|SEAT CUPRA CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Double Top For Mat Jackson |
|Dream Start To Season|
|Double Top For Mat Jackson On Season Opener|
Mat Johnson, in his Whale Tankers/Jackson Motorsport SEAT Leon Cupra R, achieved what he described as “a dream result” at the opening round of the 2006 Blaupunkt SEAT Cupra Championship by taking a double win at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. This means he establishes himself as the early leader, with a 10 point advantage over his closest rival, former Renault Clio racer, Fulvio Mussi.
The two qualifying sessions for the weekend’s racing were incredibly close, with 15 cars within a second of each other for the first race and 12 for the second. In fact, there were just thousandths of a second separating many of the drivers through the field. Most expected it to be a close day’s racing but few realised just how close.
The first race saw fantastic starts from both Ben Winrow, second on the grid and Fulvio Mussi, from fifth. Winrow headed pole-sitter Mat Jackson into Paddock Hill bend for the first time but Jackson got him back almost immediately, with the pair followed by Mussi. Despite Winrow and Mussi swapping places twice in rapid succession, the three would remain in that order to the flag, with just 8/10th of a second covering all three.
Behind them, a five-way battle developed, headed by Matt Johnson, with Cupra veteran Carl Breeze defending against a hard-charging Alan Blencowe for most of the race. Reigning Clio champion Jonathan Adam enjoyed a close race, attempting a pass on Blencowe which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Eventually, Adam led team-mate Jonathan Fildes home, the latter electing to follow, rather than risk contact with his team-mate.
Henry Taylor and Adrian Churchill had a short start to their season, Taylor spinning on front of Churchill at Druids Hairpin. Churchill had nowhere to go and hit Taylor in the side, dislodging a driveshaft in the process. Taylor would go on to start the second race but Churchill’s day was definitely over, his damage too severe to repair in time. An extra point for fastest lap was claimed by both Alan Blencowe and Ben Winrow, the pair setting an identical lap time, to the nearest 1/1000th of a second. The bonus point for best improvement on grid position went to Harry Vaulkhard, who finished 11th after qualifying 16th.
The grid for the second race saw team-mates Fildes and Adam alongside each other on the front row, the advantage going to Fildes. Behind them came Jackson and Mussi, with Blencowe and Johnson on the third row. After their start performances in the first race, both Mussi and Winrow were looking forward to the second race, Winrow in particular not fazed by his fourth row start position.
As the red lights went out, it was Mat Jackson who was a man on a mission, passing Jonathan Adam into the first corner and pushing Jonathan Fildes hard for the first half of the lap. Fildes succumbed and ran wide at Graham Hill bend, on cold rear tyres and this allowed Jackson to get past and into the lead, which he held all the way to the chequered flag. Fildes refused to let him have it easy though, coming back at him in the second half of the race but was unable to get close enough to mount a realistic challenge. Third place went to Matt Johnson, the Spanish Cupra championship veteran, who survived contact with Jonathan Adam early in the race, which sent the Clio champ to the back of the pack.
“This really is a dream result,” said Jackson at the end of the second race. “The car felt really good in both races and when I saw Jonathan go wide at Graham Hill, I thought ‘That’ll do’. I managed to build a gap which was good, because he was definitely quicker than me in the second half, I guess he’d kept his tyres for later in the race. But this is a great result for me and for the team. After this perfect start, we need to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season.”
Jonathan Fildes was understandably happy with his second race performance, despite losing the lead to Jackson on the first lap. “I just ran wide with cold tyres,” he explained. “At this circuit, if you lost 1/10 second in one corner, that translates to almost a second by the end of the next straight, because the cars are identical. Mat has been very quick all weekend and I just couldn’t get quite close enough to actually get past. But I’m delighted; for me and for the Total Control Racing team, which has done a great job. This weekend gives me confidence for the season ahead but it’s important not to get over-confident, as that leads to over-driving the car and that’s when mistakes happen.”
Matt Johnson was also delighted with the result this weekend, on his return to saloon car racing in the UK. “This was always going to be a difficult weekend, adapting to the different specifications from what I’m used to. To be honest, I struggled a bit after the settings we were permitted to use in the Spanish championship but I feel I’ve made progress. I’m definitely looking forward to Oulton Park now.”
Fourth place went to Fulvio Mussi, who consolidated his third from the first race to claim second in the championship, while he was followed home by Alan Blencowe and Henry Taylor. Mussi took the extra point for fastest lap in the second race while Robert Ross also got a bonus for best improvement on his grid position, starting 16th and finishing 12th.
Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2006 Blaupunkt SEAT Cupra Championship take place at the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire
on May 14.
2006 Blaupunkt SEAT Cupra Championship Points (after Rounds 1 & 2)
1. Mat Jackson (Whale Tankers/Jackson Motorsport).…37pts
2. Fulvio Mussi (Total Control Racing).…27
3. Matt Johnson (Johnson’s Motorsport….26
4. Ben Winrow (CMS Motorsport….21pts
= Jonathan Fildes (Asgard Taverns/TCR)….21pts
6. Alan Blencowe (Triple R)….19pts
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