JACKSON: “I’VE GOT MORE FAITH IN THE CAR THAN EVER BEFORE”
Fresh off the back of his most successful BTCC campaign to date, MB Motorsport accelerated by Blue Square driver Ollie Jackson is heading into the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship feeling more confident than ever before, as the two-time race-winner aims to build on last year’s success.
Having confirmed his switch to the squad in early February, Jackson expressed that his main goal for the coming season is to be a consistent front-runner in the #48 machine, as the 36-year-old clarifies, “the key to it is going to be qualifying, so I’m focusing on my single lap pace for improvement”.
Describing the minor change as “ultimately a no brainer”, Jackson will partner Jake Hill in the second MB Motorsport-run Ford Focus ST:
“I think the Focus is the best front-wheel-drive car on the grid and I get to keep the exact same superb team of guys I had around me last year,” explained Jackson. “I think we’re all sad about the fact that it’s the end of an era with [David Bartrum] taking a step back, but he’s leaving behind a strong foundation which we can all build on.
“In terms of the new era, there’s a lot to be positive about too. Obviously, I have a great relationship with Shaun [Hollamby] having spent the early part of my BTCC career with AmD in the Golf as well as more recent seasons with the Audi, plus Mark [Blundell] and the MB crew are bringing a really fresh perspective in terms of the commercial approach, which I think will work well with my partners and sponsors.”
The Surrey-racer will largely stick with the same team of personnel, including race engineer James Mundy. The pair have worked together for a number of years, with Jackson revealing the most important relationship for a driver, in his opinion, is with their race engineer.
“To get the most out of the car [they] need to be able to trust you and understand the language of your feedback as a driver. On top of that you have to trust and have faith in what [they] want to achieve with the direction of the car.
“In the BTCC you’re looking for the tiniest fractions to get ahead and it doesn’t take much of a miscommunication to put you in the wrong direction and spoil a weekend.”
Heading into the Ford Focus ST’s sophomore BTCC campaign and having driven the #48 car to a pair of wins in its maiden season, Jackson is looking forward to a second year of assisting in the development of the cars even further.
“Last year we proved the Focus is a force to be reckoned with right out of the box, but I think we left the season still with plenty to learn from her. With the circumstances around the season, we didn’t have a great deal of time to really dig deep into the setup and more or less carried on with a redevelopment of what we knew from the old RS. Ultimately, we got superb pace out of her at times, but it wasn’t always sustainable or consistent.
“This year that’s different. We’ve gone back to basics, got a load of info that’s come across with the Honda [Civic Type R (FK2s) which MB Motorsport ran in 2020] and a great testing plan lined up at a range of tracks. I think we will hit the start of the season not just with one of the strongest cars on the grid but also with a much better understanding of what we have than any NGTC Ford has before.
“Obviously, this is the BTCC: everyone is hard to beat. I’m not getting carried away with my expectations and predictions on where that will actually land us on the track, but I’ve got more faith in the car going into this year than I’ve ever had before.”
As teams’ testing schedules begin to get underway, and with the squad having hit the track already in 2021, Jackson and Hill will be aiming to gather as much data as they can ahead of the forthcoming campaign, whilst also getting used to one another as team-mates, having not raced under the same banner before.
“I like to think I’ve always had a really good relationship with my team-mates in the past. I like being a team player and helping to move the whole enterprise forward as it makes for a much more enjoyable environment and it benefits everyone.
“I’ve known Jake for a long time (we’ve both been around the TOCA paddock a good while now after all!) and I’m hoping we can keep a similar dynamic going. Obviously, we will want to beat each other, that’s only natural, but hopefully we can strike the right balance of co-operation and edge!”