George Jackson says he’s content with how the first half of his debut Renault UK Clio Cup season has gone as he uses this year as a ‘recce’ ahead of a much bigger push for glory in 2016.
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Jackson started the season with JamSport before switching to British Touring Car racer and last year’s Clio Cup runner-up Josh Cook’s Team Cooksport squad at Oulton Park.

It was with JamSport that his best two results to date – eighths at Brands Hatch and Donington – were achieved but he’s sure there’s better to come when the season resumes at Knockhill later this month (22/23 August).

Jackson said: “It has been like starting over again. I’m just about where I want to be in the meantime, although I know there’s more time to be found in me and the car.”

The Bedford driver’s season started with the narrowest of misses at Brands Hatch as he correctly second-guessed that chaos was about to break out in front of him.

He explained: “I was in the pack coming down to Graham Hill Bend and somehow spotted the bright green roof on my team-mate Dan Holland’s car going sideways. I backed off, the pack split and I went around him luckily. Thomas Grundy hit him fully side-on and that was two JamSport cars out on the spot meaning I was their only survivor for Sunday’s race. I mucked up my start a bit for that one but still got an eighth which I was reasonably happy with.

“Donington was fun, although I had a bit of good and bad in all three races. In race one I got tagged by Jack Mitchell at the first bend – that damaged the rear of the car and I ended up having a massive moment down the Craner Curves, collected a Dunlop advertising board which overheated the car and I needed to make a pit stop to have it removed! At least I came out of the weekend with another eighth, in race three.”

The daunting high-speed Thruxton circuit came next and, although the results don’t show it, it was there that Jackson produced his finest performance so far in 2015.

“It was my first race event there and I qualified sixth fastest – that’s despite my rear bumper coming loose exiting Church and acting like a parachute on my best lap,” recalled Jackson. “Without that I may have been even higher. But I was still pleased. I’d gone into the weekend with very limited knowledge of the circuit.

“Race one stands out as my best race so far this season even if I finished ninth – three places lower than I’d started. I had to go off track on the first lap to avoid a collision ahead of me and rejoined in last place. To come through and overtake people was very satisfying, but it was gutting at the same time given what could have been… I knew I had pace and was hoping for something better in race two but maybe pushed too hard early on and killed the tyres. At a place like Thruxton there’s no way back from there."

A month’s break in the calendar then allowed Jackson to make the transition to Cooksport and even though he’s yet to hit the heights of Thruxton the 21-year-old has come away from Oulton’s and Croft’s events content with how things are gelling with the Bristol-based outfit.

He said: “By this year’s standards the Oulton races were actually quite messy with a few incidents on the track so I was pleased to come away from there with no damage and some more points. For Croft maybe there was more expectation on me as it was my second event with Cooksport. Overall I’d say it went better than Oulton and the main thing is we’re not going backwards – we are getting steadily better.

“I’m enjoying life at Cooksport – it’s a very professional set-up and they really know their way around the car. Josh is very helpful, giving us lots of pointers – it’s the small detail that can make a big difference – and he’s good as a confidence booster and getting you in the right mindset for each session."

It’s a gradual improvement that Jackson wants to maintain in the second half of the season, rather than looking for any dramatic leaps in form every time out.

He added: “I came into the season thinking anything in the top ten I’d be happy with. The driving standards in the Clio Cup are suddenly a lot higher and to say you’re in the top ten in the Clio Cup has real meaning on its own.

“The final four events… I want to be in the top ten every time out and start pushing for top fives. And of course make sure I finish inside the top ten overall. That would set me up nicely for 2016. For me I think the Clio Cup is a three-year programme – just look at Whorton-Eales and Hand – and it is, after all, only my second year of racing. I think a realistic attitude is the best approach.”