My team by team preview of the 2016 season swings back to the BTCC today following this weeks confirmation that Mat Jackson will remain at Motorbase for 2016, partnering 2013 champion Andrew Jordan in last seasons all conquering Ford Focus (well, the end of last season anyway). Despite this seasons new regulations with the influx of TOCA parts, I’m predicting Motorbase and Honda (who featured in my first BTCC preview) to be the teams to beat in 2016, and the confirmation of Jackson’s continuation with the team only serves to compound my prediction.
I think any astute motorsport fan can appreciate the fact that money talks these days. It’s far from ideal, and it often concludes with talented drivers being left by the wayside (I see Josh Cook is still without a 2016 BTCC seat), and for a large part of the winter I feared Mat Jackson may have been cast aside for a driver with greater funding, which would have nothing short of a travesty. After all, Motorbase were forced to sit out the first half of 2015 with financial problems, if they had been on the grid from round one then Jackson would have probably won last seasons championship at a mere canter.
Mat Jackson will become Motorbase’s longest serving driver in 2016, and for the team which entered the BTCC in 2006, this coming season represents their strongest chance to secure their maiden BTCC title after having a series of consistent competitive seasons since 2009. I must admit, the signing of touring car legend Fabrizio Giovanardi for 2014 was perhaps one of the biggest shocks I’ve had in my 16 seasons of avidly following the BTCC, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who expected the Italian to have a real crack at the title. Alas, it wasn’t to be and Giovanardi wasn’t able to replicate his Vauxhall form in the Airwaves Focus, but I think this time round with Andrew Jordan things will be very different.
Despite not tasting victory in 2015, it was testament to Jordan’s incredible effort in the Triple Eight MG that he remained in championship contention as long as he did, even though it would have taken a miracle for him to secure the title at Brands. By his own admission, 2015 wasn’t easy for the PIRTEK racing squad however I think it showed the rest of the BTCC world just how much Jordan had matured as a driver since his debut back in 2008. Eight seasons on, and Jordan finds himself up against one of the fastest team mates on the grid, but also looking at his best chance of regaining the BTCC title.
I think any driver would have jumped at the chance to join Motorbase after their performances at the tail end of last season, and Jordan’s decision to leave Triple Eight (who are still curiously yet to announce any drivers for 2016) is correct on every level. I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that there seems to be a sense of disarray over at Triple Eight/MG, and I can’t see the winter break turning the MG 6 into a Honda/Ford/BMW beater (the jury’s still out on the Subaru’s). By the end of last season Triple Eight were even further away from the front.
Entering his sixth season with Motorbase, Mat Jackson, the 2006 SEAT Cupra champion has proved time and time again that he deserves his drive in the BTCC. Although not yet a BTCC title holder, Jackson’s performances since he took the series by storm in his debut season back in 2007 have won him a large fan following and I’m sure you would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be happy for him if he did finish 2016 as the champion. Second place in his second season followed, before a year at RML in the Silverline Chevrolet Cruze (2009) lead him to a switch to Motorbase in the Airwaves BMW in 2010.
Since then, Jackson has gone on to secure 7th, 4th, 7th, 8th, 4th and a 12th in the championship table, and hopes will be high for at least a top five finish this season, if not higher. Jackson is clearly well integrated in the team at Motorbase, and as one of the BTCC longest serving partnerships they should be well equipped to mount a serious shot at the title.
From the outside at least, it would seem that all the pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to fall into place for Dave Bartrum and Motorbase Performance. They have the engine, the car, and now two equally capable and proven BTCC drivers in a line up that is more than a match for any of their rivals. It’s a close tie up between Motorbase and Honda for my ultimate tip at who is going to triumph come the end of 2016, but at least one thing is already becoming evident, we’re in for a hell of treat this season.