BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 kickstarts title defence at Donington Park
The BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 team will get its defence of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship underway this weekend when the 2023 campaign bursts into life at Donington Park.
The Suffolk-based squad secured a first BTCC title last season thanks to Tom Ingram after a dramatic season finale at Brands Hatch, meaning the team heads into what will only be its fifth season in Britain’s premier racing series proudly carrying the coveted #1.
Despite the success enjoyed on track last year, which included seven wins and a total of 15 podiums, the team has been hard at work over the off-season refining its Hyundai i30 Fastback N, whilst also embarking on the build of a brand new chassis that will make its competitive debut this weekend.
Ingram heads into his first weekend as reigning BTCC champion on the back of a solid showing in the only official pre-season testing at Brands Hatch last week, where he topped the times in mixed weather conditions.
Last season, he secured the first win of the BTCC’s hybrid era at Donington Park and returns this time around in confident mood about his chances of making a strong start to 2023.
Returning team-mate Tom Chilton is also full of confidence going into round one on the back of a busy pre-season testing programme at the wheel of the new chassis in recent weeks.
The multiple race winner – one of the most experienced drivers on the grid – has his sights firmly fixed on returning to the podium during the season ahead, and is optimistic about his chances at a circuit where he has secured silverware in the past.
The 2023 line-up is completed by two series rookies, with MINI CHALLENGE graduate Ronan Pearson preparing to line-up on the BTCC grid for the first time.
The Scot grabbed his maiden MINI CHALLENGE win at the circuit last season and has enjoyed a solid pre-season as he gets to grips with the Hyundai, including going close to the top ten in last week’s test as he hit the track alongside his rivals for the first time.
The Macklin Motors-backed racer will hope to impress amongst those drivers eligible for the Jack Sears Trophy, as will Nick Halstead as he embarks on his first full season in the series.
Although Halstead has made a single appearance in the series having been drafted into the EXCELR8 line-up for a one-off outing at Croft in 2021, the British GT race winner heads into the new campaign ready to embrace the fresh challenge that a switch back to sprint racing will present.
Keeping expectations in check, Halstead makes the trip to the East Midlands eager to kickstart his season with three solid finishes.
The opening weekend of the year will be the first of five to feature a two-part qualifying session, with the usual 30 minutes of running being followed by an additional ten minutes where the ten quickest drivers will do battle for pole.
That session at 15:40 on Saturday will be followed by three races on Sunday at 11:30, 14:40 and 17:25 – all of which will air live on ITV4.
During the three races, a new element of strategy will be introduced with the return of the Goodyear Option tyre, which each driver must run on one occasion, whilst the regulations around the hybrid system have been revised to have a greater impact on the on-track action.
Tom Ingram, #1 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Winning the championship last season was an amazing feeling and whilst there is pressure that comes from being the defending champion, I’m heading into 2023 feeling relaxed as I now know that I can win the title.
“We showed last season that the Hyundai was a strong package but you can’t afford to stand still in the BTCC and a lot of hard work has gone in over the winter to refine the car to give us the best possible chance of defending the title.
“Donington Park was a happy hunting ground for us last season and the success we enjoyed in the opening round gave us a platform to build on in the events that followed. The aim this weekend is to do the same again and put some good points on the board, and I’m full of confidence – and ready to get down to business.”
Tom Chilton, #3 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Despite the mixed conditions we’ve all faced in pre-season testing, I feel it’s been the best pre-season I’ve had for a number of years and the running we have done has allowed me to really get to grips with my new car.
“Thanks to the hard work that the team has put in, it’s doing everything that I want it to do and I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed driving a car this much for quite a while.
“I want to hit the ground running for round one and after a productive test at Donington Park last week, I genuinely feel we can be in the mix for a podium finish. If we get close to that, it would be a big step forwards from last year and a good way to start the season.”
Ronan Pearson, #14 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“I honestly cannot wait for the weekend and knowing I’ll be lining up on the grid for my first race in the BTCC is the realisation of a dream. Getting to this position has been a huge achievement in itself and now I plan to make sure I enjoy every minute!
“Donington is one of my favourite circuits and holds fond memories from last season, so it’s a great place to be heading for my first race weekend in the Hyundai. We had a good test last week and whilst I’m not going to put pressure on myself by setting any goals and targets, I feel confident that we could achieve some strong results to start the season.
“Throughout pre-season, I’ve tried to stay open-minded about things and the approach has served me well, so I’m going to adopt the same mindset for this weekend and see what happens.”
Nick Halstead, #22 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Going into this season, I feel more prepared than I have ever felt on the back of a busy testing programme and I can’t wait for the real action to begin. I’m feeling very confident but at the same time, I know I still have a lot to learn about racing in a series that is as rough and tumble as the BTCC, so I’m not setting myself any big goals.
“When I did my previous outing at Croft, I was using a car that wasn’t mine and had no testing beforehand, so this weekend for me is where I think my BTCC career will really start. The team has done a fantastic job to get the car suited to me and how I want to drive it, and I think that has been reflected in the lap-times I’ve been able to put in during testing.
“We had a good day at Donington Park last week, and now I just want to get started!”
Justina Williams, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Team Owner, said:
“It’s hard to believe that the start of another season has come around already, but we are ready and raring to go this weekend at Donington Park. It’s been a busy winter back at base building up the new car and introducing a number of new developments which I feel leave us in fantastic shape going into 2023.
“Despite the fact that weather conditions have been far from ideal during testing, as has been the case for everyone, all four drivers have performed well on track and that leaves us confident of making a strong start to our championship campaign.
“Having won the title last season, we are now the team that the others want to beat, but we’re more than ready for the challenge.”