Speedworks replicate podium performance in brilliant Brands Hatch finale
16-Oct-2015Podium finishes seem to be like buses for Speedworks Motorsport, as having waited more than 130 races to ascend the rostrum in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham last month, the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit has now repeated the feat in the 2015 season finale at Brands Hatch.
After playing catch-up during practice following a washed-out shakedown, last year’s standout rookie Tom Ingram swiftly underlined the raw pace of Speedworks’ heavily revised, Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota Avensis by placing it an excellent seventh on the grid in qualifying – in amongst some heavy-hitters indeed.
Mindful of the traditional mid-pack mêlée – particularly with an ‘end of term’ feeling sweeping the paddock – and being on the lesser-favoured soft tyres in the curtain-raiser, Speedworks elected to roll the dice, sacrificing a potential points score by pitting during an early safety car period to allow Ingram some clean air to post a quick lap time for the race two grid.
The strategy worked a treat, meaning the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar would begin the second of the three ITV4 live-televised encounters from fifth – and crucially, on the more durable hard-compound rubber. A lightning start saw him advance to third, and he remained inside the leading trio throughout, pulling away from the chasing pack and fighting past Adam Morgan for second on lap 14.
Thereafter, Ingram latched onto the tail of Mat Jackson but had no answer to the Ford Focus’ straight-line speed. Tracking his adversary across the finish line, he duly scooped the runner-up spoils following a brilliant drive in front of a record 42,000-strong crowd in the immensely popular, all-action BTCC – commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
The KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member was fired-up for more of the same in race three, but sadly he was denied the opportunity. After a bright start that elevated him to fifth, he was on the hunt for fourth entering Druids Hairpin for the first time when Dave Newsham tapped him into a spin and he subsequently found himself harpooned by an out-of-control Jake Hill.
Although a frustrating conclusion to the campaign, it could not take the shine off a superb weekend over the course of which Speedworks truly underlined its eye-catching progress. Having wound up ninth out of the 19 high-calibre contenders in the final Teams’ classification and an impressive fourth in the Independents’ Trophy – a three-place jump on 2014 – team principal Christian Dick was quick to praise his squad’s stellar efforts.
“We’ve got to be chuffed with that,” he reflected. “To get another podium proved Rockingham was far from a flash in the pan, and most significantly, the Avensis was on the pace again all weekend. Not having a shakedown wasn’t ideal as it meant we didn’t get our usual preparatory work done, but we went into Brands Hatch feeling confident the car would be well-suited to the GP Circuit. To qualify seventh in an incredibly close session was fantastic – and further evidence that we are consistently getting closer to the front.
“In race one, we took a tactical decision. We would always sooner push for positions and points, but in this case there were a few mitigating factors. It was the end of the season, we were right in the middle of the four championship contenders and didn’t want to disrupt their battle or inadvertently destroy anyone’s chances and we were on the softer tyres, which degrade more quickly. With starting positions for race two determined by lap times in race one, being in the pack meant it would have been all-too-easy to end up with no points and a lowly grid slot, so we elected to change our strategy and that obviously paid off.
“Tom drove an absolute blinder in race two, never putting a foot wrong. The confidence he gained from Rockingham is clear to see. He got a mega start to despatch Newsham and Árón Smith and then really used his head. He maturely bided his time as he waited for the soft tyres on the leading two cars to begin to drop off, he put Morgan under a fair degree of pressure and after he had got past, he rapidly reeled Jackson in.
“We arguably had the quickest car in the race and with another lap or two and the soft tyres continuing to fade, perhaps we could have done it – but we were far from disappointed to come away with another podium! We can take a tremendous amount of encouragement from that, and it simply reaffirms all the hard work the boys inside the team have put in with the Avensis. We’re heading in the right direction – and fast.
“It would have been nice to see where we could have finished in race three, but we had already achieved our pre-weekend objective and the silverware was safely in the bag. We may have finished with a bit of damage but more importantly, we definitely finished with a flourish. We’ve got stronger and stronger as the season has gone on and scored half as many points again as last year. That gives us some genuine momentum to carry into the winter months as we aim to climb even higher up the grid in 2016.”