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Ingram and Speedworks’ breakthrough weekend

Speedworks Motorsport joined the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship winners’ club in style, after Tom Ingram raced to a commanding maiden victory in the 2016 curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch this past weekend.

The outfit was keen to build upon an impressive end to the 2015 campaign that had seen Ingram clinch the independent outfit’s breakthrough podium finish at Rockingham before adding to it with another in the Brands Hatch GP finale.

The talented young Bucks ace lapped fastest of all in opening practice after his crew had swiftly rectified a minor mechanical issue. Ingram topped the timesheets for the majority of the second session, too, producing a series of consistent laps in the #80 Toyota Avensis.

In qualifying, Ingram delivered on his practice promise, posting the best lap ever recorded by a touring car around Brands Hatch’s short 1.2-mile Indy layout to take his and Speedworks’ first BTCC pole position.

On a track still greasy and slippery in parts from overnight rain, Ingram made a super getaway when the starting lights went out in race one and managed an early safety car period after an incident further down the order. He then found himself under pressure from Honda duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal but Ingram didn’t put so much as a wheel out-of-place.

As he flashed across the finish line more than two seconds clear, Ingram was met by a rapturous reception from the Speedworks pit wall and the capacity crowd, who acknowledged an outstanding lights-to-flag performance and tremendously popular triumph.

Beginning the second outing from pole once again, the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion remained in front until a forceful overtaking attempt by Rob Collard resulted in contact that consigned his damaged Toyota to an early bath.

Following a rapid repair job by his Speedworks mechanics, Ingram scythed his way through from the back row of the grid in the finale. Repeatedly setting lap times faster than the leaders as he showcased both the Avensis’ raw pace and his ability to make a pass stick. He ultimately wound up half-a-second shy of sneaking into the points.

Nevertheless, that fleeting frustration could not take the gloss off a weekend to remember for the Northwich, Cheshire-based squad, which sits eighth out of 19 in the Teams’ standings and a challenging fourth in the Independents’ Team Trophy, with Ingram ninth in the overall Drivers’ classification and seventh in the Independents’ table.

“I still don’t think the magnitude of what we have achieved has sunk in yet,” reflected Speedworks Team Principal Christian Dick. “This has been our strongest start to a BTCC campaign by a country mile. We knew the Avensis was quick from pre-season testing, but you can never be sure exactly where you’re going to shake out in the pecking-order because we’re up against some very high-calibre opposition – including manufacturer teams with far greater resources than us.

“Tom was under pressure throughout race one, but he led flawlessly from the front like a seasoned pro and controlled it beautifully; he never gave Shedden a look-in, and he even had a little extra pace left in his pocket had he needed it. It was a superb drive.

“I’m immensely proud of the entire team; we’ve finally proved what I’ve been saying we are capable of for a long time, and this result means so much to us all. Everybody is hugely excited moving forwards, and the key will be to sustain this level of performance. We head to the next round with very little ballast and an extremely fast car, and we need to make sure we exploit that opportunity.”

“I was able to control the pace quite comfortably in race one,” said Ingram. “I felt like I had the legs on Gordon and could hold a half-second margin without too much trouble, and when I needed to push to open up a gap, I could do so.

“All the way around the last lap, I was listening for even the tiniest of vibrations, and when I saw the boys hanging over the pit wall as the chequered flag came out, I just screamed down the radio. Hearing the team’s reaction was such a special moment, because they have waited so long for this result and thoroughly deserve it for all the effort they put in both on and off the track.

“There’s no question that on paper, we shouldn’t be doing what we are doing. At the end of the day, Speedworks is only a small, family-run operation, but the awesome thing about the BTCC is that it gives teams like us the chance to shine and pull off some giant-killing exploits – and now David has beaten Goliath once, we want to do it again and again.”