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BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 readies for resumption of battle at Croft
The BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 team will continue its bid for a second successive Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship title when the 2023 season resumes this weekend at Croft. The Suffolk-based team finds itself firmly in contention for top honours heading into the second half of the campaign, with defending champion Tom Ingram sitting just six points away from the championship lead. BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 also holds a top-three placing in the Teams’ Championship, and is firmly in contention for the Manufacturers/Constructors crown. The team makes the trip to North Yorkshire buoyed by a productive day of running during the annual Goodyear Tyre Test earlier this month, where Ingram topped the times at the wheel of the #1 Hyundai. Although he has scored just one win so far in 2023, Ingram has been a model of consistency with nine podium finishes, whilst he is one of only two drivers to have scored points in every race so far.
Ingram is a past winner at Croft and finished on the podium last season, something he will hope to repeat this weekend as he seeks to maintain his title challenge. Tom Chilton also has a Croft win to his name having taken to the top step back in 2019, with that win being one of five podium finishes at the circuit. Chilton ended a four-year win drought with victory at Donington Park at the start of the season, although the most experienced driver on the grid has suffered his fair share of misfortune since then to sit eleventh in the points. Having also shown strong pace during the summer test, Chilton goes into the weekend in confident mood, with his goal being to try and fight for silverware to move back into the top ten in the standings. Ronan Pearson will be making his first appearance at Croft since 2021 as he resumes his Rookie season bidding to score his maiden top-ten finish – something he would have achieved on his first weekend in the series had it not been for an unfortunate exclusion at Donington Park.
The young Scot has shown encouraging pace so far in 2023, although that isn’t fully reflected in the five points finishes scored over the opening half of the year. Although he didn’t take part in the summer test, Pearson is optimistic about his chances at a circuit where the Hyundai is a proven race winner, with the youngster hoping for three solid results to maintain his Jack Sears Trophy challenge. Nick Halstead meanwhile returns to the scene of his BTCC debut, having made a one-off outing with EXCELR8 at the circuit back in 2021. The former British GT race winner kicked off his season with a stunning top-ten finish in the wet at Donington Park and will hope to benefit from his previous experience of racing the Hyundai at Croft to push towards the top 20 in all three races. For the second time this season, the four drivers will face the challenge of being forced to use all three compound of Goodyear tyre – weather permitting – with the soft, medium and hard tyre all being run in a single race. Races on Sunday are scheduled for 12:10, 14:35 and 17:00 and will air live on ITV4. Tom Ingram, #1 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “Croft is a circuit I enjoy, and one where we have gone well in the past so I feel in good shape. We had a productive test at the circuit before the season and with everything we were able to learn then, I think we make the trip in confident mood. “As a team we’ve been busy over the summer and the test at Donington Park proved to be particularly productive for us. Although it would have been nice to have the second day that we have had in the past, we were able to get a lot done including some things that were specifically geared towards this weekend. “Hopefully we can benefit from the work we carried out but the proof will be in the pudding. We just have to focus on starting the second half of the season strongly and give ourselves a platform to build on for the rest of the year.” Tom Chilton, #3 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “The summer test at Donington Park was hugely productive for us, with me topping the morning session and Tom being fastest in the afternoon, and it leaves me confident going into the second half of the year. “Croft is a circuit I enjoy, and it’s one where we went well during pre-season testing – beating the previous lap record. We need to take that with a pinch of salt as we’ve seen how much quicker things are this season, but it clearly shows we have a fast car there and I feel we’ll be strong. “Running the three different tyres if it is dry will mix things up a bit and having raced a rear-wheel car there in the past, I know they’ll be particularly strong on the soft tyre. However, I’m confident that we’ll have a good package on all three compounds, and can look to start the second half of the season on a high.” Ronan Pearson, #14 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “The test we did at Croft earlier in the year was the first time I’d driven the Hyundai, so it’s good to have that under my belt and it will be interesting to return and see how much progress I’ve made. “The first half of the season was very hectic so the summer break came at a good time to have some downtime, take stock and reflect on how things went over the opening five rounds. “Having done that, I’m eager to get back behind the wheel and want to kick off the second half of the year with a strong showing. I know that top ten finishes will come, but the focus this weekend is to score good points in the Jack Sears Trophy and challenge for the round win to continue my push for the title.” Nick Halstead, #22 BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 Fastback N, said: “With Croft being the only circuit where I’ve previously raced the Hyundai, albeit before the introduction of hybrid, I had something to compare things to when we tested there pre-season and the lap times were encouraging. “The tyre test was also really positive for me as we tried a few different things with the set-up of the car that worked in my favour, and I hope we are now able to benefit from it when we arrive at Croft. “The goal is to score some good points in the Jack Sears Trophy and also get closer to the middle pack overall. I’ve shown I have the pace to do that, but my starts have let me down a bit so far and I’ve not been able to benefit from it. It’s something I’ve been working on, and hopefully I can get off the line well in the three races and then fight with the pack.” Justina Williams, BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 Team Owner said: “We’ve been busy throughout the summer break looking back at how we performed during the first half of the year, and seeing where we can improve over the remainder of the season. “We’re in a strong position in the standings going to Croft on the back of the Donington Park test, and it was one of our strongest circuits last season – with two race wins and our first ever one-two finish. “Obviously the main goal is to try and repeat those kind of results this time around, and hopefully all four drivers can kick-start the second half of 2023 by putting some strong finishes on the board.”