Podium double in Norfolk sees Ingram take title fight down to the wire
Bucks-born ace adds two more trophies to his collection at Snetterton
Speedworks-run squad extract ‘awesome’ pace from Toyota Corolla
Driver and team vow to ‘sign off the season on a high’ at Brands Hatch
For the fourth time in as many years, Tom Ingram will go into the British Touring Car Championship season finale with a shot at clinching the most coveted prize in national motorsport, after racing to a superb podium double at Snetterton last weekend (24/25 October).
Last year, the Norfolk circuit was the scene of the Toyota Corolla’s maiden pole position in the UK’s premier motor racing series. Despite carrying 42kg of success ballast, Ingram was again on the leading pace from the outset, and he duly qualified third amongst the 27 high-calibre contenders, just two tenths-of-a-second shy of the top spot around a three-mile lap.
On a track surface still damp from overnight rain, the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters star immediately went on the offensive in race one in front of the live ITV4 television cameras, grabbing second place away from the line before proceeding to attack Colin Turkington for the lead. After a bold attempt to go all the way around the outside of the Northern Irishman at Agostini failed to come off, Ingram found himself having to fend off the attentions of a ballast-free Jake Hill behind.
Contact at the Wilson hairpin midway through sent the Toyota into a half-spin, but the order remained unchanged and thereafter, the two-time BTCC Independents’ Champion steadied the gap as he posted his personal fastest laps of the race to close back in on Turkington and secure the runner-up spoils.
Race two was a similar story. With 54kg of ballast now on-board the Corolla, Ingram initially threatened Turkington for the lead again before switching his focus to protecting his position from a gaggle of lighter cars behind. With three of his four title rivals filling the Toyota’s mirrors, the pressure was intense, but even a hefty hit on the final lap could not unsettle the Bucks-born ace as his defensive masterclass yielded another second-place finish – his eighth podium of the season.
From ninth on the partially-reversed grid in race three, Ingram made up some early ground before pulling off a superb opportunistic pass on lap five to snatch three positions in one fell swoop and climb to fourth. From there, he went on a charge, unleashing a scintillating turn-of-speed and posting two consecutive fastest laps to slash a four-second deficit to the leading trio to next-to-nothing heading onto the final tour.
When Rory Butcher then ran wide at Coram, the 27-year-old spied his chance and darted up the inside to steal third, but moments later he was harpooned at the last corner by the out-of-control Ford, sending him spearing onto the grass and dropping him to eighth at the chequered flag.
That misfortune meant that instead of leaving Snetterton with a hat-trick of rostrum finishes and only 23 points shy of the summit of the standings, Ingram will go into the Brands Hatch season finale in just under three weeks’ time 34 points away from the championship lead. Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters remain sixth in the Teams’ table.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters, said:
“I can’t praise the team and Tom highly enough for the way everybody performed over the weekend – we came to Snetterton to put up a fight and that’s exactly what we did. Right from the get-go, we were on really strong form. We started off in a good place with the Corolla and just tweaked and refined it as the weekend progressed – as was proved by Tom’s stellar pace in the final race.
“We didn’t quite have the edge we needed to take on Colin [Turkington] in race one, but second place was still an excellent result and then in race two, Tom produced an incredible defence – not just against one other car, but against four, three of whom are close competitors in the championship who were going to punish even the tiniest of slip-ups. They were coming at him from all angles, and to soak up that kind of relentless pressure throughout when the stakes are so high was astonishing.
“To come away with those two second-place finishes and what should have been a third was a fantastic effort, particularly given we never ran with less than 42kg of ballast. Tom went on a brilliant charge to close right onto the tail of the leaders in race three, and we looked set to claw back more points in the standings that would have put us right in contention going to Brands Hatch. To be robbed literally yards from the finish line was clearly very hard to take, but it was completely out of our control.
“Overall, we really couldn’t have done very much more. Everybody in the team did an amazing job, and huge credit must go to them all. The BTCC is so competitive, and with the reversed grid it’s rare for anybody to score three podiums over the course of a single weekend these days – but we came within a corner of doing just that.
“Obviously the loss of points makes things that little bit tougher going to Brands Hatch, but anything can still happen, especially around the Indy circuit in November. It’s a track at which we’ve had a lot of success in the past and where we’ve won a lot of races. We have nothing to lose and will go there with the same fighting spirit we took to Snetterton – all we can do is go on the attack and then see where that leaves us at the end of the weekend.”
Tom Ingram, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK with Ginsters, said:
“Well, that was another rollercoaster weekend that epitomised the highs and lows of the BTCC. I was very happy with third in qualifying. We’ve not been to Snetterton when it’s been so cold before – the race meeting usually takes place in the middle of the summer – and the circuit felt totally different, but the whole team did a mega job to put us right up at the sharp end where we needed to be.
“The plan was always to jump Jake [Hill] off the line in race one, and that played out perfectly. He was fairly fast in the middle part of the race, and keeping him behind was no mean feat. He got a little bit of a run on me into Wilson and a slight overlap; I squeezed him as much as I could, but it’s greasy on the inside and Jake locked up and couldn’t get it stopped, which resulted in contact. We need as many points as possible right now, and that meant it was super important to hold onto second place, which thankfully we did.
“Race two was a tough one. It was hard work keeping Rory [Butcher] behind – he was so much faster in a straight line, and every time I shook him off, I kept seeing him drag up to my bumper again, bringing all the other guys with him. It was like I was underneath a fruit tree with apples falling on me – wherever I stood, they were coming at me!
“I received a substantial knock to the rear into Wilson on the last lap, but there was a certain degree of inevitability about that – every time you go into the hairpin with a train of cars behind you, you’re always waiting for the bump! Overall, I was pleased to come out relatively unscathed and really happy with another second place – I felt like I’d properly earned my Ginsters pasty for lunch after that one!
“The Corolla was awesome in race three – the best it had been all weekend, even with so much weight on-board – and it’s such a great feeling when you have a car like that underneath you. Unfortunately, it then all unravelled right at the end. I don’t really know what was going on with Butcher on the last lap. He was weaving down the back straight like he was warming his tyres up on an ‘out’ lap, and then when we got to Coram, he had a big moment and ran wide. I went up the inside, he turned into my left-rear wheel and everybody saw what happened next.
“It was such a frustrating way to finish the weekend, because we should have left Snetterton with three podiums and a reduced gap to the top of the championship, and as it was we ended up conceding ground. I’m gutted for everyone in the team, who all worked so hard to give me such a good car. We’ve had more than our fair share of bad luck this year, but now we need to go to Brands Hatch and sign off the season on a high. This isn’t over yet!”