Double podium for BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 at Thruxton
The Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 team secured more silverware to add to its tally with a double podium finish from the latest rounds of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton. The Suffolk-based team made the trip to Hampshire seeking a first race win at the quickest circuit on the calendar, with confidence high following a victory on home soil at Snetterton two weeks earlier. Free practice brought mixed results for the four-strong Hyundai squad, with Tom Ingram lapping inside the top three in both sessions, and both Ronan Pearson and Nick Halstead putting plenty of laps on the board as they returned to the circuit for the first time in a number of years. Tom Chilton however would find himself in the wars, with a gearbox issue limiting his track time to just 14 laps. Come qualifying later on Saturday, Ingram was able to repeat his front-running form despite minimal hybrid use to secure second on the grid, with Chilton overcoming a damper problem to post the 18th best time – one place ahead of Pearson. Halstead continued to find more speed and set his fastest time of the weekend, and would line up in 27th. The opening race would be a quiet affair at the front, with Ingram retaining his position at the start and remaining in second throughout the 16 laps to minimise his losses to title rival Ash Sutton. Finally able to make the most of the pace in his car, Chilton drove well to work his way through to twelfth place, whilst Pearson battled hard to fight his way through into the points – showing pace comparable with the top ten. Unfortunately for Halstead, he would be collected by a recovering car at the chicane mid-way through the race which resulted in a trip to the pits, leaving him unclassified in the results. Race two would follow a similar pattern to race one at the front, with Ingram once again holding station throughout to add another podium to his seasonal tally. Although he lost ground at the start, Chilton would also spend much of the race running in the same position as earlier in the day, only losing out on twelfth position late on when Dan Rowbottom nipped ahead. Rowbottom’s run through the field had earlier had an impact on Pearson’s race after contact at the complex knocked the Scot back down the order, leaving him to finish outside the points in 19th after the hit to the rear left him struggling with the handling of his car. A clash that resulted in a flat-spotted tyre would hamper Halstead’s bid to make up places, but he brought his car to the finish in 23rd spot.
With the top twelve reversed for the final race, Ingram lined up in eleventh place on the grid and got ahead of Josh Cook’s Honda on lap one to hit the top ten. With overtaking opportunities limited, Ingram held position until taking the chance to nip ahead of Jake Hill two laps from the end to secure ninth spot, helping him to retain second in the standings. Chilton was part of the same train of cars as Ingram and was running where he started in 13th place when he was unfortunately forced to pit with a puncture towards the end, which dropped him off the lead lap and down to 25th place. Pearson ended the weekend with another 19th place finish as he suffered from running in dirty air throughout the race, whilst Halstead would put in his most competitive showing to come out on top of a race-long dice with Nic Hamilton and Will Powell in 22nd. Tom Ingram, #1 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “Qualifying was key this weekend as when you are near the front here, you tend to stay there unless you have an issue. It’s a difficult place to race when you get into dirty air, and there aren’t that many places where you can really make a move for position without taking some big risks. “With that in mind, to come away from the weekend with two podium finishes, a top ten in the reverse grid race and no damage to the car is pleasing, even if the racing hasn’t been that entertaining at the front. We’ve got some work to do ahead of Oulton Park but I think the same can be said for a number of other teams, and we’ll look to come out fighting there in a few weeks.” Tom Chilton, #3 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “I’m starting to think I must be praying to the wrong god with the run of luck I’m having at the moment! In practice, we had a gearbox issue that no-one has ever had before and then in qualifying, there was a problem with the front dampers that meant it was pretty incredible that we even managed to get 18th. “We had a solid run to P12 in the first race but it was just my luck that we then missed the reverse grid by one after race two. I felt the car was in a good place and I was keeping pace with Ash Sutton in the final race and weas confident that if I got my hybrid right in the closing stages, I could try and make a move on him. “I wasn’t being rough on the tyres and taking risks but unfortunately suffered some delamination that brought me back into the pits and meant no points. Hopefully my luck will turn soon.”
Ronan Pearson, #14 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “Considering how long it’s been since I raced at Thruxton, I was really pleased with how things were going up until the end of the opening race. I didn’t quite manage to string a lap together in qualifying but was still inside the top 20, and to then come through and score some points in race one was a great way to start Sunday. “I really felt we had a car to push forwards into the top twelve but I wasn’t able to make up the ground I was hoping for, and getting a big hit in the rear didn’t help. We made some big changes for race three but I was struggling from running in dirty air, and it was a big challenge to try and make up ground. “It’s a shame when race day started so well, but the positive is that the early pace showed what I can do.” Nick Halstead, #22 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “Once again I feel there have been big improvements across the weekend, particularly on a circuit where I’ve not been for three years and where I’ve never driven front-wheel drive before. It was always going to be tough and the incident in race one didn’t help because it cost me track time that I really needed. “I flat spotted the tyres in race two after a coming together which was unfortunate as I felt we had the pace to move forwards, so it was pleasing in race three to be in a battle and matching the pace of cars running higher up the order. “This is such a tough series and I need to remind myself of that sometimes, and to be within a fraction of a second of some of these drivers is a big win for me. Having been able to drive on the limit at Thruxton, I can head to Oulton Park and I circuit I really like feeling confident.” Justina Williams, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Team Owner, said: “Although we didn’t manage to get the win we wanted this weekend, we’ve come away from Thruxton with more silverware and remain firmly in contention at the top of the championship standings, which is a job well done. “Whilst there have also been some dramas and issues, all four drivers have shown strong pace across the weekend and the team has worked well off track – as it always does. Oulton Park next is a circuit that has been good to us in the past, and hopefully that will be true again in a few weeks.”