Record-breaking Ingram tames super-fast Thruxton for more podium champagne
Second pole position of 2016 for qualifying king Ingram
Speedworks maintain rostrum run on wild weekend
Toyota Avensis proves its prowess in the heat of battle
Speedworks Motorsport has continued its run of reaching the rostrum at every circuit so far during the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign, as Tom Ingram survived a wild first race at ultra-fast Thruxton to tally a superb second-place finish.
Buoyed by its breakthrough victory in the season curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch Indy and further silverware at Donington Park, Speedworks headed to Thruxton bidding to maintain its burgeoning momentum – albeit cautiously guarded about its prospects around the quickest circuit in the country, where the BTCC cars reach an eye-watering 160mph.
Thruxton was the scene of Ingram’s first car racing podium in 2009 and maiden triumph a year later, and the talented Bucks ace has always been a fan of the formidable Hampshire track – one that demands steely commitment and an unflinching right foot.
After topping the timesheets in free practice by the staggering margin of more than half-a-second, Ingram engaged in a mesmerising see-saw duel for supremacy in qualifying with multiple BTCC Champion and current points leader Matt Neal. Youth ultimately prevailed over experience as the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star produced a stunning effort to secure his and Speedworks’ second career pole position amongst the 32 high-calibre contenders – making it two out of three in 2016 to-date and breaking the lap record along the way for good measure.
Ingram retained his advantage when the lights went out in race one, but a series of assaults from rivals soon relegated him to fifth and left the #80 Toyota Avensis sporting a flailing rear bumper. After regaining a couple of spots, the Hansford Sensors and RHA-supported KX Akademy graduate settled into a high-speed, multi-car freight train contesting the runner-up spoils.
As he hassled Neal for all he was worth, the Honda driver suffered a puncture going through the chicane on lap 11, promoting Ingram to second but sending other cars scattering in attempted avoidance. With the pit straight blocked, organisers had no option but to throw the red flags, assuring the MSA Academy member’s podium position.
Handling 66kg of success ballast in his stride, Ingram was again embroiled in a scrap for the lead in race two when he was administered a drive-through penalty for an adjudged jump-start, dropping him to the bottom of the order. Thereafter, with no incidents ahead and a shortened distance to claw back the deficit, he did well to recover to finish inside the top 20, lapping consistently amongst the quickest on the track and out-pacing the winner to show what might have been.
From 20th on the grid in the final outing in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised series – composed of some of the very best touring car protagonists on the planet – the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion wasted little time in fighting his way into the points. By virtue of consecutive fastest laps, he had scythed through to the fringes of the top ten and latched onto the back of a frenetic squabble over the runner-up spot when alternator belt failure spelt an early bath.
Ahead of its home event at Oulton Park at the beginning of June, Speedworks sits eighth out of 19 in the Teams’ classification and fifth in the Independents’ Trophy, in what is commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top championship. Ingram – who claimed his first car racing pole position at Oulton seven years ago – occupies 11th in the overall Drivers’ table and seventh amongst the Independent entries, and all efforts are firmly focussed on moving up the order.
“We were quite apprehensive travelling to Thruxton, because we were concerned it may not be the best circuit for the Avensis,” mused the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit’s Team Principal Christian Dick. “I’ve never been so happy to be proved wrong! We were fast in every session, from practice to qualifying and over longer race runs, and that kind of form is immensely rewarding and a great source of motivation for all the boys, who have worked incredibly hard to get us to the stage where we are now pitching up to every weekend expecting to be in the mix.
“To achieve our second pole reaffirmed the Avensis’ inherent pace and the fact that we’ve really found its sweet-spot, and Tom remained at the sharp end throughout race one. By maturely keeping his head amidst some particularly robust driving over the opening laps, he came away with a thoroughly well-deserved second-place finish when a lot of people didn’t finish at all.
“He then made the tiniest of mistakes at the start of race two, and I think it was quite a harsh call to give him a drive-through because there was certainly no gain – quite the opposite, indeed – but we’ll take it on the chin and learn from it. What is easy to overlook in light of the penalty was that the pace of the car both before and afterwards was fantastic. That was again the case in race three, and a good result looked to be on the cards from way down the grid until the alternator belt went.
“It’s fair to say we hoped to take more points away from Thruxton after qualifying on pole and it is obviously frustrating not to be scoring as highly as we are capable of, but the potential is clear for all to see. It might not have all come together yet in terms of the whole weekend, but it most definitely will – and as Speedworks’ home circuit, wouldn’t Oulton Park be just the perfect place to absolutely nail it...”
“Whilst it’s disappointing to be reflecting on another weekend of ‘what should have been’, there are a lot of positives to take from Thruxton,” concurred Ingram. “Qualifying was really exciting, and race one was every bit as dramatic! With punctures being such a hot topic there, I knew it would be important to look after the tyres, but at the same time, when you’re fighting for position, your racer’s instinct kicks in so it’s a real balancing act. I felt like I was used as a bit of a pinball for the first few laps, but the car stood up well to the punishment and so did the tyres.
“As we were waiting for the lights at the start of race two, I felt the car creep ever-so-slightly; I didn’t think it would warrant a penalty because it was extremely marginal, but I guess rules are rules. The Avensis was strong again in race three, and I could attack very easily. Circumstances were playing into our hands and we had caught the group battling for the podium when we were forced out, which was a shame as I was confident we could have capitalised on their squabbling to gain some more ground.
“These things happen, but there were a lot of reasons for encouragement again and we just need to iron out the little issues and errors that keep holding us back. We’ve proved we are amongst the quickest in the field in both qualifying and race trim, rain or shine, which underscores just how far we have come over the winter as a team. We’ve taken a quantum leap forward, from being sporadic front-runners to a regular threat now for podiums and wins. The potential is massive, and once we finally string a full weekend together, we’ll be flying!”