Ingram: ‘we need to come back fully on-song’
Speedworks Motorsport tallied another points-scoring hat-trick at Snetterton, with Tom Ingram making the best of an off-colour weekend to close in on the top of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title standings.
Ingram comfortably set the pace back in June at the tyre test, breaking the lap record in the process. Speedworks headed back to the Norfolk circuit in confident mood but right from the outset, the independent outfit struggled to unlock the same kind of form from the #80 Toyota Avensis.
Qualifying fourth, the 22-year-old cemented his spot as the season’s best average qualifier to-date, having missed the top five just once in six attempts.
Ingram found himself shuffled back to sixth with 33kg of ballast on board as the pack jostled for ground on the opening lap of race one. Thereafter, he had his mirrors full of two-time champion Jason Plato’s Subaru Levorg.
The Speedworks man conceded the spot on the penultimate lap, but he staved off then championship leader Sam Tordoff to the chequered flag and a late puncture for Ashley Sutton secured him his eighth top sixth finish of the campaign. The fact that he was only able to set the 15th-quickest lap time underlined how hard he’d had to fight for it.
A rapid getaway in race two saw Ingram settle into the top five with a gap back to the chasing pack, but a multi-car shunt further down the order brought out the red flags. On the restart, Ingram initially lost out, but regained seventh place and was pushing Matt Neal for sixth when a squabble directly ahead delayed him and dropped him once more behind nemesis Plato. He ultimately crossed the finish line seventh to secure more valuable points and a front row grid slot for the finale.
In race three, Ingram was removed from podium contention with contact sending his Avensis bouncing across the grass and down to 14th recovering to 12th at the flag, in so doing continuing to close in on the overall championship lead and maintaining his title bid in the Independents’ Trophy. Speedworks, meanwhile, advanced from seventh to sixth in the Teams’ classification and consolidated second place in the Independent Teams’ Trophy.
“We felt really positive about our prospects going to Snetterton after the tyre test, but right from the outset, the car just didn’t feel the same and we’re not sure why,” echoed Ingram, who will travel to Knockhill sitting seventh in the Drivers’ standings and second in the Independents’ Trophy. “The Avensis had been awesome during the test, but straightaway in FP1, it was like a totally different animal and we hadn’t changed a thing. The cooler conditions probably played a small part, but I don’t think that fully explained our loss of pace so there was a fair bit of head-scratching going on.
“That was then compounded by my error in qualifying, which cost us a shot at pole but fourth was far from a bad place to start in the circumstances – it put us ahead of most of the guys directly around us in the championship, while the three drivers in front of us were all carrying less ballast. We were hopeful of being able to push for the podium from there – but unfortunately, that never really happened.
“Midway through lap two in the first race, I picked up a huge vibration through the steering and we were effectively fighting a losing battle from that point on. I held Jason at bay for as long as I could, but he’s a wily old fox and I could see he was getting increasingly feisty so in the end I decided to let him go rather than risk an accident – and with Sutton suffering a puncture, we didn’t actually lose a position.
“I got a really good start in race two that was undone by the red flag, and having taken a lot out of the clutch first time round, I knew the second one would be somewhat compromised – and sadly, I was proved right. It turned pretty messy in the early laps, and after getting stuck behind Plato, we didn’t really have the speed to properly attack him. Following some changes, the car felt better in race three and I made another cracking start before the red flag – but at the re-start, exactly the same happened as in race two.
“Overall, it was a pretty below-par weekend by our recent standards, but in this game, the key is to make the most of those weekends so to come out of it having taken three points finishes and actually closed on the championship lead wasn’t too shabby. Saying that, it was the first time all season that we’ve not really had podium-challenging pace, so we have plenty to go through between now and Knockhill to try to get to the bottom of it and ensure we come back fully on-song – and that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Tickets are still available for Knockhill circuit (13/14 August), the BTCC’s only venture north of the border. Prices start at just £37 for adult weekend tickets with discounts available for family bookings with children under 12 able to enter free of charge. For more information and to order tickets head to knockhill.co.uk or call 01383 723337.