Pitbull Racing’s Simon Freeman recovered from an engine problem in qualifying to charge through to victory in the opening Michelin Clio Cup Series race at Brands Hatch.
Freeman, starting third after troubles in qualifying, seized second from Westbourne Motorsport’s Paul Bell on the inside line at Druids on the opening lap, before taking the lead on the inside of Clearways against Pearson a few corners later.
The two were inseparable over the next 19 laps of the 1.19-mile Indy circuit, the gap never rising about eight tenths of a second, but Freeman was able to pull out a small margin in the closing exchanges and duly took the chequered flag 1.5 seconds clear.
The result extends his championship lead to fourteen points ahead of Pearson, who moves into second overall courtesy of his second podium of the campaign.
“Ronan was really quick throughout the race. We had problems yesterday in qualifying and had an engine let go, so firstly I just want to say a massive ‘thank you’ to the team for staying up all night, we didn’t finish the change until 03:30am this morning.
“We all haven’t really slept so we were just so fired up to do it. The reliability today was great and from start to finish the race was fantastic.
“I’m just glad I can repay the team with a victory and we got fastest lap as well. You’ve just got to not buckle under the pressure and keep going forward. Ronan was there from start to finish and the last two or three laps we managed to pull a gap.”
Front-row starter Bell eventually came home third to add to his silverware collection for 2019, with Tony Verhulst and James Joannou a career-best fourth and fifth in the Race Series.
James Colburn retained his one-hundred percent record in the new-for-2019 Sport Series, fending off Tyler Lidsey to take the chequered flag by 2 seconds.
Team-mate and Renault UK Clio Cup regular Aaron Thompson had earlier taken the class lead on the outside of Paddock Hill Bend but dropped back late on and rounds out the podium in third.
Reigning Road Series champion Nic Harrison bounced back from a disappointing end to the Silverstone season-opener to record a comfortable win, a result that also puts him back in the points lead from Darren Geeraerts.
Geeraerts finished in the runner-up spot for the third successive contest, with pole-sitter Richard Colburn an unfortunate retiree at half-distance after pulling off with a mechanical problem.
The second race at Brands Hatch is scheduled to get underway at 14:15 BST.