Ingram vows to come back even stronger in 2024
Tom Ingram (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8) ‘gave it everything and a little bit more’ in his valiant attempt to retain his British Touring Car Championship crown at Brands Hatch (7/8 October). Although the mountain ultimately proved too hard to climb, the Buckinghamshire-born ace has vowed to come back stronger in 2024.
The BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8 star put his Hyundai i30N third on the grid in qualifying amongst the 27 high-calibre contenders – and under sunny autumnal skies the next day, he went immediately on the offensive.
After relieving Rory Butcher (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK) from second with a committed pass up the inside into Druids on the opening lap, he served notice of his intent by lunging Ash Sutton (NAPA Racing UK) into Surtees two corners later.
Although the move did not quite come off, Ingram continued to pressurise his rival. The pair’s intense pace drew them comfortably clear of the chasing pack, as the leading two competitors put on a superb show for the huge trackside crowd.
A late-race safety car intervention offered Ingram a sniff of hope, but Sutton was wise to his attack and held on to reclaim the title.
Following the race, Sutton said Ingram was a ‘true champion’ and praised the racing respect between the pair.
Ingram shadowed Sutton all the way to the chequered flag once again in race two – notching up his 79th podium finish in the BTCC – before working his way up the order from eighth on the partially-reversed grid in the day’s finale.
The 30-year-old pulled off a late dive on Dan Rowbottom (NAPA Racing UK) into Paddock Hill Bend with three laps to go to snatch fourth place, his brake discs glowing bright red in evidence of just how hard he was pushing.
The result marked his 22nd top five finish from 30 starts in 2023 – testament to Ingram’s consistency – and contributed to his highest-ever points total in the championship.
Ingram said: “We gave it everything we had and a little bit more besides, and I think we can hold our heads high. I love Brands GP – obviously it’s a circuit that has great memories for me from last year – and I felt very relaxed going into the weekend. It was a very different scenario to 12 months earlier – back then, the title had been ours to grab, whereas this time, we knew we needed a bit of luck and a bit of chaos that was out of our control.
“Qualifying on the ‘GP’ layout is always fun because the car really feels alive and you’re hanging it right on the edge out the back of the lap, but we didn’t get the Hyundai completely in the ‘sweet spot’. It felt pretty good, but not quite what we were after, which summarised our season, to be fair – not bad, but not quite good enough.
“The plan for race day was maximum attack. I knew Ash [Sutton] was going to be fairly risk-averse in the first one, whereas I needed to score as many points as possible. We put up a fight and I pushed him as hard as I could. I looked after my tyres and saved some hybrid which enabled us to come back at him over the second half, and I thought we might have a shot at the end.
“Ultimately, it wasn’t quite enough, but we threw everything we had at it – I honestly don’t believe I could have asked any more of either myself or the team. Ash has been phenomenal this year – I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like it before in the BTCC – and the nice thing is that we have a huge amount of respect for each other both on and off-track.
“Overall, races one and two at Brands Hatch reflected the story of our season. Considering how dominant NAPA Racing UK have been, though, to have stayed in the mix every single weekend and clung onto his coat-tails, I think we can be very pleased with our performance.”