Success in motorsport often boils down to being in the ‘right place, at the right time’.
We first set-up this interview back in early 2015. Andrew Jordan was appearing at the NEC’s Autosport International show with his freshly liveried Pirtek Racing MG6 GT. The 2013 BTCC Champion and his father, Mike, had just announced their decision to sell control of Eurotech Racing, and for AJ to move his title ambitions back to Triple Eight, the squad he’d contended the 2009 season with.
But despite all the promise, like many across the paddock, even in pre-season testing, I could see the MG struggling for pace. The balance wasn’t right. The car snapped between understeer and oversteer as it entered then exited fast turns, whilst on the long straights of Snetterton and Donington, those who pushed-on were rarely caught. As the year went by, Jordan and his teammate, Jack Goff, raced hard, but were seldom rewarded: It wasn’t the right time.
Eighteen months later and we finally sit down and talk. The early promise of an air-conditioned motorhome now swapped for the back of a Motorbase truck. This is clearly a better place.
We exchange the customary small talk. There’s no desire from either of us to dwell on the past. The decision to leave MG came quickly, and so did the opportunity to work with David Bartrum. But what is it, I ask, that made it such an easy move?
I can see this. I’ve written about Motorbase, Bartrum and team manager Olly Collins before. They’re special.
Yet for all of Motorbase’s strengths, there’s an equally obvious flaw in Jordan’s logic. Not only did he choose to move away from a manufacturer-backed squad – with the depth of resources it can potentially deploy – he also chose to join a team that’s been built around another top-line driver, namely Mat Jackson. In other words, Jordan would be measured against one of the best (i.e. Jackson), in an environment which suits his team mate down to a tee.
The first rule of motor racing is “always beat your team mate”, so my next question is how prepared was he for this?
And as the results show, it’s not only do-able, it’s being done. So much so that entering the final rounds this weekend, not only will both Motorbase Fords be pitched into a two-man battle for the Independent Drivers’ title, a race where Jordan currently enjoys a 34-point lead, they’re also amongst the eight cars still in the hunt for the overall championship. It’s a remarkable position to be in.
I get this. Perhaps this year more than most, the fight for points has been ever more brutal, both on and off the track. If this was Formula One, Motorbase might be Williams. Only unlike Formula One, this small outfit from Wrotham has already notched-up six wins and a further seven podiums. Compare this to the seven wins by the Hondas, four from the BMWs (three-car squad) and four from Subaru’s four-car entry; and it’s suddenly clear that whatever’s written on the silverware, it’s the winning ways that matter.
It’s time to switch tack. His mind is where it needs to be. Now I want to ask more about the role his father, Mike, plays. I see him in the garage, or on the pit wall, and on the grid, or standing on a corner, headphones on, making notes, ever on the go. When the term ‘we’ is employed, it’s clear that this is a very unique partnership.
So is this role confined to purely on-track activities or does it go much deeper? And if so, how important is it to have support in managing the business side of racing?
There’s plenty of wisdom in these words.
The guests crowding the garages, loitering over the buffet, swelling the grid before each race. These are the customers of the people paying the bills. Without them, the BTCC as we know it simply wouldn’t exist. They’re not a necessary evil, they’re a necessity, and Jordan understands this.
There’s genuine pride too as we talk about the brands he represents; keen to highlight that there’s still another two years of his contract with Pirtek to run; and of the work he does with Autoglym, and perhaps the most important badge of all, the one that tells the world that he is a Red Bull Athlete. It’s a relationship that, he freely admits, took an exceptional effort to build, but one that, in return, delivers a level of exposure that not only he and the team, but that all partners can benefit from.
Red Bull’s reach is huge, particularly through their employment of multi- and social media platforms. They’re arguably one of the most successful brands in the world and he gushes with pride to be ranked alongside the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, David Coulthard, Sébastien Ogier and Marc Márquez.
I can see the spark in his eyes. There’s no script or routine to his answers, no compromise within his comments. We’re already over our time but he’s happy to continue. It’s a race weekend and every second is made to count, whether on the track or off it, so I ask if I can lead him into the dark side of Touring Cars, to talk about the seemingly growing controversies over driving standards.
He’s been quite frank with his thoughts immediately after returning from races bearing a seemingly unnecessary amount of damage, but I wonder how he’ll react now, adrenaline removed. And from my perspective, it’s not only standards during racing that I’m keen to explore but also the number of red flags occurring during the free practice sessions, even qualifying, limiting the whole grid’s effort to refine set-up and prepare for the main event.
His isn’t a lone voice. I can see why TOCA want 32 cars on the grid, but this inevitably leads to a point where talent is replaced by money. It’s the same from F1 to karting. But at least to get to F1, you now need to accrue points for your ‘Super-Licence’. As the UK’s premier race series, is it perhaps time that the BTCC followed suit?
He has a point. To win in Touring Cars, you not only need to be quick, you need to be inch perfect, you need to trust, and you need to be trusted. With the championship now reaching its conclusion, and set on the ever-demanding stage of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, does Jordan fear for his own chances at the hands of others?
Will the luck finally come his way on Sunday? Who knows? But I do know that whatever the outcome, Andrew Jordan will fight hard until the last lap of the final round. Once a champion, always a champion.