BRISTOL STREET MOTORS WITH EXCELR8 TRADEPRICECARS.COM MAINTAINS POINTS LEAD AT BRANDS HATCH
Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 TradePriceCars.com was able to maintain its place at the head of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship on what proved to be a challenging, mixed-weather weekend on track at Brands Hatch last weekend (14/15 May).
Things started well for the Suffolk-based team, with points leader Tom Ingram topping the times in the opening practice session of the weekend despite not being able to use hybrid power due to his championship position.
Come qualifying, Ingram would secure sixth in a closely-fought session that saw over half of the grid dip below the previous lap record, with team-mates Tom Chilton in 12th and Dan Lloyd in 16th. Jack Butel meanwhile would line up in 27th, with his focus on trying to make up ground when the race action kicked off.
Rain in the preceding support series race provided a fresh challenge for the quartet going into the opening race of the weekend, with all four competing in the wet with hybrid power for the first time.
In tricky conditions on a drying track, Ingram fought his way through the field with a number of impressive overtakes as he climbed to third. When Jake Hill then had a moment at Paddock Hill Bend, Ingram took full advantage to grab second place and add another podium to his total.
From twelfth on the grid, Chilton was in the heart of the action in the midfield and ran tenth in the early stages. Part of a four-car battle for position throughout, he would start the weekend with a 13th place finish with Lloyd two spots behind having recovered well after running wide through the gravel at Clearways.
Butel also made good progress as he showed impressive speed to come through to 19th place, setting a fastest lap comparable with the top six.
With the rain continuing for race two, Ingram lined up second on the grid but was shuffled back to fifth in the early laps, where he would remain right through to the chequered flag.
Lloyd’s recovery from the opening lap incident in race one continued with a battling drive through to eighth place – the highlight being a three-way fight with the BMWs of Colin Turkington and George Gamble in the closing stages – whilst Chilton would take the flag in twelfth spot.
Butel would repeat his result from race one to cross the line in 19th having lost ground avoiding an incident at the start, with the reverse grid draw for race three seeing Chilton drawn onto pole position.
Chilton held position at the start of the final race before the safety car was called out to recover the Honda of Jason Plato from the gravel.
On the restart, he would stay out front before falling prey to some of the quicker cars behind, with his hopes of bringing home a top-six finish ended when he was forced to pit. A spin into the gravel at Clearways would then see his weekend end with an unfortunate DNF.
From eighth on the grid, Ingram battled his way through to fourth place at the finish to retain his strong start to the campaign, with Lloyd adding another top ten finish to his tally with ninth spot. Butel meanwhile would once again take the flag in 19th having raced hard in the midfield.
At the end of the weekend, Ingram continues to lead the overall championship standings, with Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 TradePriceCars.com on top of the Teams’ Championship and EXCELR8 Motorsport heading the Manufacturers’/Constructors’ points.
“It’s always close round here and it was bonkers that a tenth of a second would have seen me up in the top six in qualifying,” said Chilton. “It’s been a tricky weekend though, and I struggled a bit for pace which is something we’ll look at before Thruxton.
“We managed to bag points in the opening two races and it’s frustrating that we ended the weekend in the gravel when I’d started on pole, but unfortunately I was just struggling for grip after the early laps and then contact damaged the front left.
“A little rub on the next lap was enough for the tyre to let go and I think it was just a cold tyre that then caught me out at Clearways when I went back out – and there was no saving it in those conditions. Roll on Thruxton, where I’ll be fighting hard to bounce back.”
“All in all we’ve had a solid day,” proclaimed Ingram. “To come away from race one with a podium was a bit of a surprise after qualifying, but the conditions worked in our favour a bit. It was changing all the time which made it difficult, but we were able to stay out of trouble and have bagged more solid points.
“At this stage of the season, that is the real focus rather than worrying about where we are in the championship, although it’s nice to be going away from here still leading the standings. We’ve also now got some experience behind us when it comes to running the hybrid in wet conditions as – amazingly – all of our pre-season running was in the dry.
“It’s good that we’ve been able to tick that box, and we can leave Brands Hatch with our heads held high.”
“After Donington Park, I would have bitten your hand off for three 19th-place finishes, although I do feel mixed emotions a bit,” admitted Butel. “Qualifying was difficult and it left me with work to do in the races, and I don’t feel our pace is reflected in the end results.
“The positive is that we have had good pace in all three races but, unfortunately, we just haven’t been in the position to really benefit from it. I hope we can go well at Thruxton, where I won the Jack Sears Trophy last season, and push for the kind of results that I feel we deserve.”
“Brands Hatch has thrown a lot at us this weekend and it’s been a challenging one,” concluded Lloyd. “We went a certain way with the set-up coming into it but we could see in practice it was the wrong call, and we made changes for qualifying only to lose the hybrid, which cost me time.
“After the issue at the start of race one, it was all about recovering as best we could and we came through the pack well to score points in all three races and grab another pair of top ten finishes.
“Although there is a bit of frustration that we weren’t able to score the results I know we could have done, the pace is in the car and it won’t take much for us to be right up there fighting in the top five in the events to come.”