The Airwaves Racing squad came away from the opening round of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship with mixed emotions, with the team unable to reach their full potential due to factors largely outside of their control.
Qualifying was a tough affair for the team at the home circuit, despite Mat Jackson dragging a ninth place out of the car, with Fabrizio Giovanardi setting the 18th fastest time and series newcomer Jack Clarke down in 26th place in his satellite Crabbies Racing Focus.
Jackson appeared the most settled of the three drivers across the weekend, and a good getaway in the first race saw the Airwaves man jump up to sixth. His chances of challenging for a podium were ended shortly after, however, when on lap three former teammate Aron Smith tapped Jackson into the gravel on the exit of clearways, pushing him down the order before eventually finishing in fifteenth, a place behind Giovanardi.
Race Two finally brought an upturn in fortunes for Giovanardi, as he progressed up the field to secure his first top-ten finish since his return to the series, although there was a similar story for Jackson as his progress was thwarted by three cars overtaking him behind the safety car, limiting him to twelfth. The last race of the day finally went his way however, as a storming drive saw Jackson finish in seventh, on the tail of Honda’s Gordon Shedden.
“It’s been a tough weekend,” said Jackson. “Qualifying was very close, another tenth of a second would have put us in the top five so I think we started in a really good position. We got a blinding start in race one and made some good places up and then we were fired off which damaged the car and put us back for the rest of the race.
“The soft tyre hurt us a little in the second race and then we had the incident with the yellow flag infringement which put us back places and basically put us out for the rest of the race.
“It was obviously dealt with for the final race of the day putting us in P12 and we had a good run through from there. The car felt very, very strong and thankfully we managed to salvage a good result [in race three].
“The frustrating thing is that the incidents that happened this weekend were not through our own doing and that has hurt us. We were robbed of a decent result.”
Giovanardi ended the weekend a frustrated character, and he felt his final race position of 16th was not indicative of the Focus’ true pace.
“It’s frustrating because the final results do not show the level of the car,” said the Italian. “We could be in the first five cars.
“We know which problem we have and we have to fix it because the car is sometimes fast and sometimes not under control – it’s a really tough drive. But I was watching the second race and even in the third when I spun, the car was really fast again I went really quick at the back, but when you are at the back at Brands you’re finished.
“I was just wishing for some big disaster to take the other cars out! But this is racing; you just have to say this is life and move forward.”
But for Clarke, his first weekend in the series brought plenty of positives, as he continues to acclimatise to the British Touring Car Championship.
“It was definitely a baptism of fire this weekend and what I expected in that respect,” said the ex-Formula Two driver. “We started somewhere that wasn’t necessarily ideal for everyone, but we plugged away and got the result.
“The Crabbie’s Racing and Motorbase guys really helped me along this weekend, it’s not just the car that we’re developing but also me as an aspiring touring car front runner so to have managed to achieve no DNF’s and results all within the top twenty with a thirty car grid in a field like that – you know, you can’t turn your nose up at that at all.
“Next stop is Donington and certainly I’d love to say that the top fifteen are well within sight now. I think that after race three, where the geometry on the car was out but we were still able to compete and finish nearly half way up the field – shows that we’re almost there. The confidence that I’ve gained from the weekend breeds more confidence and I’m hopeful that we can translate this onto the next race.”