- Popular Cheshire-based outfit adds another rostrum to its record
- BRDC Rising Star Ingram rewarded for mature drive at Donington
- Team targets greater consistency ahead of resumption of battle
Having waited 132 races to tally its breakthrough podium finish in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the trophies are now coming thick-and-fast for Speedworks Motorsport, with Tom Ingram producing a superb performance to reach the rostrum once again at Donington Park.
After piloting Speedworks’ Toyota Avensis to the team’s maiden BTCC triumph a fortnight earlier in the 2016 curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch, Ingram was immediately back in the hunt at Donington. In what is commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series, he lapped third-quickest amongst the 31 high-calibre contenders during free practice – despite running on tyres that were far from fresh off the shelf.
The qualifying session then oscillated wildly between sunshine and rain, hail and even a mild snowstorm, but the talented young Bucks ace artfully mastered the inclement conditions and looked primed to clinch his second consecutive pole position when the red flags appeared as he was approaching the end of his ‘flyer’.
That left him to begin the weekend’s first race from fifth on the grid, with 15kg of success ballast aboard his Avensis from Brands Hatch. Advancing to fourth on the opening lap, Ingram swiftly settled into a five-way scrap over the runner-up spot, and just beyond half-distance, he scythed incisively past pole-sitter Ashley Sutton to snatch third place entering Redgate Corner.
Thereafter, the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star was the fastest driver in the field as he rapidly reeled in Josh Cook ahead, and he was poised to pounce when the race was prematurely curtailed due to an accident and a car fire. The result nonetheless represented both Speedworks and Ingram’s fourth BTCC podium from the last five meetings – a sure sign that the plucky Independent outfit and its highly-rated driver are firmly in the ascendancy in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised series.
Carrying 57kg ballast in race two, Ingram was prepared for a tougher task but an excellent start vaulted him immediately up to second. Initially hassling race one winner Mat Jackson as he vied for the lead, following a brace of safety car interventions, the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion found himself dragged into a dogfight.
After running three-wide through several corners with Jack Goff and Árón Smith, Ingram was edged off the circuit on the exit of Roberts Chicane, sending his Toyota bouncing across the grass and conceding both momentum and ground. A knock from another rival into Redgate subsequently damaged the #80 car’s tracking and consigned its driver to ‘limp home’ mode as he clung grittily on to secure the final points-paying position in 15th.
Shod with the less durable softer-compound tyres in the last race of the day, the Hansford Sensors and RHA-supported KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member struggled for grip from the outset, leaving him a sitting duck as he slipped progressively down the order and out of the points. That meant Speedworks left Donington sitting eighth out of 19 in the Teams’ classification and sixth in the Independents’ Trophy heading next to ultra-fast Thruxton in Hampshire – the scene of Ingram’s first car racing victory six years ago.
“Last season, we were always hoping we might sneak a reversed grid draw to give us a chance of battling for a podium, whereas now we are going into each event aiming to challenge at the front right from the ‘off’,” reflected the Northwich, Cheshire-based squad’s Team Principal Christian Dick. “That is a quantum leap forward and testament to how far we’ve come and the stellar work put in by everybody involved.
“In qualifying at Donington, we showed in both wet and dry conditions that we were very capable of getting the job done; I think we were genuinely on course for another pole until the red flag, but in the circumstances we were content to line up fifth as we knew we would be in with a solid shout on Sunday.
“I think the most encouraging aspect to race one was the way in which the Avensis remained quick and competitive throughout, even with ballast on-board – and Tom was a class act. He produced a really mature and measured performance, and with just a lap or two more I’m sure we would have finished second. That proved that our Brands Hatch form was no flash in the pan, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t keep that level up everywhere we go, which is really exciting.
“The next objective is obviously to put the whole weekend together and come away with three strong results rather than just one so we can begin scoring some really big points – because our current championship position is by no means an accurate reflection of where we are in the BTCC pecking order. With the pace we’ve got this year, we clearly have the potential to be inside the top three in the Independents’ standings – and that’s the goal.”
“Going into the weekend, we were hoping to continue our Brands Hatch form and whilst Donington is a completely different kind of circuit, we had been fast there during the Season Launch test on old tyres so we arrived with high hopes,” echoed Ingram, who left Leicestershire placed 12th in the overall Drivers’ table and sixth amongst the Independent protagonists.
“I was a bit gutted to miss out on pole in qualifying – I was literally 100 yards away from crossing the line when the session was stopped. That said, fifth place was far from a disaster when it would have been all-too-easy to end up way down the grid in those conditions.
“Our plan was to preserve the tyres during the opening half of race one so I could go on the attack over the second half, which worked a treat. Although the red flags conspired against us just as I had latched onto the back of Cook, we were chuffed to come away with another podium.
“I felt like I had the legs on Jackson in race two, and I was concentrating on looking after my tyres again whilst keeping Mat under as much pressure as I could but the extra ballast had an effect on our straight-line speed and after the two safety cars, it all unravelled a bit.
“In race three, we couldn’t get the soft tyres to work at all, which was a legacy of our almost total lack of running on them at Brands Hatch but notwithstanding that disappointment, overall it was another very positive weekend. To take a second podium of the season in race one and challenge for the lead for more than half of race two was really satisfying, and as soon as we add greater consistency to our armoury, I’m confident we’ll be even more of a force to be reckoned with…”
Image Credits: Matt Sayle Photography