Ingram outpaces multiple tin-top champ in official pre-season showdown
Tom Ingram unleashed sufficient raw pace to outperform a multiple
European title-winner and claim leading rookie honours as the Dunlop MSA
British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) contenders faced off in the
only official pre-season test – before warning his rivals that there is
‘plenty more still to come’.
Ingram will make his debut in 2014 in the immensely popular, ITV4
live-televised BTCC – a championship commonly regarded as the world’s
premier and most fiercely-contested tin-top series. Following an initial
shakedown at a very wet Silverstone in his Hughes-backed Speedworks
Motorsport Toyota Avensis, the talented young High Wycombe ace took to
the track in drier conditions at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch – the
latter the scene of the curtain-raising outing at the end of March.
“Testing has gone well,” he asserted. “We’ve made a lot of alterations
to the car set-up to suit my driving style, and by the same token, I’ve
adapted my driving style to suit the car. It’s been particularly useful
for me to understand what changes have what effect. The Avensis is a
fantastic piece of kit, and as I’m getting more comfortable and
confident behind the wheel, my lap times are coming down.
“I must admit that I felt quite nervous at Oulton, being out on the
circuit for the first time alongside some of my racing heroes – drivers
I’ve watched on TV for years. There had only been a couple of us at
Silverstone, whereas at Oulton, MG were there, BMW were there and so
were several others. It was real in-at-the-deep-end stuff and a much
bigger deal, and I didn’t want to show myself up in any respect.”
For a three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion,
there was never in truth any danger of that, although it was not
entirely plain sailing in Cheshire, as Ingram recounts...
“Fairly early on in the day, the bonnet pin snapped as I was approaching
Island Bend, which allowed air to get underneath the bonnet and flipped
it up over the windscreen – that was a pretty scary moment!” confessed
the SKYCIG and Hansford Sensors-supported KX Akademy graduate and
British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar. “I saw on the on-board
video afterwards that I actually ducked! Once the team had rectified the
issue, though, our pace was very strong, which was encouraging.
“Brands Hatch was the first real opportunity to gauge myself against a
lot of the other drivers, and it was another overwhelmingly positive
day. We found time throughout the test and learned a lot, and we showed
decent speed when we did a new tyre run towards the end. We are making
consistent progress and moving in the right direction – and there’s
plenty more still to come. We’ve not revealed our full hand yet by any
“This year is going to be a tremendous challenge, and I know the
greatest pressure will come from myself – but I just can’t tell you how
excited I’m feeling ahead of the first round! It’s a big step into the
unknown, but I genuinely cannot wait to get out on-track in qualifying
to see where we really stack up against everyone else. It’s very nearly
time for the talking to stop!”
Ingram certainly did all of his talking on the track during the annual
Season Launch at Donington Park, where he lapped an excellent
tenth-fastest amongst the 26 cars that headed out in mixed conditions.
That placed the 20-year-old MSA Academy member higher up on the
timesheets than multiple European touring car champion Fabrizio
Giovanardi and Marc Hynes – the man who beat Jenson Button to the 1999
British F3 laurels. Speedworks team principal Christian Dick is suitably
impressed with his protégé.
“Tom’s integration into the team has been absolutely flawless,” he
affirmed, “and he is continually exceeding my expectations. He is so
calm and relaxed about the job he has to do, his feedback on what he
feels from the car and what he wants from it is so clear and precise and
he is generally just a joy to work with.
“We are much further forward than I’d anticipated us being at this stage
given Tom’s lack of prior touring car experience. He swiftly got to
grips with the Avensis – and he has proven to be extremely quick in it.
That has enabled us to get through a lot of work – although there is
plenty more still to do to make sure we are right where we want to be.
“I’m very mindful of keeping our objectives in-check for the season
ahead. Competing in the BTCC is a massive step-up for Tom and he will
have a lot to learn in terms of the hectic schedule over a race weekend
and the constant demand from both fans and the media. There are a lot of
distractions to manage.
“He will be racing at the highest level against a lot of other very fast
and capable drivers, so there will necessarily be a period of finding
his feet, but I’m hopeful he can get into the points-scoring positions
in the first round and then move forward from there. Beyond that, the
top ten is the ultimate goal – and with the package we’ve got with Tom
and the car, there’s no reason at all why we can’t achieve it.”