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Ingram's Hyundai pips Sutton in Brands Hatch BTCC test

Reigning British Touring Car champion Tom Ingram emerged top of the pile from the series’ curtain-raising ‘media day’ test session at Brands Hatch.

Tom Ingram, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8

Ingram whisked his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N Fastback around the Indy Circuit 0.048 seconds quicker than the Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST of the man he replaced as BTCC champion, Ash Sutton.

The day was marred by rain and high winds. A heavy shower shortly after the start of the morning session was at least followed by a period of sunshine during which the track dried out, allowing some representative times to be set.

There was more rain during the lunchbreak, after which the circuit briefly got to almost-dry status before the wet weather returned again, and few drivers ventured out from mid-afternoon onwards.

Ingram’s time came towards the end of the morning session and was something of a one-off; six of Sutton’s laps were quicker than Ingram’s second best, and the 2017, 2020 and 2021 champion led the way on theoretical best laps across the two sectors.

“Our pre-season testing has been like this every single day we’ve done – it’s been hard to get a good amount of running,” Ingram told Autosport.

“This is not fully representative of our season-opening pace and, given the trucks [from the British Truck Racing Championship] were here last weekend, I don’t think the circuit was in the best condition.

“We were quickest, but I think it’s more circumstantial of when we did it – we did a new-tyre run right at the end, more if anything as a sanity check to make sure we were OK.”

Sutton said: “We were literally just drying the track out – as soon it started to dry, we put a set of tyres on and did something useful, but at the end of the day it’s completely irrelevant.”

Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK

Ashley Sutton, NAPA Racing UK

Photo by: BTCC

Dan Rowbottom, on the circuit where he recorded his maiden BTCC pole in 2021, was a strong third fastest as he gears up for his first season in the Motorbase Ford camp, while a late improvement hoisted the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla of Rory Butcher – now using the bespoke Toyota engine developed during the winter – up to fourth.

Dan Cammish made it three of the Motorbase Fords in the top five, and four-time champion Colin Turkington completed the morning session sixth in his West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport.

Turkington’s time was beaten in the afternoon by the sister BMW of Jake Hill, who was half a second clear of the rest of those who got in some running during the dryish period and ended up sixth on the day.

Eighth in the times went to the ex-Rowbottom Honda Civic Type R of One Motorsport’s Josh Cook – the Brackley squad only finished prepping the machines that have just moved over from Team Dynamics at 4am on Tuesday in time for a brief shakedown before heading to Brands.

The top 10 overall was completed by WSR BMW newcomer Adam Morgan and his former team-mate George Gamble, who is settling into life at the Speedworks Toyota squad.

Just outside the top 10, the battle of the BTCC rookies was headed by Andrew Watson (Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra) by just 0.012s from Ronan Pearson (Hyundai).

One driver in trouble was Stephen Jelley – he crashed his WSR BMW at Druids before it dried out in the morning, but returned to the track in the afternoon when it was wet.

Team Hard’s six-strong squad of Cupra Leons did not venture out in the morning due to what the team described as ‘waiting for our new hybrid installs to be commissioned by Cosworth’, although Jack Butel, Dexter Patterson and (briefly) Dan Lloyd got out on track for some soggy laps in the afternoon rain.

Stephen Jelley's crash at Brands Hatch

Stephen Jelley's crash at Brands Hatch

Photo by: Steve Hindle

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