MAT JACKSON enjoyed one of his best ever weekends in the British Touring Car Championship as he produced a magnificent finale to the 2015 campaign at Brands Hatch, writes Andy Parsons.
The Henley-in-Arden speedster, having taken his third pole position in a row on Saturday, followed this up with two dominant wins on Sunday and even managed to make the podium in the final race of the season following the grid reversal.
Jackson arrived at Brands – which is the local track of his team Motorbase Performance – full of confidence and was immediately on the pace in the practice sessions and this set him up nicely for qualifying in which he bagged a hat-trick of pole positions, just edging out BMR Racing’s Aron Smith by 0.126 of a second, with the Mercedes of WIX Racing’s Adam Morgan in third.
The superb weather of Saturday was carried over to Sunday as blue skies and a massive crowd greeted the drivers for their autograph session early in the morning and then it was down to business.
In his Ford Focus ST Jackson made a great start in race one and, with no success ballast to hold him back, was able to pull away from the field but unfortunately the gap was then nullified when the safety car was deployed.
Jackson was ready for the restart though and again sprinted away from the field, but following another incident the safety car was required again and he had to keep his concentration and his nerve to make sure he nailed the next restart.
This he did and from there he kept the field at bay to record his third victory of the season.
The second race of the day was similar to the first in so much that Jackson made a great start and was able to keep the rest of the field behind him. He knew this would be a much tougher race as, not only was he now laden with 75kg of success ballast, he was also on the softer white-marked tyre.
Fortunately though there was only the one safety car period for him to manage which he did well and he was able to lead the field home, with Speedworks’ Tom Ingram delighted to achieve his second second place of the season and Morgan getting his second podium of the day with his third placed finish.
The third race saw a titanic battle for the championship. The contenders were Jason Plato who, due to the reverse grid, found himself second behind Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal, whose team-mate Gordon Shedden was the other challenger.
Neal made a good start but ran slightly wide at the first corner and Plato needed no second invite to forge ahead. It was then down to Shedden to make his way through from 19th on the grid to the fifth place he needed to secure the title.
It was nail-biting stuff for all concerned and it came down to the final few laps as Neal orchestrated a pass on the start/finish straight to give Shedden his position and with it the BTCC championship.
In amongst all this was another great scrap between Jackson and Jack Goff and the Henley-in-Arden racer eventually came out on top to secure his third podium of the day with second place to cap one of his best ever weekends as a touring car driver.
After the race he said: “What an incredible weekend to end the season on! Obviously it was an amazing start to grab our third back-to-back pole in qualifying and then to go on to capitalise on that with two race wins and a second was a brilliant result for the team.
“The whole team has been working together so well this season and this weekend was the true reward for everyone involved. Hopefully we can carry this dominance into winter testing and come back next year with a full championship challenge.”
With the 2015 title decided, it will now be interesting to see how the close season develops as drivers and teams look forward to March 2016 and media day at Donington Park where it will start all over again.