Former Cooper champion Matt Hammond will make a long-awaited move into the JCW class of the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE after securing a late deal with EXCELR8.

Hammond will join the grid at the wheel of the car that carried Ronan Pearson to multiple wins during the 2022 campaign as he finally gets the chance to graduate into the premier class – having won the Cooper title back in 2017.

Since then, Hammond has worked hard to try and make his dream come true, spending a number of years on the sidelines before returning to the Cooper grid in both 2021 and 2022 – securing multiple wins and second in the standings.

After another season away from the track in 2023, Hammond will now return to action with his JCW debut this weekend at Donington Park ahead of a full-season assault on the series.

I’ve wanted to race in the JCWs since the cars were first introduced but I’ve never managed to make it onto the grid,” he said, “so to now be preparing for my debut is a dream come true. 

“Everything has come together very quickly at the last minute, and I have to thank EXCELR8 for the support they have shown me through the years, as well as Derby University who I’ll be working with this season both in the MINI CHALLENGE and elsewhere.

“Because the deal has been done so late, I haven’t really had chance to think about any goals or targets, and realistically, the opening round is going to be all about building confidence in the car as racing the JCW is going to be a lot different to the Cooper and I’ve only had limited time in the car this year.

“I’m just pleased to be on the grid, but I’m certainly not planning to make up the numbers, and I want to move forwards through the season to challenge at the front.”