It was a weekend of true racing and determination at Croft in the 5th round of the BTCC this weekend, with some amazing results from Pipercross supplied teams it certainly kept us on the edge of our seats.
On Saturday qualifying went well for some but not so great of others. Plato in the Pipercross supplied Chevy headed up pole with the fast Honda of Matt Neal in second and the fast starting BMW of Rob Collard in third.
Race one and as Plato and Neal scrambled for grip on the wet track the fast accelerating BMW of Collard closed the gap, as Plato went into the first corner he was tagged by the BMW and sent wide falling down the order to 3rd after a great save on the wet grass. Neal took the lead where he would stay but not before Jackson in his Focus made him sweat.
Starting in 9thposition with 27kg of ballast on board, Jackson had a lot of ground to make up in the Ford Focus ST to keep his Championship hopes alive. After The initial bunching up and chopping and changing of positions he would settle down into 12th place after opting for slick fronts and wet rears trying to find a dry line was proving hard. Jackson’s brave tyre choice started to pay off seven laps in as his sector times improved and he started to work his way up into 10th. The deployment of the safety car during lap 8 would prove to be the turning point and catalyst of an awe-inspiring race by Jackson in what was arguably the drive of the BTCC season so far. Jackson soon started to pick cars of one by one, taking Pipercross supplied Boardman and MacDowell on the hairpin before targeting the Vectra of Jordan where he would set a new fastest lap. Getting quicker and quicker Jackson was running 3 seconds a lap faster than anyone else soon catching the Honda of Sheddon and moving into 4th place. With one lap to go Jackson made a move on Plato and Collard which saw him up to 3rd, a last dash to catch Neal would see him on the Honda’s bumper on the hair pin, as the pair raced up the finishing straight side by side it was Neal who took the win by only 0.055seconds and Jackson in an incredible 2nd.
Tom Boardman had a great fight for the best part of 15 laps with the another Pipercross supplied Chevy of Macdowell the two finishing in 10th and 14th in the end. The other Special Tuning Seat of Newsham got a puncture on the first lap and started the race again on lap 4 finshing a lap down. It was also Shaun Hollamby’s first go back in the drivers seat of the AmDMilltek Golf finishing in 17th place ahead of the other Airwaves Racing Focus of Liam Griffin.
Race two saw a much dryer track for the field and it seemed everyone opted for full slicks. Jackson who was 2nd on the grid after race 1 got off to a good start but Collard nudged him into the first corner and a good save meant he kept 3rd place in front of Sheddon and Plato, unfortunately the Honda got through and with tyres wearing out and the 36kg of success ballast the Vectra of Jordan squeezed by too. Jackson finished in a respectful 5th another good points haul. His team mate wasn’t to be so lucky as on lap 4 Griffin hit the tyre barrier which sent him off into a nearby field where we would sit the remainder of the race. The STR outfit were looking for a better result in race 2 but after a good start Tom was left stranded after clipping a barrier and damaging his front suspension. It was Newsham that was starting to make ground, after shooting up an incredible 8 places from last to 12th on the start he would go on to finish in 8th place, some 12 places from where he started and a good points haul to boot. Hollamby in the AmDMilltek Golf also improved on race 1 finishing in 13th.
With the reverse grid coming into play on the third race Jackson was promoted to 3rd behind the BMW of Foster and Focus of Chilton. As foster got a good start of the line so did Jackson and he soon passed the BMW to take the lead. Jackson was looking for his maiden victory at Croft and he wasn’t about to let it go, he fought hard against the BMW’s of Collard and Foster to take the win, the result a very happy Jackson and Airwaves racing team. The STR outfit were once again hit with bad luck on Tom’s car as a gearbox fault ended his race, Newsham went on to get another championship point though finishing in 10th place not a bad weekend for him. Hollamby brought his Golf home in 15th place and it was great to see the car finish all 3 races unscathed, sights are now set on whether Hollamby will continue to race of he will replace himself with one of many interested drivers, I’ve put my name in the hat but things aren’t looking hopeful!!
With Neal taking 2 races wins at Croft it sees him at the top of table but a mere 9 points behind now is Jackson, 2nd in the outright table and 1st in the independants along with Airwaves racing toping the independants table. The seven week break will give the teams some good time to build on what is proving to be an unstoppable car.