BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 celebrates home success at Snetterton
The Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 team returned to the top step of the podium on home soil with a battling second win of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season.
The team made the short trip to Snetterton hoping to replicate the strong form that it had displayed at the longest circuit on the calendar in the past, with its Hyundai i30 Fastback N having scored its first win at the venue back in 2021.
Free practice would see both Tom Ingram and Tom Chilton lapping solidly inside the top ten, with Ronan Pearson using the two sessions to get up to speed at the circuit having never previously driven the Hyundai at Snetterton before.
Nick Halstead however would endure a tough start to his weekend, with the team forced to carry out an engine change that resulted in him missing the opening session on track.
Confidence was high going into qualifying, with Ingram – despite feeling under the weather – battling his way to a place on the front row of the grid. Chilton would miss out on the top ten by just 0.064s, with Pearson securing 14th place, although Halstead would be unable to set a time after an oil leak on his car before he had logged a lap.
The need to run a different tyre compound in each of the three races added a new element of strategy to race day, with Ingram electing to run the soft option in race one. Although he would lose places on lap one when he was run wide at the hairpin, he fought back well to climb back up to fourth place by the finish.
Pearson would also lose ground in the pack on lap one on the medium tyre but would score points for the third successive race as he fought his way ahead of Bobby Thompson and George Gamble to sit in 13th spot, before nipping ahead of Sam Osborne’s Ford on the final lap to score his best result in the series to date.
On the least favourable hard tyre, Halstead would battle his way to 26th which was two places behind Chilton – who suffered a throttle issue off the line that resulted in him having to pull off track and reset the car before rejoining the action half a lap behind the field. Despite being on the hard tyre, he would manage to chase down the cars ahead to finish 24th.
Ingram would be the only driver to run the hard tyre in race two, but an impressive drive saw him hold on inside the top ten to secure seventh place, whilst both Pearson and Chilton would score points on the soft tyre in 14th and 15th.
A storming opening lap for Chilton that saw him rocket up to 17th would be key, and once behind Pearson, the pair would run together as part of a train of cars dicing for position. Showing encouraging pace on the medium tyre, Halstead enjoyed a race long fight with the Cupras of Nic Hamilton and Jade Edwards before splitting the pair in 25th place.
The reverse grid final race saw Ingram line up in seventh place on the medium tyre, with a strong opening lap allowing him to move up immediately into fourth before he cleared the BMWs of Adam Morgan and Stephen Jelley on lap two.
Despite still feeling far from well, Ingram chased down leader Dan Rowbottom before moving ahead at Riches on lap five and went on to take his first win of the campaign – leaving him second in the standings.
Chilton would continue his recovery from the race one issue as he secured eleventh place, with Halstead dicing well in the pack early on before on-track contact and then a small error saw him slip back to 22nd place.
Pearson’s hopes of a third points score would, unfortunately, end when he was involved in contact with the Vauxhall of Aron Taylor-Smith on lap three and was forced to retire to the pits.
Next up for the team is Thruxton in Hampshire in two weeks time.
Tom Ingram, #1 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Scoring a win was the last thing I expected heading into race day as I really didn’t feel 100 per cent, but I think the adrenaline when you get out on track helped to pull me through.
“Coming here, it was all about scoring as many points as we could and we got into a good position in qualifying, which I think was key. After the first few corners of race one, it would have been easy to let my head drop but I was pleased to battle back to fourth and the car felt good on the soft tyres.
“Given that we were the only car on the hard tyre for race two, it was always going to be a challenge and to take seventh spot was a really solid result – I feel we maximised what we could.
“Our strategy with the tyres really paid off in race three and to come from P7 on the grid to win is fantastic, even if it took everything I had. To come away from the weekend second in the points, all things considered, is fantastic, and hopefully it’s something we can build on it when we head to Thruxton.”
Tom Chilton, #3 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“It’s another what could have been, but the positive is that we clearly have pace in the car and I’m driving the socks off it. For Tom to get the win in race three considering how he was feeling is very impressive but I just had rotten luck with the issue in race one that put me to the back.
“When that happens, you are just fighting to come through the field and in race two, I got up to 15th from last but had an issue with the diff that meant I couldn’t get any higher. In race three, I was trading fastest laps with Tom at one stage so we know we have the car to fight, I just need to get rid of my back luck at the start of race day.”
Ronan Pearson, #14 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“It’s been a very positive weekend, even if race three was marred a bit by the driving of others. That was unfortunate as we got wiped out and didn’t manage to end with a strong result, but the pace was really strong in both qualifying and then the opening two races.
“I’d never driven the car at Snetterton before, so overall I’m really satisfied with how it’s gone. The soft and the medium tyre worked well for me and I was able to hold my own against people on alternative strategies, although I didn’t much of a chance to see how we could do on the hard.
“I’m getting used to how things work in the BTCC now and I feel pleased with how its gone so far.”
Nick Halstead, #22 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“I would have loved to have more time under my belt in practice as by the end of the weekend, I was feeling really racy and was having some battles on track. I think it showed I can race in the pack and I felt there were big improvements this weekend, but losing the time on Saturday really put me on the back foot.
“Without that, I’d have been in a stronger position going into race one but overall I’d say I’m pleased with the races. Okay, so I got knocked back by some argy-bargy in race three and then made a small mistake that dropped me off the back but it happens, and I’ve gained a lot this weekend from running on the three different tyres.
“Every weekend is about me building confidence and getting used to this style of racing, but we go on from here to circuits where I feel I can go well.”
Justina Williams, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Team Owner, said:
“It’s always great to take a race win, but to do it on home soil is always that little bit more special. Huge credit has to go to Tom Ingram to get that result when he was feeling ill, but I think Tom Chilton, Ronan and Nick have also done a good job in the races today and performed well considering the additional challenges of the tyre rules and some incidents outside their control.
“We can go to Thruxton in confident mood, and will hopefully be right in the fight for some more silverware.”