Ingram charges back into championship lead
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship celebrated its 60th anniversary in style this past weekend at Snetterton, and Tom Ingram marked the milestone with a stunning charge from the back of the grid to a podium finish, seeing him return to the summit of the Drivers’ standings.
The Speedworks Motorsport racer travelled to Snetterton sitting second in the chase for the crown, 19 points adrift of two-time champion Colin Turkington, but he found himself on the back foot after an electrical issue curtailed his running early on in the first free practice session.
Undeterred, Ingram hauled his Toyota Avensis, laden with 66 kilograms of success ballast, to fifth on the grid for race one. Saturday’s sunny skies gave way on Sunday, however, as the heavens opened.
Ingram went on the attack from the start. Despite grappling with a lack of power steering, he held station and while on-course to outscore Turkington by ten points, alternator failure forced him into retirement on lap three.
With a short turnaround in which to rectify the issue before race two, the Speedworks crew had to knuckle down and from 27th on the grid – on a still-greasy track surface – Ingram made incredible progress to complete the first lap in 12th. The incumbent BTCC Independents’ Champion was up to sixth when the safety car emerged with just two laps remaining.
Ingram made further progress, snatching fifth from Sam Tordoff and fourth from Chris Smiley before hunting down Dan Cammish, 1.5 seconds up the road in third. He narrowed the gap and was right on Cammish’s tail by the last corner, darting out of the slipstream to steal the final podium spot by a scant four hundredths-of-a-second at the chequered flag – 24 positions gained over the race distance and the fastest lap.
Ingram made ample use of the Diamond Double’s double points-score with third on the grid, opting to play the long game, ensuring he tallied.
This converted his 19-point deficit in the Drivers’ classification into a six-point lead heading on to Rockingham. He has also extended his advantage in the Independents’ Trophy, as Speedworks consolidated the top spot in the Independent Teams’ table and sixth position overall.
“It was very special to be part of the BTCC’s Diamond Jubilee weekend,” said Ingram. “It has been my life ever since I was a small kid, and to now be competing in it is a dream come true for me. The BTCC boasts such an illustrious history over the past six decades with so many great drivers having raced in the series, and it just keeps on going from strength-to-strength.
“I think we did a good job with the weight in qualifying, and the second session proved that the Avensis works really well both with and without ballast. With the championship situation as tight as it is, we were well aware of the importance of staying out of trouble in the races, and the slippery conditions made it even harder as whilst we knew we couldn’t afford to take risks, at the same time, we needed points.
“That being the case, it was obviously a huge frustration to score none at all in race one, and that left us massively pumped-up for race two. We had so many supportive messages come flooding in after the DNF, which really gave us that extra motivation to fight back. My aspirations were to try to break into the points, but I honestly never expected to get all the way up to third. It just goes to show how quickly things can turn around in this championship.
“The double points scenario in the final race then represented a golden opportunity to net a big haul. The three of us at the front were each quicker in different areas, which resulted in very similar lap times. We were all glued to each other’s bumpers and the advantage ebbed-and-flowed throughout, but I was very happy with third and to leave Snetterton with the championship lead – particularly after what happened in race one – was fantastic. Now we need to keep this momentum going over the remaining four weekends.”
“Every team has clearly been working hard over the summer break, and for us, the effort back at base to prepare for the second half of the season has been relentless,” added the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit’s Team Principal, Christian Dick. “It really has been non-stop for all the boys, so to come away from Snetterton with two more podium finishes and the championship lead is tremendously rewarding for everybody involved.
“We worked our way through a lot of potential set-up permutations during the pre-event test, with a particular focus on the longer-distance race and that paid off as the pace of the Avensis was mega all weekend – and in all conditions. To qualify fifth with 66kg on-board I think opened a lot of people’s eyes and with a short window of peak performance for the tyres, Tom knew he only really had one shot to set a good time in Q2 and he delivered there as well.
“After that, the alternator issue in race one threatened to really derail our challenge. We picked up a low-voltage warning on the way to the grid, but with no chance to carry out a proper fix, all we could do was keep everything crossed and hope we would somehow get through. Deep down, though, we knew we were on borrowed time and our hearts sank when we saw Tom pull off the track as he was sitting pretty inside the top five.
“What’s worse when you find yourself in that position, is that you know you face the risk of losing even more points starting so far back in race two – particularly on a still-damp track with everybody on slick tyres. That only added to the danger element, so for Tom to turn the situation around in the way he did was quite remarkable. Yes, we needed a little bit of luck towards the end with the safety car closing the field right up, but even so, that was one hell of a drive!
“He then went on to apply the pressure and keep the two cars ahead honest throughout race three, deciding towards the end to settle for the points for third as we knew that was more than enough to take the championship lead. It was a really mature, sensible drive and leaves us feeling very confident now heading to Rockingham. It’s a circuit at which we’ve traditionally gone well, and whilst we’ve not carried maximum ballast there before, our tails are up and we’re ready for the fight!”