BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 recovers for stunning double podium
BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 recovered from a difficult start to race day at Silverstone to secure a stunning double podium from the latest rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season.
The Suffolk-based team made the trip to the Northamptonshire circuit aiming to maintain its title challenge and was on the pace from the outset with a strong showing across the two free practice sessions.
FP1 saw young Scot Ronan Pearson set the second-fastest time as he celebrated his extended two-year deal with the team, whilst defending champion Tom Ingram and Tom Chilton inside the top twelve with laps just half a second off the pace.
In the second session, it was Ingram who was the quickest of the Hyundai racers in third, with Pearson two spots further back and Chilton in 14th but within half a second off the benchmark time. Nick Halstead meanwhile would go a second faster than he had managed in FP1 to end up just behind points leader Ash Sutton on the fringes of the top 20.
Qualifying would run across two parts, with both Ingram and Chilton able to make it through to the top ten shootout, whilst Pearson would miss out by less than a tenth of a second to leave him 14th on the grid for race one. Halstead would qualify 26th, but was only seven-tenths of a second away from the fastest time.
In the second part of the session, Ingram would end up third fastest with a lap only 0.030s off pole to leave him ahead of title rivals Jake Hill and Sutton, with Chilton only a tenth of a second off pole as he snared P6.
The opening race on Sunday would be held in tricky conditions, with light rain before the start leading to a quandary over what tyres to run – with all four Hyundais electing to stick with slicks. However, just as the race was starting, the rain intensified and it quickly became clear that wet tyres were the correct choice.
Having been tipped into a spin, Ingram dived in for wets as did Pearson and Halstead – leaving them a lap down in 22nd, 24th and 25th. Chilton would also suffer contact but elected to brave it out on slicks, and took the flag in 13th when the circuit started to dry in the closing stages.
The second race of the weekend would be held in the dry, and resulted in one of the drives of the season from Ingram, who survived almost being collected by an out-of-control rival on lap one – which cost him places he had already gained – to charge through the field.
Aided by a safety car that backed up the field, Ingram would roar through to third place having made up a stunning 19 places, whilst Pearson was also in fine form to come through to eleventh.
Hampered by contact and a radiator damaged by debris, Chilton nursed his car to 16th, whilst Halstead also found himself in the middle of plenty of on-track squabbles but missed out on a top 20 finish by a tenth of a second.
The final race of the weekend saw Pearson on the front row thanks to the reverse grid draw, and he grabbed the lead on the run to turn one before a small error at Luffield opened the door for Dan Rowbottom behind – who ran the Scot wide on the exit to drop him back to fourth before the safety car was deployed.
On the restart, Pearson allowed Ingram through to gain further championship points, with another strong run from the defending champion seeing him secure another podium finish in second. Pearson meanwhile would go wheel-to-wheel with Sutton for a number of laps before taking the flag in fifth, with Halstead enjoying his best race of the weekend as he matched the pace of the top ten runners to finish in 19th.
Chilton however was left disappointed as, having moved to the fringes of the top ten, he was forced to pit by officials due to a mysterious oil leak on his car.
With just the Brands Hatch season finale to run, Ingram is one of the two drivers who can still win the overall title, whilst Pearson remains in contention for the Jack Sears Trophy.
Tom Ingram, #1 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“It’s been a weird weekend, but it turned out to be quite good when you take everything into consideration as we were quicker than Ash. Race one was what it was; we made a call on the tyres and it didn’t fall our way. It left us at the back for race two and I felt we could get into the top twelve, but the safety car really brought us back into the fight after getting torpedoed on lap one. We maximised the restart and the car was just fantastic to bring us through to the podium.
“In race three, Ronan did a great job as a team-mate as I was coming through and I owe him a wee dram for that. To come away from race one in 22nd and still take two podiums is very odd, but pleasing at the same time and the pressure is all on Ash going into the final rounds to not drop the ball. We’ll just do our best, and if it’s enough then it’s enough.”
Tom Chilton, #3 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“We had a great start to qualify P6 and only be tenth off pole, but Sunday was tough. We went for the right tyre choice when the car was in the air on the grid but then as the cars went down to the ground, it quickly became the wrong one. I got hit off which didn’t help but managed to salvage P13, which was something.
“In race two however, I ended up getting some tyre debris through the radiator, and then got bashed around to leave the geometry of the car all over the place. I was surprised to only drop to 16th and was recovering well in race three before I got told I had to pit with an oil leak. We didn’t deserve that with the pace in the car, and it turned out to be a weekend of what might have been.”
Ronan Pearson, #14 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“I’m really proud of how we bounced back from the first race. I made some proper touring car moves in race two, and took the opportunities that were available to fight my way up into the top twelve and then we got the reverse grid.
“I made a mega start to grab the lead but then lost the rear at Luffield and Dan forced me wide, which dropped me back to P4. Even then, I ended up keeping pace with Sutton and that showed the speed that we have in the car, so I was actually a bit frustrated as it showed I could have won without the earlier error.
“I know I’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that going forwards, and I now have the confidence I need in the car, so bring on Brands Hatch.”
Nick Halstead, #22 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“It’s been a fantastic weekend for me. Race one was just the wrong call on tyres like it was for everyone who stuck with slicks but the pace in race two was really good, and I would have been four or five places higher than I was without some reckless driving from others.
“In the final race, I held my own with the pack and that is the first time I think I can say that I’ve scored a top 20 finish based on my overall pace, which is a big thing for me. To be battling with people who’ve been on the podium was fantastic, and is a big step forwards.”
Justina Williams, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Team Owner, said:
“Sunday really was a day of two halves for us. After the disappointment of race one, the way we recovered in races two and three was fantastic and to come away with two podium finishes from that point was unbelievable.
“We’ve seen really good pace across the board from all four drivers this weekend and whilst it will be a big challenge in the final round to win the title, we’ll give it our all at Brands Hatch.”