Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS displayed impressive pace on track on what proved to a challenging weekend of racing as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship headed for Snetterton for the third meeting of the year.

The Hyundai squad headed into the weekend on the back of three wins from the first six races, but faced an uphill battle to add to that tally after a difficult Saturday, where all four drivers struggled for outright pace during qualifying.

Running in the first part of Q1, Ronan Pearson – fresh from his maiden win at Brands Hatch – was the only one of the quartet to make it through to the second part of qualifying as Tom Ingram missed out on progressing by just 0.019s having struggled to get the best out of his tyres.

It was a similar story for Tom Chilton, who was a tenth of a second further back, whilst Nick Halstead would also find himself dropping out of the session at the first stage.

The second part of the session ended with Pearsons securing twelfth place on the grid, with the combined grid ending up with Ingram and Chilton directly behind, and Halstead lining up in 21st place.

With drivers forced to run all three compound of tyres on race day, Ingram, Pearson and Halstead all elected to run the soft tyre with Chilton taking the decision to go with the medium in cloudy but dry conditions.

Ingram made the most of his tyre choice with a strong run through to sixth place, with Pearson battling hard in the midfield as he battled back from slipping back to 14th on lap one to come through to take the flag just outside the top ten.

Chilton also suffered on the opening lap as he dropped outside the points before recovering to take 15th place at the finish and the final point, with Halstead overcoming a mid-race pitstop to take 20th place.

That would prove to be Halstead’s final appearance of the weekend as he withdrew from the second and third races due to a bout of food poisoning, leaving Ingram, Chilton and Pearson to fly the flag going into race two.

Heavy rain led to a delayed start but with the track expected to dry out quickly, the trio faced a tough call on which way to go with tyres, with Ingram and Pearson both pitting for slicks at the end of the green flag lap.

In the early stages of the race, it looked like being the right call when the circuit did indeed start to dry out but before they were able to make too much progress, the rain returned – ending their hopes of a strong result.

Chilton however fought his way up from his starting position to cross the line in an impressive fourth spot before a post-race penalty knocked him back to fifth. Ingram meanwhile would miss out on a points finish on the final lap to finish 16th, with Pearson pitting for a second time as he ended up in 19th.

The final race of the weekend saw most of the grid go with dry tyres, with two wet shod cars having the early advantage on a circuit that was still drying out after more rain showers.

Running the medium tyre, Ingram produced a storming drive through to fourth spot, setting the fastest lap as he battled his way through the pack to finish in fourth place – only missing out on the podium positions by two-tenths of a second.

Despite struggling for grip on soft tyres, Chilton picked up his second top six finish of the weekend in sixth place, although it was more a challenging end to the weekend for Pearson who was forced to run the less favoured hard tyre and had to settle for 18th place.

The team now heads for Thruxton in Hampshire for the next event in two weeks time.

Tom Chilton, #3 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“It all starts with qualifying and we weren’t where we should have been on Saturday but battled back well. I had some bad luck in race one as we went for a wet set-up but it was a dry and I went backwards to finish in 15th and then we had a dry set-up for race two and it rained! We left the wet tyres on and even through the set-up was wrong, the tyre was correct and it helped us get up to fourth before the time penalty.

“In race three, we went to the grid on the wet tyre before switching to the soft tyre and it meant I had cold tyres and struggled for grip at the rear so the car was sliding around all over the place a bit – which was fun but slow! However, we finished sixth and I had some good battles and we were able to come away with some more points, even if we wanted more.”

Ronan Pearson, #14 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“You don’t think one decision can have such a big consequence but the results all come down to the decision to go with slicks in race two. We’d had a solid run in race one and didn’t deserve what followed but sometimes you put the chips on red and it comes up black.

“We’ve had weekends where we have lucked in in the past and this is just one where it didn’t go our way. Twelve months ago I would probably have been happy to get some points in the first race but my expectations have changed and we’ve shown in the dry that we have front-running pace. We just have a little more work to do to maximise the performance in the wet.”

Tom Ingram, #80 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“I’m really pleased with how the weekend ended and we’ve had good pace all the way through race day, but without the results to show it. It’s a shame we didn’t have the speed in qualifying but we know why and we have been able to learn a lot – and sometimes you need to have these kind of bad weekends to learn from.

“There are plenty of positives for us to take away from things and we have been able to improve the car, and the results could have looked very different had the weather gone our way in the second race. I enjoyed the conditions in race three and the car felt great as we showed by setting the fastest lap on the final lap on the medium tyre; our second fastest lap of the day. I was aiming for the top five but the race came to us, and to finish fourth was great.”

Justina Williams, Team Owner, said:
“After two fantastic weekends, it’s been a bit more of a challenge at Snetterton, but the team has worked hard to fight back from qualifying and score some solid points on race day. We’re still up towards the sharp end in the points despite the challenges we have faced, and when we head to Thruxton next time out, we’ll come out fighting for more silverware.”

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