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Ollie Jackson: 2012 ‘a learning curve’

Ollie Jackson took to the grid of the British Touring Car Championship in the AmD Volkswagen Golf for his first full season in the Championship.

In an open and honest interview for, the former Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am 1 Champion looks back at the 2012 campaign, who impressed him and what he thought of the regulation changes which were introduced for 2012 as well as the 2013 changes.

Jackson made his BTCC debut at the back end of the 2011 campaign in the Vauxhall Vectra, before joining AmD for 2012 and racing their Volkswagen Golf Mk5.

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“To be fair before I stepped into the Vectra the most powerful front drive car I’d driven was a Saab 9-3 road car so I was still working on getting used it!” explained Jackson.

“In hindsight the Vectra was a very odd thing to drive and quite compromised due to its suspension setup, but once you’d got used to the quirks it had a good basic balance and was quite progressive on the limit thanks to the long wheelbase.”

Speaking about the Golf compared to the Vectra, Jackson added: “The Golf was the opposite, it is quite easy to drive at a reasonable pace, but when pushing hard the short wheelbase and relatively high centre of gravity make themselves known, making it quite sensitive to pitch in corner entry and giving it a tendency to change attitude very quickly. Generally the Golf was easier to learn but more difficult to master.”

2012 saw the first year where the new Next Generation Touring Car regulations were becoming the dominant force in the series, while the VW Golf was built to the previous S2000 regulations.

How did Jackson find racing against cars which had bigger tyres – NGTC run 18” tyres compared to the 17” tyres on S2000 – as well as bigger brakes?

“It certainly brings an interesting dynamic to the races as there are definite situations where one or the other is beneficial,” explains Jackson.

“Generally the NGTC’s came on strong later in the race which means you have to plan ahead with the cars you’re racing against and the S2000’s run better in cold and wet conditions to an extent so you have to make the most of those situations.”

Another major talking point of the 2012 British Touring Car Championship season was the introduction of the turbo boost equalisation, which was brought in to help keep a level playing field.

This ultimately meant that the fastest teams in the series were penalised by having less boost than those who weren’t successful, and for Jackson and the AmD outfit, how did this help or hinder their campaign.

“I think overall it hurt us for most of the season. With the Lehmann engine running a high base boost level in the Golf, the changes made in fixed fractions of a bar meant smaller percentage differences to us,” explains the former Porsche and Caterham racer.

Jackson then continues to explain how it worked in simple terms: “So for a hypothetical example, a car running 0.5 bar base boost getting a 0.05 bar increase sees a 10% increase, whereas a car running 1.0 bar base boost only gets 5%.”

“Also with the relatively high boost level we were running, the increases were working the engine hard and to keep things reliable and the boost under control we were quite conservative with the mapping.

“We really only got a chance to push the boundaries with the exhaust downpipe change at Brands GP at the end of the season, which propelled us from right at the bottom of the speed traps, below the NGTC’s, to the top ten on the back of the other S2000 cars.

“In fact think straight line speed was the biggest single fundamental issue we had during the season, better handling would have been nice at times during the year, but the car was always at least OK in the bends while it was actually down the straights where we were regularly really struggling,” concluded Jackson.

The Attleborough based driver thinks that one driver and one team which impressed him out on track: “I think Aron Smith that really impressed over the year with some great results and 888 did very well to get the MG running and competitive in such a short time.”

He also names the team which he feels under performed in 2012: “In terms of underperforming I hate to say it, as I think they’re a great bunch of guys and Tony (Hughes) and Adam (Morgan) always come across as being two of the nicest guys in the paddock, but Speedworks. They had some good results but I felt they were capable of more.”

He was in the same situation as Morgan was and he feels that the 2011 Ginetta GT Supercup Champion will secure some good results in 2013: “Having said that I would be very surprised if Adam doesn’t get some good results in next year as he’s clearly quick and, judging by my year in 2011 after winning Porsche ProAm, needs to build his confidence back up after the championship come-down!”

Having looked back over who impressed him and who under performed in his eyes, the 29yr old then reflects on his highlights of the 2012 campaign, as well as the low points – the low point came at his home circuit.

“Rockingham was really the highlight, it was the first time out with some modifications and new people but it looked like it was going to be a troublesome weekend with mechanical problems all the way through practice and qualifying, but we got it together and the weather gave me a chance to get a couple of really good results out of the car,” explained Jackson of his 2012 highlight.

He then continued onto his low point, which came at Snetterton – his home circuit. His troubles at Snetterton meant that the team missed the trip to Knockhill as they wanted to test the car ahead of the run in to the end of the campaign.

“Snetterton was really the low point, it was my home race and we’d made a lot of changes to the car that we were expecting to dramatically improve it, but in reality we’d lost the balance and made it slower so we were banging our heads against the wall throughout the weekend vainly trying to get more pace out of it.

“In the end those changes did help us to improve the car later in the season but it took a little while to get our heads around how to make them work in terms of balance,” continued Jackson, who had hoped for a strong performance in front of his home crowd.

Summing up the 2012 campaign, Jackson feels that he has learnt a lot despite not getting the results he had hoped for.

“A learning curve,” explains Jackson. “The results were mixed but I learnt a lot about race craft and driving and setting up a front wheel drive racing car.

“I was also fantastic fulfilling a childhood dream of being on a BTCC grid alongside some of the legends I grew up watching, let alone sitting on the front of that grid on a couple of occasions!!

“If someone had told me what I was going to be doing in five years time when I was racing in Caterham Graduates I’d have laughed my head off!”

Looking ahead of 2013, Jackson is hoping to remain with AmD and head into his second full season in the British Touring Car Championship, but he confirmed that he has no fixed plans at this time.

“As it stands I’ve got no fixed plans, but I’d be surprised if I didn’t make the grid at least a couple of times this year. I’ve got a few options available but I’m hoping that we can work out a deal with AmD and I can stay amongst friends this year,” explains Jackson.

TOCA, the series organisers for the BTCC have announced a number of changes for the 2013 campaign. With the NGTC Regulations becoming the main force in the BTCC for 2013 and beyond, the S2000 cars now have their own trophy to compete for.

“I think it will be very interesting,” Jackson said. “The separate S2000 trophy will be good for giving those on smaller budgets a bit more airtime. The new soft joker tyre is a good idea, although I’d like to see the boost equalisation dropped in exchange for a fixed boost level and tighter engine regs as these days I don’t think anyone really has the budget to be spending silly money for the last 20bhp.

“Also the customer engine market has developed well, effectively allowing smaller teams access to larger engine development budgets,” he concluded.

The 2013 British Touring Car Championship gets underway at Brands Hatch, Kent over the 30/31 March, with the official Media Day taking place at Donington Park on Thursday 21st March.

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