Tom Ingram: I’d do the same again…
Tom Ingram rolled the dice in a bid for glory in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Croft last weekend (15/16 June), and whilst his bold tyre gamble narrowly failed to pay off, the Team Toyota GB with Ginsters star insists he would ‘do the same again’.
On a freshly-resurfaced track, Ingram worked methodically through his pre-planned programme during free practice in North Yorkshire, but a disjointed qualifying session – punctuated by a succession of red flag stoppages for incidents and rain showers – restricted him to a frustrated and unrepresentative 15th on the grid amongst the 30 high-calibre contenders in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
That left the Bucks-born ace with a mountain to climb on race day, and he began the first of the three ITV4 live-televised contests with 24kg of success ballast on-board and on the less favourable hard-compound tyres, making his task doubly difficult. Undeterred, an assertive start saw him gain four positions to 11th behind the wheel of the #80 Toyota Corolla.
The best-placed driver on the hard tyres, the result confirmed Ingram as the only competitor to have finished inside the points in each of the opening ten races of the campaign – testament to his commendable consistency in what is widely regarded as the world’s most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
Now free of ballast and back on the regular tyres, the reigning two-time BTCC Independents’ Champion pulled off a flurry of gritty overtakes to advance to seventh in race two, earning him third on the partially-reversed grid for the day’s finale. With his closest rival on the standard rubber all the way down in 14th, the stars were aligning – at least, until a heavy shower soaked the circuit and left teams in a quandary.
With the track drying out, Ingram took a gamble and bolted on slicks – the only driver inside the top 15 to do so – knowing that the initial laps would be all about establishing the grip level, tiptoeing around and remaining patient while waiting for the conditions to come to him. They eventually did, but too late, and it was only in the closing stages that he was able to begin scything back through the field from 23rd, eventually taking the chequered flag 16th, just 1.7 seconds shy of the points-paying positions.
Posting the race’s fastest lap on the final tour, all the 25-year-old could realistically do was prove his pace and prowess, and that he did with aplomb, circulating at times almost five seconds quicker than any of the other slick-shod drivers and thrilling fans along the way by repeatedly rescuing lurid sideways slides.
“Sometimes you have to take a chance, and I’ve received so many messages since the weekend from people saying they were impressed we had the guts to follow our instincts when nearly everybody else was playing safe,” said Ingram.
“I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of driving on slicks on a damp track, but we just couldn’t generate temperature in the tyres quickly enough and I had some proper big ‘moments’. Ultimately, we lost too much ground early on and by the time it turned our way, the damage was done – but it was a lot of fun.
“Since we’re not right up there in the title battle at the moment, we can take a few more risks and go properly doorhandle-to-doorhandle without fearing the consequences if it goes wrong – and that’s a nice position to be in. My move on Josh Cook (in race 2) was really enjoyable – just hanging on for dear life through the Jim Clark Esses at more than 130mph. That was mega!
“Realistically, we knew it was going to be very tough to beat the rear wheel-drive cars in a straight fight at Croft, so our strategy was for race three to be our big opportunity, with the majority of the field on the harder tyres. That plan was working to perfection, and then obviously it rained – but whilst our gamble didn’t pay off on this occasion, I would do exactly the same again…”