Photo by Matt Auger

Motorbase Performance have announced that Motorsport Ireland Dunlop Young Racing Driver of the year; Aron Smith has joined the team alongside the returning Mat Jackson and Liam Griffin.

For Smith, it is his first full campaign in the Dunlop MSA British Touring car Championship, having made his debut in a one off race weekend for 888 at Knockhill last year, where he scored a point on his debut.

He has recent success in the BTCC supporting Renault Clio Cup and the Irish driver’s attitude to racing has seen him develop a loyal legion of fans, both in Ireland and across the UK.

The twenty-two year old said about the announcement that he is joining one of the biggest teams in the BTCC paddock for 2012: “I couldn’t be more excited about this season; the past two years have literally been building up to this moment. Motorbase Performance is the type of team I know I’ll feel right at home in, this all feels like a dream come true and I can’t wait for the racing to begin!”

Returning for his third season with the team and second at the wheel of the Mountune powered Ford Focus ST is Mat Jackson, who led the Championship for the team after Snetterton last season. He secured four outright victories and ten Independent’s victories.

The thirty year old from Henley-in-Arden is delighted to have resigned for David Bartrums team and he hopes that he can challenge for outright honours once again: “It’s fantastic to be back driving with Motorbase for the third year in a row – it feels like home now!  We have the same core personnel in place for this season, which I believe is key to our challenge for the outright driver’s title.”

Looking ahead to the 2012 campaign, Jackson believes that it is all set up to be an exciting campaign with most of the front running teams switching to the NGTC regulations for the forthcoming season.

One of the outright fans favourites, Jackson added: “2012 looks to be an exciting year in the BTCC. With the New NGTC regulations being adopted by many of the front running teams, the season could prove to be very interesting indeed.  We showed last year that we have the car and skills in place to compete against the ‘big boys’ and hopefully the other teams will experience some teething problems that we can capitalise on!”

Filling the third Focus is Liam Griffin, who like Jackson, returns for a second season at the wheel of the turbocharged Ford Focus ST. He heads into his fourth season with the Kent based squad and is looking to build on his end of season promise, where he was racing consistently with the mid-pack.

“How can you be anything but excited about the start of the season? The BTCC is the premier Motorsport championship in the country and it is a privilege to be a part of it,” said Griffin.

He added: “Having finished consistently at the end of last season I feel I have given myself something to build on. Half the battle is not feeling out of your depth, the other half is actually not being out of your depth. I certainly feel like I have completed the first part but have to now see if we can turn that into being a bit more competitive.

“It is great to be part of Motorbase for my 4th season as they are without doubt not only one of the best teams in the paddock but also one of the most driver friendly teams.”

The team head into the 2012 campaign with their most ambitious project, a full season three car team, and they hope that the consistency of the car/driver line-up will paid dividends while the other teams get used to their new cars and driver line-ups.

Team Principal David Bartrum is confident ahead of the forthcoming campaign, which kicks off at the team’s local circuit, Brands Hatch, over the 31 March/ 1 April.

“We’re very excited about this year. We will be continuing with the same cars from last year which we learnt a lot from in our first season with them in 2011. We have been busy further improving over the winter, so to also keep the continuity of Mat and Liam as well is very important for us moving forward this year, and to welcome Aron to the team is fantastic.

Bartrum is also pleased with how well Smith has settled in with the team and is hoping for some better luck to fall Jackson’s way, after the terrible run of misfortune during the second half of the 2011 campaign.

“Aron has settled straight in to the team and has impressed us all in testing. I’m sure he will be competitive very quickly this year. Liam has had a year in the BTCC under his belt now so knows what to expect this year so we’re looking forward to him hitting the ground running come round one. And with Mat, he will be starting in a car he knows well which has been further improved so there is no reason why we can’t mount a serious championship challenge as we did last year, but hope for some better luck in 2012!”