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DONINGTON DOUBLE FOR TEAM BRISTOL STREET MOTORS

DONINGTON DOUBLE FOR TEAM BRISTOL STREET MOTORS

Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS made a fine start to the 2024 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season with two wins from three during the opening weekend of the season.

The EXCELR8 Motorsport-run outfit went into the meeting hoping to reap the rewards of a busy winter of development work on the Hyundai i30 Fastback N, with Tom Ingram, Tom Chilton, Ronan Pearson and Nick Halstead all in confident mood for the season opener.

The pace of the Hyundai was evident in free practice as Ingram topped both sessions, although not without issues as Chilton was unable to post a timed lap as the team worked to resolve some problems on his car.

The all-new qualifying format in place for the new season saw the grid split in half for Q1, with Ingram and Pearson both successfully making it through their group despite tricky changeable conditions, but Halstead dropping out when he was unable to post a timed lap due to a drive-train issue.

Chilton would be placed in group two after his practice dramas and was able to turn his first timed laps of the weekend, earning him 13th on the grid for race one despite failing to make it into Q2.

Both Ingram and Pearson would progress to the final part of qualifying and the ‘Quick Six’ session, with Ingram beating title rival Ash Sutton to pole by just 0.051s and Pearson securing fifth spot and this best qualifying result to date.

Heavy rain overnight and into the morning would play havoc with the Sunday schedule, with no racing being possible until after lunch due to the conditions, with standing water and rivers running across the track rendering conditions too dangerous for racing to begin.

When the action did finally get underway with race one, Ingram held the lead off the line before an incident further down the pack led to a lengthy safety car period – with racing only resuming on the 16th lap.

Unchallenged at the front, Ingram opening his campaign with a relatively comfortable win, whilst Pearson ran strongly in fifth throughout to score victory amongst the Jack Sears Trophy entrants.

Although he lost ground on lap one and dropped down outside the points, Chilton battled his way through the pack to take the flag in P12 before a penalty elsewhere moved him up into eleventh, with Halstead running strongly in the conditions to cross the line just outside the points in 16th.

Conditions had improved enough by race two for the field to swap onto slick tyres, although Ingram was unable to hold his lead at the start for a second time as the fast-starting BMW of Jake Hill instead grabbed the advantage going into turn one. Despite having the least amount to hybrid available, Ingram shadowed the BMW ahead before making his move into turn one on 14 to retake the lead and secure a second win of the weekend.

Pearson was again running strongly in the top six before he was forced to pit following a power-steering issue that saw him run off track at Coppice. He would return to action a lap down and showed his pace by scoring the fastest lap, although he was outside the points in 17th place.

Chilton was dicing for tenth place before a fuel pump issue put him into retirement, with Halstead again finishing one place shy of the points in 16th having dropped off the back of the pack following an off-track excursion on lap three when he was hit by a rival.

The final race of the grid kicked off with the top nine drivers reversed, and a strong start from Ingram saw him battle his way into the top seven within three laps before the race went under caution to recover a car from the gravel at the Old Hairpin. A fine move on Jake Hill’s BMW moved Ingram into the top six shortly after the restart before he cleared Adam Morgan and Rob Huff in one lap to take fourth – a position he would hold to the flag despite his best efforts to nab a podium spot on the final lap.

Starting down in 19th place on the grid, Chilton stormed into the points within two laps of the start and would repeat his race one result as he eventually crossed the line in eleventh although there was disappointment for Pearson when a repeat of his power-steering dramas forced him into retirement.

Halstead’s weekend would end with a race long battle with the Cupra of Scott Sumpton that would run from start-to-finish, with the pair fighting for position throughout before Halstead took the flag in 17th.

Ingram heads the standings after the opening weekend of the year, with Team Bristol Street Motors sitting third in the Teams’ Championship, whilst Halstead lead’s the team’s challenge on the Jack Sears Trophy in second spot.

Tom Chilton, #3 Team Bristol Street Motors Hyundai, said:
“Saturday was really difficult as we had no track time in practice and only really had two laps in qualifying – so to be P13 was pretty unbelievable with the issues we had. The team did a mega job to change the engine overnight and they worked their socks off to get it all working well for race one and I was pleased to move forwards, but then we had a fuel pump issue that put us out of race two.

“Race three I went from last to eleventh and I was really flying and felt I could race people – with a late move on Andrew Watson being particularly good. We got there with the car by the end of the weekend, and I feel that my season will start at Brands Hatch next time out.”

Ronan Pearson, #14 Team Bristol Street Motors Hyundai, said:
“What we did until race two this weekend was incredible and the car was mega. There was just one issue that affected us twice and we can’t change what happened, but we were up there on merit this weekend and showed we have the pace which I think can leave us really confident going forwards.

“I don’t think I’ve driven as well as I have done this weekend. I’m the most confident I think I have ever been in the car and I feel I left nothing on the table, which you can only do when you have confidence in it. The things that have hampered us this weekend were outside our control, so there are a lot of positives to take away from it.”

Nick Halstead, #22 Team Bristol Street Motors Hyundai, said:
“Race one in the wet was tricky but I felt super confident and the car felt so quick so I was pleased to come out of that making up places. Unfortunately I got turned around at turn one in the second race that dropped me back off the pack and the final race was a good battle with Scott where I was able to learn a lot.

“With limited testing, it took me a little while to get back up to speed, but I feel comfortable in the car at the end of the weekend and am looking forward to getting back out at Brands Hatch.”

Tom Ingram, #80 Team Bristol Street Motors Hyundai, said:
“I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good start to a season, with pole, two wins and fourth. I’ve had a great car and as Max Verstappen would say, it’s been a lovely weekend. The way things all started with the weather delays was difficult we you don’t know what the circuit will be like, and just how wet things are going to be, so it was a bit fruity in the first race and to win was great.

“Race two however was even better as you could argue we shouldn’t have won that with the new hybrid rules, so the fact we did showed how strong the car is. That’s all down to the hard work that we’ve done over the winter and a solid result in race three just wrapped up, so it’s all feeling good.”

Justina Williams, Team Bristol Street Motors Team Owner, said:
“It’s been a fantastic way to start the season, and I’m really pleased of how we have performed this weekend with strong performances across the board from all drivers. To come away from the weekend with pole, two wins and three fastest laps is reward for all the hard work that has gone in across the winter on the car, and leaves us well placed for the rest of the season.

“I also think it’s important to give credit to everyone who worked hard to make sure we could even go racing this weekend given the conditions that were thrown our way, and also give mention to the fans who had to stand around and deal with the worst of the weather not knowing if they were going to get to see any racing. Hopefully they enjoyed the show when we managed to get underway.”

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