Ingram concludes season with crowd-pleasing charge at Brands Hatch
Lady Luck was not on Tom Ingram’s side in the final event of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, but the Team Toyota GB with Ginsters star refused to let the changeable conditions and ill-fortune hold him back as he scythed through the field for a top ten finish in the final race of the season.
Having arrived at the former Formula 1 circuit still harbouring the faintest of title hopes, Ingram’s chances were dealt an early blow when rain in qualifying wrong-footed the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad, leaving the 26-year-old in 17th spot on the grid.
In greasy conditions in race one the following day, Ingram immediately leapt up to 11th over the course of an assertive first lap and continued his charge as the heavens opened once more. On slick tyres, the two-time BTCC Independents’ champion had feistily fought his way through to fifth – a 12-place gain on his starting position – when a tag from behind sent him skating across the grass, with the contact leaving him with a puncture and wondering what might have been.
The track was still damp ahead of race two, but with a dry line beginning to emerge, Ingram – sitting back in 23rd on the grid – opted to bolt on slicks while the majority of the field plumped for wet-weather rubber. Inevitably struggling early on, he enjoyed a spirited duel with former Ginetta rival Jake Hill – the pair easily the class of the six slick-shod runners and swapping places on numerous occasions – en route to 21st at the chequered flag as the circuit finally dried out slightly too late.
That left Ingram with it all to do again in race three – the only fully dry contest all weekend. Into the top ten within just four laps behind the wheel of the #80 Toyota Corolla, he soon found himself sandwiched between title duellists Dan Cammish and Colin Turkington and having to manage a delicate balancing-act. Eventually clearing Cammish on lap 12, he went on to shadow champion-elect Turkington to the end, evincing scintillating raw pace on his way to an excellent seventh-place finish.
That cemented sixth spot for Ingram in the end-of-season Drivers’ standings in the UK’s premier motor racing series, as Team Toyota GB with Ginsters placed ninth in the 20-strong Teams’ table – and second amongst the nine single-car entrants.
“That was obviously a frustrating way to end what has otherwise been an overwhelmingly positive season,” said Team Principal Christian Dick. “We didn’t get qualifying right on Saturday – the grip level in the wet changed more than we had expected, which caught us out a bit, and it was something we didn’t have time to rectify during the confines of the 30-minute session. We knew from very early on that we were in trouble.
“Still, Tom has proven on multiple occasions in the past that he is more than capable of scything his way through the pack, and despite Brands Hatch not being the easiest place to make up ground, he drove the wheels off the Corolla in race one to go from 17th to fifth.
“From where we were starting in race two, we didn’t have a lot to lose in taking a punt on slicks. Not being in title contention this year, we could afford to take more risks and whilst the track did eventually begin drying up, it didn’t do so quickly enough. If it had paid off, it would have paid off handsomely, but it was ultimately just too little, too late and we were all left wondering, ‘what do we have to do to get a break?!’
“The Corolla worked really well again in race three and Tom was able to charge through the field. He was very respectful when he found himself caught between Colin [Turkington] and Dan [Cammish] because he didn’t want to interfere in their fight, but it was very satisfying to see him match the pace of the championship-winning driver and car throughout the race on equal terms – in fact, I’d say we were actually faster. That was a really strong performance.
“To finish 2019 with four wins for the new Corolla in its first season in the BTCC is great testament to the work put in by the entire Speedworks Motorsport crew, and now we will go away over the winter, analyse where we still need to improve and formulate a plan that allows us to come back next year with a title-challenging package right from the outset.”
“What happened in race one effectively shaped our weekend,” said Ingram. “Qualifying wasn’t remotely representative of our true pace – it’s still early days for the Corolla in the wet and we just got it wrong on this occasion – but we immediately came out swinging on Sunday and I genuinely think a win was there for the taking in that race.
“I was right behind [eventual winner] Cammish when I got fired off. The Corolla felt great in what were pretty sketchy conditions when the rain began to fall, but I love the challenge that presents and was really confident and fired-up.
“We decided to take a gamble in race two with a ‘no guts, no glory’ approach. In situations like that, when the extra grip starts to appear it normally does so very quickly, but the track just came to us too late. Still, from 23rd on the grid, it was definitely worth the risk.
“I was aiming for the top ten in race three, and obviously we managed a little bit more than that. I was in full-on ‘attack mode’ and it was fun fighting my way through. It wasn’t long before I found myself right in the middle of the championship battle, which was a fine line to tread because whilst I didn’t want to get too caught up in their scrap, at the same time I’ve got a job to do for my own team and sponsors.
“Seventh position from well down the grid was a good way to end what has been such a positive first season with the Toyota Corolla – one upon which we can look back with plenty of pride. We’ve worked extremely hard throughout the year to make the car as strong as it now is, and to achieve four victories and still be in mathematical contention going into the final weekend was way more than we could have expected. Most exciting of all is that the Corolla is only going to get better from here, so if we can hit the ground running in round one in 2020, the sky is the limit!”