Speedworks turn weekend around for strong points score at Thruxton
It would be no exaggeration to say that things looked pretty bleak for Speedworks Motorsport post-qualifying in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton, but in true never-say-die fashion, the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit demonstrated its determination and strength-in-depth to battle back and snare a brace of top ten finishes just 24 hours later.
After struggling to adapt the team’s heavily revised, Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota Avensis to his liking during free practice, last year’s leading rookie Tom Ingram went on to qualify a lowly and unaccustomed 17th amongst the 26 contenders around the high-speed Hampshire circuit – the fastest and most fearsome in the country, and one where last year, he had secured fifth spot on the starting grid.
If that were not bad enough, there seemed to be no obvious explanation as to why the pace was not there, but some significant changes were made to the car ahead of race day in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC – commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
After scything through the order to take the chequered flag tenth in the opening encounter – barely two tenths-of-a-second adrift of the top six – the 21-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar looked to be on-track for another decent points haul in race two, only for differential woes to prematurely curtail his charge.
Furthermore, the misfortune consigned Ingram to a back-of-the-grid starting slot in 23rd place for the third and final outing, in close company with three-time BTCC Champion Matt Neal and multiple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx.
Impressively undeterred, the KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member unleashed an inspired performance as soon as the lights went out, storming into the top ten once more and winding up less than three seconds shy of sixth-placed Neal and more than seven seconds clear of Priaulx when the flag fell.
The double top ten consolidated Speedworks’ ninth position amongst the 18 entrants in the outright teams’ standings – and fourth in the Independents’ Trophy – with Ingram 12th out of 30 in the overall drivers’ table and fifth-best Independent. The squad’s home circuit of Oulton Park is next up on the 2015 BTCC calendar on 6/7 June.
“It was definitely a weekend of two halves!” quipped team principal Christian Dick. “It was massively frustrating on Saturday, when the car to all intents and purposes felt okay but just wasn’t delivering the lap times and we didn’t know why. That prompted a major re-think overnight, and we came up with some changes which resulted in a set-up that thankfully performed much better on race day.
“Tom produced three really strong, fighting drives that underlined the Avensis’ inherent pace and its abilities as a race car, and not only that, but he was consistently quick throughout. If the tyres are going to be punished anywhere, it’s at Thruxton, but they held on really well which is encouraging for the remainder of the season.
“That said, we need to make sure we are not creating undue work for ourselves by qualifying too far back, because if we had started race one inside the top ten like we should have done, we would likely now be looking at an altogether different set of results and could have been on for a blinding weekend. Granted, we didn’t have the luck on our side in race two, but Tom drove the wheels off the Avensis in race three to recover so many places – he really earned that one!
“The boys were all extremely down after qualifying, but the mood inside the team was much more optimistic again by the end of the weekend – it was great to see them rewarded for all the effort they put in, and to come away with a couple of top ten finishes was a very welcome tonic for everybody involved.
“The plan now is to go away and have a productive test so as to build upon what we learned at Thruxton. Being our local circuit, we’re particularly keen to perform well at Oulton. We know there’s much more potential inside this car that we have yet to unlock, so hopefully we can take another step nearer to that elusive first podium.”