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Former Cooper champion Matt Hammond will achieve a long held dream this season after confirming plans to compete in the headline class of the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE.

Hammond will join the JCW grid at the wheel of the car that carried Ronan Pearson to multiple wins during the 2022 campaign as part of EXCELR8s multi-car entry, extending a relationship with the team that started back in 2017.

Having previously taken top rookie honours in the Coopers in 2014, Hammonds move to EXCELR8 came after 18 months away from action and resulted in him storming to the championship title in fine style, scoring seven wins and eleven podiums en-route to the crown.

Forced to then put his racing ambitions on hold a second time due to a lack of funding, Hammond returned to the Cooper grid in 2021 and would be a title contender throughout, whilst he was also a race winner in 2022 as he finished second in the championship.

Having spent last season as part of the engineering team on EXCELR8s BTCC programme, Hammond has worked hard to secure the backing needed to finally make the move into the JCW category but looked set to miss the start of the campaign as he worked to finalise his plans.

However, having been able to secure the support needed, Hammond will now make his category debut at Donington Park this weekend with the opening three races of the new campaign ahead of a full season assault on both the overall championship and the Directors Cup.

Matt Hammond said:

Ive wanted to race in the JCWs since the cars were first introduced but Ive never managed to make it onto the grid, so to now be preparing for my debut is a dream come true. Everything has come together very quickly at the last minute, and I have to thank EXCELR8 for the support they have shown me through the years, as well as Derby University who Ill be working with this season both in the MINI CHALLENGE and elsewhere.

Because the deal has been done so late, I havent really had chance to think about any goals or targets, and realistically, the opening round is going to be all about building confidence in the car as racing the JCW is going to be a lot different to the Cooper and Ive only had limited time in the car this year.

Im just pleased to be on the grid, but Im certainly not planning to make up the numbers and I want to move forwards through the season to challenge at the front.

Justina Williams, EXCELR8 Team Owner, said:

Its been a long road for Matt to get to this stage, and we are delighted to now have him as part of our JCW line-up for the new season.

Throughout his time in the Cooper class, he showed his pace on track and even when he had to spend time away from the circuit, he was right at the front the moment he returned.

Although he will be a new name to the JCW grid, Matt brings a wealth of experience and I have no doubt that he will be challenging for some front-running results during the year ahead.

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