Ingram and Speedworks go fourth as they set sights on BTCC silverware
Speedworks Motorsport has re-signed Tom Ingram for a fourth consecutive Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign in 2017, with the plucky Independent outfit and its highly-rated young charge both bullish about their prospects in the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
Having broken through with their maiden podium finishes in 2015, Ingram and Speedworks took another step forward last year by coming out-of-the-blocks in dazzling form to win the first race of the season as the talented Bucks ace converted pole position into both his and the Northwich, Cheshire-based squad’s maiden BTCC victory.
That was bolstered by a second success at Silverstone later on in the campaign, in addition to ten further top six finishes – four of them on the rostrum. Those results secured KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member Ingram tenth spot amongst the 35 high-calibre protagonists in the final Drivers’ standings and fourth in the Independents’ Trophy, with Speedworks snaring seventh in the Teams’ table and third-best Independent entry, marking an improvement in every area at the end of a season that was widely regarded as one of the toughest in living memory.
Indeed, only head gasket failure in the penultimate outing at Silverstone ruled Ingram out of overall title contention entering the Brands Hatch GP finale, and in evidence of his outstanding raw speed, the 23-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star wound up as the fastest average qualifier in the field in 2016, annexing a brace of pole positions and two further front row starts behind the wheel of the #80 Toyota Avensis as he missed the top ten just once.
Following the mantra that if it ain’t broke, there is no reason to fix it, Speedworks Team Principal Christian Dick is in optimistic mood as he outlines his objectives for the forthcoming campaign.
“Last year was beyond doubt our best yet in the BTCC by a country mile,” he reflected. “Winning our first race was a massively significant milestone, and to then back that promise up by fighting towards the sharp end season-long represented a huge step forward. That said, it was far from perfect and there are many aspects that we have focussed on refining over the winter to enhance our performance for 2017 because the championship never stands still.
“Keeping Tom on-board is a major coup. He was unquestionably one of the BTCC’s standout stars last year and with a competitive car underneath him, he consummately proved his potential with both his pace and racecraft, all underpinned by a mature and intelligent approach that belies his age. He is at the forefront of the series’ next generation and a champion of the future, I am sure.
“There are clearly areas in which both we as a team and he as a driver still need to improve, but we have been working tirelessly on all fronts since last season ended and I think the benefits of that effort and remaining together for a fourth year will shine through when we hit the track. There has been a raft of updates to the Avensis that we are all very excited about, and we believe we can be genuine contenders for the Independents’ crown in 2017. Brands Hatch cannot come round soon enough!”
“It was a very easy decision to stay with Speedworks,” concurred three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion Ingram. “In a championship as ultra-competitive and unpredictable as the BTCC, the importance of continuity can never be overstated.
“We made tremendous progress last season, and to win our first race together in the very first round was an incredible achievement. Our qualifying pace was superb and our race pace was equally strong. Quite frankly, I don’t see anybody else in our position and with our level of resources doing a better job out there.
“Last year was both mine and Speedworks’ first experience of competing regularly up at the front in the BTCC; yes, I’ve won races and championships in lower categories and Christian has done likewise in other series as a team owner, but the BTCC is a whole different ballgame and that meant there was a lot of learning to be done in the full glare of 20 million people!
“It’s vital in the BTCC to make hay on the good days and make the most of the bad days – but last year, our bad days were very, very bad. In races two and three at Brands Hatch Indy, Donington Park and Thruxton early in the season, we scored a grand total of two points and then Rockingham was quite literally a pointless weekend.
“In nine of the 30 races, we didn’t score at all and in two more we picked up just a single point. If we’d been more consistent and averaged just eighth place in each of those races, we’d have won the championship – I think that’s a measure of how much potential there is inside this team, which is hugely exciting heading into 2017.
“The benefit of all the experience we have gained will galvanise us and we now have a much stronger package all-round and a completely different mindset and approach. Having broken our duck, that box has been ticked and we can focus on the bigger picture. We have proved we deserve to be here and will go into the new season with a lot more confidence – whereas last year we were simply hoping to be in the mix, this year we will be aiming to win.
“The key will be to finish races, stay out of trouble and keep scoring points – and ultimately, I want to be going to Brands Hatch in October in with a shot at the overall title.”