PODIUM STAR INGRAM REFUSES TO LET PUNCTURE DEFLATE TITLE CHALLENGE
With less than a handful of laps left of race two at Silverstone, Tom Ingram looked set to secure his third win of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign – but whilst a late puncture cruelly snatched victory from his grasp, it did nothing to deflate his burgeoning title bid.
Ingram arrived at the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ in bullish mood off the back of a double triumph at Thruxton a week earlier and five wins from the last 12 races at Silverstone in the world’s most fiercely-disputed tin-top series – the best record at the circuit of any driver on the current BTCC grid.
On the pace from the outset once again, the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters star snatched P2 in the closing moments of qualifying, ensuring a front row starting spot for the second time in seven days amongst the 27 high-calibre protagonists.
In the full glare of the live ITV2 television cameras, Ingram did his utmost to unseat pole-sitter Dan Cammish from the lead in the early stages of race one, before finally prising the door open into Luffield on lap five – just before the safety car emerged to deal with an incident further down the order.
The top two flashed across the start/finish line literally side-by-side, with the Toyota Corolla on the inside for the next corner and a scant nine thousandths-of-a-second ahead – or so it initially appeared. Upon review by the timekeepers, the positions were reversed, leaving Ingram with the unenviable task of having to do it all over again.
With 48kg of success ballast in his car – 12kg more than Cammish – there was unfortunately no second chance, but as the pair pulled clear of the chasing pack, the Bucks-born ace shadowed his rival right the way to the chequered flag to cement his fifth podium of the season.
Despite the weight inside the Corolla increasing to 54kg for race two, Ingram produced a neat move at the end of the opening tour to seize the lead, and for the next 15 minutes, he artfully fended off a counter-attack from Cammish and a resurgent Colin Turkington, with the trio at times blanketed by barely half-a-second.
Handling the intense pressure in his stride, the two-time BTCC Independents’ Champion was firmly on-track to extend his winning run at Silverstone and close to within ten points of the championship lead when he picked up a puncture with less than five laps remaining that dropped him to the tail of the field – and worse was to come.
Fired-up to fight his way back into contention in the day’s finale, Ingram was moving forward when a coming-together between two other drivers pinched him into a spin and out of the race before the first lap had even been completed.
That failure to finish – allied to his race two misfortune – means the 27-year-old has slipped from third to fourth in the Drivers’ standings heading next to Croft in North Yorkshire in just under a fortnight’s time (10/11 October). Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters consolidated sixth spot in the Teams’ table.
“Silverstone has been kind to us in recent years,” reflected Team Principal Christian Dick. “Unfortunately it wasn’t quite so kind this time around. Race one could have been a win, race two should have been a win and then race three was simply one of those things that happens sometimes when you start down the order. Not for the first time this season, Tom was a completely innocent bystander caught up in somebody else’s accident – he was just plain unlucky. Ash Sutton – who started behind us and who we were quicker than all weekend – came through to finish on the podium, so that went to show what might have been.
“Everything unravelled somewhat after the puncture, but ultimately, Tom only actually conceded ten points to the championship leader, and having pulled 27 back over the course of a single weekend at Thruxton, we’ve shown it can be done. He made further inroads in race one at Silverstone, and just a few short laps from the end of race two, he was within touching-distance of the top of the table.
“Everyone has bad days in the BTCC and it’s always swings and roundabouts over the course of the campaign. There’s everything still to play for, and the momentum can change so quickly in this championship – it’s never over until it’s over.
“Of course it gets a little bit harder the closer we get to the end of the season and it’s clearly going to be a challenge, but we’ve got a fast car, a fast driver, a good team and the right mental attitude – giving up simply isn’t in our vocabulary. We need to claw back points, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
“Up until four laps from the end of race two, I honestly thought we would be coming away from Silverstone leading the championship,” added Ingram. “To be forced out almost within sight of the chequered flag and then get spun out of race three was a bitter pill to swallow, especially having worked so hard at Thruxton to recover lost ground.
“One major positive is that the car was clearly very quick again, which is tribute to the stellar effort put in by everybody at Speedworks, and we were up at the sharp end throughout. The Corolla felt brilliant all weekend – even better than last year at Silverstone – and qualifying and race one went really well.
“I got the call from Spencer, my engineer, over the radio in race one to tell me the safety car was coming out, so I decided to launch my attack when Dan [Cammish] would be least expecting it. I thought I’d got the job done, but unfortunately the timekeepers judged differently and I had to give the position back. After that, with the extra weight on-board I didn’t quite have the poke I needed to match Dan in a straight line, but second was still a great result. Whilst I obviously always want to win, I’ve got to remain mindful that we need points because points make prizes.
“We then came so close to keeping our Silverstone streak going in race two. I felt like I was nicely in control – not pushing, just driving within my limits – and when Colin [Turkington] got through into second, I felt even more confident because I knew he was unlikely to try anything. And then the tyre just let go, which proves once again that you can never take anything for granted in this championship.
“Our bad luck at Silverstone obviously makes things just that little bit more difficult now, but we will keep on fighting to the end. There’s still a long way to go, and we have three strong tracks for us coming up. We’ve finished on the podium at Croft before, we took the Corolla’s first pole position at Snetterton last year before following it up with a race win and Brands Indy was the scene of my maiden BTCC victory.
“Thruxton and Silverstone both demonstrated the huge progress we’ve made with this car over the past 12 months – and there’s no reason at all why we shouldn’t replicate that step forward at all of the remaining circuits.”