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Excelr8 driver Pearson beats big guns in latest BTCC test at Croft

The 22-year-old Scot whisked his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N Fastback around the North Yorkshire circuit with a lap just 0.117 seconds slower than the 2023 pole time in the middle of the morning session.

That effort left him 0.072s clear of Jake Hill, last week’s Brands test-topper emerging second fastest this time at the wheel of his West Surrey Racing-run BMW 330e M Sport.

Although the soft tyre will not be used at this July’s Croft race weekend, Autosport understands that Pearson set his time on this compound of the Goodyear rubber.

Pearson, who is expected to be a leading contender in the title fight for the Jack Sears Trophy sub-division, has more to learn than Excelr8 team leaders Tom Ingram and Tom Chilton, who were the only two drivers the team took to its three-day private test at Anglesey last month.

“Our testing programme’s going really well,” said Pearson.

“Some say it’s about quality over quantity. We haven’t done a huge amount of laps at all times, but ultimately we’ve got from all three days that we’ve done so far exactly what we wanted to.

“The position [at Croft] looks pretty, but we actually achieved more than what we set out to.

“It’s not about looking at the leaderboard – it’s about what I gain out of the days confidence-wise, and what we’re doing to the car set-up.”

Ronan Pearson, Bristol Street Motors (Photo by: JEP)

Behind Hill, the sister WSR BMW of Colin Turkington was third quickest, despite an off exiting the chicane, followed by the Alliance Racing Ford Focus trio of Dan Cammish, reigning champion Ash Sutton, and Dan Rowbottom.

The afternoon session was wet, and was comfortably topped by Sutton to the tune of 0.251s over Rowbottom on a circuit where the Fords dominated in 2023.

Hill had an early-session incident at Sunny where he made light contact with the barrier, although he did return to the track a couple of hours later.

There was another red flag later on when Chris Smiley took a high-speed trip into the cornfield on the exit of the Jim Clark Esses in his Restart Racing Cupra, the team’s pair of cars sitting out most of the dry running with mechanical issues.

Another in mechanical woes was 2022 champion Ingram, who had two separate problems and did not record a time in the dry, although this was sorted in time for him to go fourth quickest in the wet.

Only Rob Huff tried a run on slick tyres towards the end of the afternoon session, after he, Josh Cook and Andrew Watson had made it a Speedworks Motorsport Toyota 8-9-10 in the morning behind seventh-placed Chilton.

Cook was sidelined by this point with a damaged radiator from an off.

Unlike at Brands, the Toyotas and BMWs ran at Croft with the turbo boost facility that will combine with hybrid to double the surge when used in 2024.

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