The BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 team will look to build on a strong start to the 2023 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season when the series heads to Brands Hatch this weekend for the second meeting of the year.
The Suffolk-based team grabbed a 13th BTCC victory during the opening weekend of the campaign at Donington Park two weeks ago, and scored two further podium finishes to secure the early advantage in both the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ standings and also the Teams’ Championship.
The Donington Park victory came thanks to Tom Chilton, who made the most of an inspired tyre choice in the second race of the weekend to grab his maiden win in EXCELR8 colours – putting him back on top of the BTCC podium for the first time in four years.
Tom’s BTCC debut came at Brands Hatch back in 2002 and the 38-year-old has enjoyed plenty of success at the Kent circuit in the past – win two wins amongst an impressive tally of 14 podiums.
Currently fourth in the standings, Tom will now look to replicate the pace shown at Donington Park to maintain his championship position, with the ultimate goal being to try and add to his win tally.
Defending champion Tom Ingram scored the other two podium finishes at Donnington Park to end the opening weekend of the season sitting second in the championship standings.
Tom topped the times when the BTCC field hit the track at Brands Hatch last month during the only official pre-season test, which was held in tricky wet conditions.
Eager to try and fight for a first win of 2023, Tom now goes into the weekend optimistic about challenging towards the front at a circuit where he has won in the Hyundai in the past.
Although he was unfortunately forced to retire from two of the three races at Donington, Nick Halstead also enjoyed his best race to date in this series as he brought home a maiden BTCC top-ten finish in race two – joining Chilton in making the most of a wise call of tyres ahead of the start.
Heading to Brands Hatch, Nick will aim to try and get three finishes from the weekend to gain additional knowledge and experience, with the British GT race winner high on confidence after his breakthrough points finish.
The only one of the EXCELR8 quartet still to score this season is Scot Ronan Pearson, although that would be very different had it not been for an unfortunate exclusion from race two at Donington.
There, the former MINI CHALLENGE racer stormed through the field to finish third on the road and grab a maiden podium in race two before his car failed the right height test. That left him at the back of the grid for race three, where he was unable to race forwards into the points having earlier shown top ten pace in race one before a trip through the gravel cost him places.
The positive for Ronan however was the strong pace shown across his debut weekend in touring cars, with points very much the target during the weekend ahead.
Tom Ingram, #1 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Two podium finishes out of three was a good start to my title defence and it means we’re well placed in the early season standings heading into round two. We didn’t have the ultimate pace at Donington but maximised the opportunities that came our way, and I know from last season that that is massively important in a championship as competitive as the BTCC.
“Brands Hatch is a circuit where the Hyundai has been strong in the past and we showed good pace at the season launch test, albeit in changeable conditions. Given how quick the opposition was during round one, we need to be on top of our game this weekend but I’ll be coming out fighting and am hunting that first win of the year.”
Tom Chilton, #3 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“The Donington Park win was just what I needed to start the season, and has given me a massive boost in confidence after a few difficult years. It was the reward for all the hard work that has gone in over the winter with my new car, and has given us a strong platform to build on in the meetings to come.
“Heading to Brands Hatch, the goal has to be to build on the results we scored in round one and at least maintain our position in the standings. The action is going to be fast and furious around the Indy circuit with the revised hybrid rules and the fact we have the option tyre back this season, but I’m confident we have the package to be right in the fight at the front.”
Ronan Pearson, #14 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“Donington Park was a really turbulent weekend for me with what happened in race two, but I’m putting all that behind me now and am really excited to get back in the car at Brands Hatch this weekend.
“The Indy circuit is notoriously tight and a good Saturday is going to be vital to set up the rest of the weekend. We have to stay relaxed and learn with every lap, and hopefully, that will result in three strong races and my first points on the board.
“With the racing coming thick and fast, a huge thank you has to be said to the team for their work during our short turnarounds between weekends and hopefully I can reward them with some good results.”
Nick Halstead, #22 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said:
“I’m really excited for the weekend ahead as the Brands Hatch rounds are always some of the biggest of the year with huge crowds. I’ve done loads of laps around the Indy circuit, but it will be a new challenge in the BTCC as everyone tries to find space in practice and qualifying. It’s going to be intense and I expect it to be a bit chaotic, so we need to try and have a solid day on Saturday and then push for three good results on Sunday.
“In the most difficult conditions at Donington, I was able to battle for my first points finish which gives me a lot of confidence in my driving ability, and the aim this weekend is to go out there and fight for the best results possible.”
Justina Williams, EXCELR8 Team Owner, said:
“We enjoyed a solid start to the season at Donington Park, and we head to Brands Hatch in a confident mood given the results we secured in round one. All four drivers showed their potential two weeks ago and I fully expect them to be right in the thick of the action again when we hit the track this weekend.
“There is a long way to go but it’s always positive to be leading the championship standings and the first goal is to retain our current advantage – and the best way to do that would be to try and come away from Brands Hatch with some more silverware to our name.”