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 stretch.

“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.”