day and that’s no fluke. If you’re the best car/driver and team on Saturday you can get one point, on a Sunday you can get 51 points, we’re leading the Championship so I think the team is doing a great job!”
Jackson says about the upcoming trip across the border: “Leading the championship heading into the final leg of the championship is great and is testament to how well the car and team are working, the only down side is that we have to carry the 45KG of success ballast that is attached to the championship lead which, when you look at the base weights of the cars, we are some 70kg heavier than the Cruze of Plato which is a huge difference especially around a circuit like Knockhill.
“I’m looking to take away 30 points as we have tried to do so far in every race ‘Points make Prizes’ and this weekend will be no different from our perspective as we need to remain in the hunt until the last round, There is still a long way to go!”
Round seven of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship takes place this Sunday at Knockhill, Scotland and coverage will be shown on ITV4 from 11.30am until 6pm, as well as on ITV4HD and itv.com/touringcars. Qualifying will be shown live on itv.com/touringcars from 3.05 to 3.335 on Saturday, 3 September.
Liam Griffin has fond memories of the Knockhill circuit as it was the venue where he secured his maiden VW Cup victory in 2009. Speaking ahead of the trip north, he said: “Due to the restrictions on testing, I haven’t been able to get any additional time in the car over the break, which is unfortunate. I have fond memories of Knockhill as it’s where I celebrated my first ever win in the VW cup back in 2009 so I would hope that my knowledge and confidence of the track will come into play. I’m really hoping to manage to complete all three races and have an incident free weekend as a start and also to improve my qualifying and build on the race pace of the car.”
“In regards to my thoughts on my season so far, I would say simmering is the best description! I have the potential to get the hang of it but it hasn’t happened yet, this was always a two year plan for me and I’ve made progress in this highly competitive field. I’ve just got to look to build on this year as a learning curve and come back stronger next year. I’m really enjoying competing at this level and I have to be honest and say it’s been a lot tougher than I expected, once you’re in the mix you really do realise just how seriously competitive the BTCC is!”