Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS returned to the top step of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship podium for the fourth time this season on a sweltering day of action at Oulton Park.

The EXCELR8 Motorsport-run team headed into the fifth meeting of the campaign seeking to challenge for top honours at a circuit where it had been successful in the past, with drivers Tom Ingram, Tom Chilton, Ronan Pearson and Nick Halstead all in confident mood.

Things started well on Saturday with the quartet all showing strong form in the two free practice sessions at the wheel of their Hyundai i30 Fastback N machines.

Ingram would end the two sessions with the second fastest time, with both Chilton and Pearson also lapping inside the top ten and Halstead improving by just under half a second from FP1 to FP2.

Come qualifying, Ingram was on fine form as he topped all three of his qualifying groups to snare a third pole position of the season, with Chilton also making it through to the Quick Six element of the session as he matched his best of the year with fourth place.

Pearson and Halstead would both fail to make it past Q1, with Pearson just a tenth of a second away from progressing as he ended up in P15 for race one, with Halstead qualifying in 20th spot for the weekend opener as he was forced to contend with back pain following his accident at Thruxton in the previous meeting.

In sweltering track conditions, the four drivers took their places on the grid for the opening race of the weekend, with Ingram able to retain the lead when the lights went out and the field headed down to turn one for the first time.

Title rival Ash Sutton tried to force his way through at both the hairpin and the chicane on the second lap – forcing Ingram to run off across the grass – but as the race settled down, he was able to edge away at the front to grab a third victory of the campaign.

Chilton held fourth through the opening laps but lost places when the car briefly shut down mid-race, although he was still able to secure a solid top ten finish by taking the flag in seventh.

Pearson – the only one of the four to elect to run the hard tyre – picked up points in 13th, which marked a fine recovery drive for the Scot after he failed to get away from the line due to an electrical issue and dropped to the back of the field before battling his way back up the order, with Halstead just outside the points having kept out of trouble to take the flag in P17.

Post race however, Chilton and Pearson gained an additional place due to a penalty handed out to one of the cars ahead.

The second race of the weekend saw Ingram and Chilton both forced to run the hard tyre due to their previous result, with Pearson and Halstead eager to make forward progress on the quicker soft rubber.

Ingram held his position at the start but would be overhauled mid-way through the opening lap by the soft-shod Toyota of Josh Cook. From there, he would engage in battle with Sutton for position, with the pair running side-by-side through Cascade at one stage, before Ingram ultimately came out on top to secure second spot.

It would be a more challenging race for the remaining trio, with Chilton losing ten spots on lap one when caught up in contact at turn one that damaged his steering rack and ultimately forced him to retire later on when the power steering failed.

Pearson also suffered off the line with a repeat of the electrical gremlin from race one being followed by a trip wide taking avoiding action after the same clash that had impacted Chilton. Once again however, the Scot was able to fight back through the pack to take the flag in 13th and secure another points finish.

Halstead had benefitted from the clash to rocket up the order into 13th spot, but a spin at Cascades saw him drop back down the field to cross the line in 18th.

The grid for race three saw the top six from the second race reserved, meaning Ingram lined up in fifth and although he lost a place at the start, he quickly overhauled Josh Cook’s Toyota and the Ford of Dan Cammish to move into fourth spot. Another solid haul of points leaves him second in the standings going into the summer break.

From 13th on the grid, Pearson showed strong pace as he recovered from a brief moment that saw him put a wheel off track to go close to a top ten finish, with the young Scot lapping quicker than a number of the front-runners to leave him wondering what might have been as he crossed the line in eleventh.

Halstead battled hard as one of only two drivers on the slower hard tyre as he ended the weekend with a 17th place finish, although there was disappointment for Chilton when he was unable to take the start of the race after an issue with the onboard fire extinguisher on his car.

Tom Chilton, #3 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Saturday was fantastic and we were so quick. I made an error that stopped us being on the front row so it could have been even better, but P4 wasn’t the end of the world and race one was good on the whole. We took P6 but could have been up towards the podium without something electrical that caused the car to briefly shut down, which is how Jake Hill and Rowbottom got ahead – and then I had no hybrid.

“Race two there was nowhere to go at turn one when it was four abreast, and then the power steering failed and spayed fluid everywhere and there was a lot of stream and smoke coming out of the car. The marshals did well to spray their extinguishers on the car quickly but somewhere in the melee, the button got pressed on the extinguisher on the car and released some of the liquid from it.

“The team did a great job to clean up the car and repair the damage for the final race, but we didn’t realise that some of the extinguisher had been discharged. Because of that, we weren’t able to do race three on safety grounds which was frustrating when there was nothing wrong with the car, particularly considering the efforts of the team to get it back out.”

Ronan Pearson, #14 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Saturday was a challenge as we knew the pace was in the car but I just didn’t get the best from it in qualifying, which meant we had work to do in the races. It’s been hard trying to recover from that and whereas I would have been pleased with these results last year, I wasn’t where I now want to be.

“Even after we had a problem at the start of the first race, we were the fastest car on track on the hard tyre which was a huge plus and it allowed us to come through to back some decent points, but race two was a challenge as the car was hampered by having to run off track on the first lap avoiding those ahead who had had a moment.

“In the final race, we were only a few tenths off the fastest lap so we had the pace, but I made a small error and dropped a wheel on the grass which cost me three spots – otherwise we’d have been up there in the top ten. I made some good moves today that I’m proud of and I know there are circuits to come where I’m going to be strong in the second half of the season, which now becomes my focus.”

Nick Halstead, #22 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Oulton Park as a circuit is one I really enjoy but as soon as I hit the circuit for first practice, I could still feel some pain in my back as a result of the incident at Thruxton and it really hampered me across the weekend.

“Qualifying was particularly difficult on Saturday and I did what I could overnight to help, but Sunday was tough and it was all about just staying out of trouble and seeing what I could achieve without getting caught up in anything silly.

“There were still highlights and in the second race I got a mega start and was able to avoid the incident at turn one to climb up the order, but then I got forced onto the dirty part of the circuit and had a spin which was a real shame as there was the potential to score a strong result.

“I think we made the right call with the tyres, although it meant in race three that I had no real chance to do anything when there were only two of us on the hard tyre. The summer break comes at the right time for me to now rest and have plenty of physio on my back to make sure I can come out fighting at Croft.”

Tom Ingram, #80 Team BRISTOL STREET MOTORS Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“It’s been a really good weekend with pole, first, second and fourth. I can’t be disappointed with that as we’ve been strong every time we’ve been out on the track, and the car has felt fantastic. This place is hard to overtake and if you can get Saturday done then half of the job is done for race one, where you just need to make sure you get it off the line.

“Trying to win again on the hard tyre would always have been difficult but the car still felt great – it’s been alive no matter what we’ve had fitted. That certainly wasn’t a disappointing race and I was happy to let Josh get through on the soft tyre and just focus on banking the points and then in race three, it was a case of doing the same.

“I saw Ash had a problem which changed my approach and I was happy to sit behind Aron [Taylor-Smith] and bag the points. I was fine with Jake Hill winning the race as it means we have more hybrid to take into the next event sitting second in the standings, but we come out of this one in good shape – I couldn’t ask for more.”

Justina Williams, Team Owner, said:
“Getting back onto the top step of the podium is a great way to end the first half of the season and it leaves us in a strong position in the championship. As ever, the drivers have done a great job on track for us across the weekend and the whole team deserves credit this weekend for working hard in difficult conditions with the heat to ensure that we performed at our very best both on and off the track.”

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