Speedworks shine on home soil with plenty of pace and points
Speedworks Motorsport played home advantage as the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship stopped off at Oulton Park last weekend, tallying a hat-trick of strong points-scoring finishes around its local circuit courtesy of a trio of feisty performances.
After lapping a superb second and fourth-fastest in the two free practice sessions behind the wheel of Speedworks’ Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota Avensis, last year’s leading rookie Tom Ingram proceeded to qualify ninth amongst the 28 high-calibre contenders in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC – commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
From there, the 21-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member raced hard and well in the curtain-raiser to advance to eighth, running as part of a multi-car train scrapping over fifth position around a circuit where overtaking is famously at a premium.
Unfortunately, this meant Ingram was unable to find sufficient clear air to set a quick lap time – the manner by which the race two grid is now determined. That left him down in 15th place and carrying 21kg of success ballast for good measure, but undaunted, he made the most of every opportunity to gain ground and flashed across the finish line less than half-a-second adrift of the top ten in P11.
Bolting on the softer-compound Dunlop rubber for race three, the multiple Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion was in fine form as he fully exploited the raw pace of Speedworks’ heavily-revised Avensis.
Despite twice finding himself unceremoniously shoved off the track by combative rivals, Ingram battled back brilliantly. He even saved his best ‘til last by out-dragging opening lap assailant Jeff Smith off the final corner to steal ninth spot at the chequered flag, posting the fastest first sector of the race and the third-quickest lap outright along the way.
That completed a very healthy points haul from Oulton Park, elevating the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit from ninth position to eighth in the 18-strong teams’ table and from fourth to third in the Independents’ Trophy. Ingram sits respectively 12th and fifth in the drivers’ standings.
“We do put slightly more pressure on ourselves with it being a home race weekend, because we naturally want to perform well in front of family, friends and local sponsors,” acknowledged Speedworks team principal Christian Dick. “We tested the week beforehand and came away feeling very positive, and to be as far up the timesheets as we were in free practice was a really encouraging start, confirming the pace we had shown on race day at Thruxton last month.
“We went into qualifying with high hopes after that, and there was definitely a sense that we underachieved. We should perhaps have been a little bit bolder, but the potential was palpably there – less than two tenths-of-a-second more would have put us fourth.
“We were very happy with eighth in race one, as it represented a solid points finish. Tom reported that the balance of the car felt good, and the only real disappointment was that we didn’t manage to get a quick lap time in early on for the race two grid due to being caught up in battles. That inevitably made life harder for us, as did the success ballast – which always has more of an impact round here than at other circuits – but Tom was flying by the end and with just one more lap, would almost certainly have been in the top ten again.
“We got braver in terms of the set-up for race three, and that clearly paid off as you could see in the lap times. The soft tyres held on really well, and Tom drove the absolute wheels off the car. Twice he was forced off the track through no fault of his own, and twice he fought back, but the bottom line is that other drivers’ unnecessary aggression likely cost us a better result, because our pace in that race was really strong all the way through.
“On the whole, though, we left Oulton in very positive spirits. We scored consistently good points in all three races, learnt a lot about the car and finished on a real high pace-wise. That gives everybody inside the team a genuine lift moving forwards, so the goal now is to go to the next round at Croft and raise our performance level another notch again.”
Prior to Croft on 27/28 June, Speedworks will be competing in the Michelin Aston Martin Le Mans Festival this weekend. The 45-minute race will act as a precursor to the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours round-the-clock endurance classic, and Speedworks’ Aston Martin Vantage GT4 will take to the famous La Sarthe circuit alongside 37 other examples of the iconic British sportscar – and in front of more than 250,000 enthusiastic fans.