EXCELR8 WITH TRADEPRICECARS.COM READY FOR THRUXTON THRILLS
EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com is hoping to impress this weekend (8/9 May) as the squad hits the track for the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship’s season-opening event at Thruxton.
The Suffolk-based team heads for the fastest circuit on the calendar for what promises to be a big weekend in its short history in the series, with this marking the first outing for the team since doubling in size to a four-car programme over the winter.
Confidence is particularly high on the Ginsters EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com side of the garage, with both Tom Ingram and Chris Smiley looking to put a big haul of points on the board to kick off their respective championship challenges.
Ingram will be making his race debut at the wheel of the #80 Ginsters EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com Hyundai i30 N Fastback after signing with the team for what will be his eighth season in the series.
A double winner at Thruxton last year, Ingram will hope to challenge for silverware again this time around, with expectations high about a strong start to the year.
Northern Irish racer Smiley heads into the opening weekend having also shown solid pace during the only official test of the off-season at Silverstone, where he posted the 13th best time despite not chasing an outright fast time.
With a year of experience at the wheel of the Hyundai under his belt, Smiley will be aiming to improve on his previous Thruxton best of ninth place, with his ultimate goal to try and kick off his campaign with a trip to the podium.
The remaining two cars will be entered under the EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com name, with Jack Butel and Rick Parfitt both making their debuts with the team during this weekend’s trio of races.
Butel embarks on his second season in the series having made his BTCC debut last year, with Thruxton proving to be one of his strongest weekends as he picked up three top 20 finishes.
The Jerseyman has enjoyed a productive pre-season programme as he gets used to the Hyundai and will hope to challenge for points from the outset as he chases a strong start to his challenge for the Jack Sears Trophy; the award only open to drivers who haven’t scored an overall podium in the series.
For Parfitt, Thruxton will provide an additional challenge as he makes the switch into touring cars for the first time, with his career to this stage having been focused on GT competition.
Not only will this weekend be the first time that the 46-year-old has raced a front-wheel drive car, it will also be the first time he has ever competed at Thruxton; resulting in his main focus for the weekend – staying out of trouble and gaining as much knowledge as possible – given that the Hampshire circuit will play host to a second BTCC race meeting later in the year.
All three races this weekend will benefit from live coverage on ITV4 from 1050 on Sunday, with Saturday’s qualifying session being streamed live on itv.com/btcc from 1435.
“I’m feeling really good going into the opening weekend,” said Smiley. “We’ve been able to learn a lot during pre-season testing; particularly in the final three days of running. It’s been good working with Tom as we have similar driving styles, and we have been able to try out a lot of different things to improve the car from where it was last year.
“I think it’s wide open this season, and there are going to be a lot of people aiming for the top ten this weekend. A lot of it will come to down to who can get a lap in during qualifying, but we know we have a good car. The target is to maximise what we have, push to get into that top ten and see how far up we can get.”
“Having been able to spend a few days in the car in pre-season testing, I have a newfound respect for BTCC drivers because there is a real knack to driving these cars,” reflected Parfitt. “You can’t just jump in and be quick.
“Thruxton is going to be a tough place for me to start because I’ve never driven there before, so I’m taking a massive step into the unknown and have no expectations in terms of results. I’m very much in the learning phase and whilst I’m not used to being at the back of the field, if that is where I am, then the only way for me to go is forwards.”
“Throughout pre-season testing, we have been able to make big steps forward with the car and the shape of the Hyundai is well suited to the high-speed nature of the Thruxton layout, which leaves me feeling quietly confident about what we can achieve,” admitted Ingram. “Of course there is an element of the unknown because we can’t test there before the weekend, but everyone else is in the same boat and I feel we are as prepared as we can be.
“I’m really excited about making my debut for the team and I want to be right up there fighting for pole and a win, as I have a good record around Thruxton in the past. However, it’s a long season and it’s important for the bigger picture to stay out of trouble and make sure we put as many points on the board as possible.”
“Thruxton is the closest thing to a home circuit for me, and I’m excited about going there to get the new season underway,” added Butel. “Like everyone else, we haven’t been there to test the car so it will be interesting when we hit the track for the first practice session, but I’m going into it feeling confident.
“I’m looking forward to seeing where we stand in terms of pace when we get to round one and I’m hoping to work my way forwards across the weekend to try and get up towards the points, which is something I feel is certainly possible.”