Ingram and Speedworks climb championship table with fourth rostrum of 2016

  • Plucky Independent outfit back on the podium at Croft
  • BRDC Rising Star Ingram excels come rain and shine
  • Team and driver both gain ground in title standings

Speedworks Motorsport concluded a tremendously impressive opening half to the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in fine style at Croft, as Tom Ingram mastered wet and dry conditions alike to deliver the team its fourth podium finish from five race weekends.
A self-confessed fan of the challenging North Yorkshire circuit, Ingram featured up at the sharp end from the outset in Speedworks’ front wheel-drive Toyota Avensis. He missed out on topping the timesheets by a scant 0.009 seconds in free practice as he lapped fourth and second-fastest amongst the 32 high-calibre contenders – some of the very best touring car protagonists on the planet.
The talented young Bucks ace reprised that front-running role in qualifying, lying third when the red flags flew for an accident midway through – a particularly eye-catching performance given that Croft is a track that predominantly favours rear wheel-drive machinery.
When the session resumed, however, Ingram picked up a tyre vibration that left him unable to improve, sending him slipping down the order to a disappointed 12th. To put Speedworks’ sparkling current form into perspective, that marked the first time all season that the squad had failed to snare a top five grid slot in the immensely popular, all-action BTCC – commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras, the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star navigated carefully through the traditional Turn One mêlée in the curtain-raiser to settle into a four-way scrap over eighth. In a safety car-punctuated encounter, he battled grittily past Adam Morgan and championship leader Sam Tordoff before hassling Mat Jackson right the way to the chequered flag, flashing across the finish line in ninth position.
The third-quickest lap time – behind only the all-conquering Subarus – underscored his raw pace and went to show what might have been but for his qualifying frustrations, and in race two, Ingram continued to move forwards, gaining ground at the start and subsequently pulling off a peach of a move on 2013 champion Andrew Jordan at Tower Bend to advance to seventh.
The KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member again pushed Jackson hard before finding his position under threat from a flying Tordoff, who was scything through the field in his ballast-free, rear wheel-drive BMW. To his immense credit, Ingram did not yield to the pressure and valiantly fended his adversary off to secure a front row start for the reversed grid finale.
By that stage, the sunny skies had made way for rain, prompting Speedworks to bolt wet-weather rubber onto Ingram’s Avensis. It proved to be the correct call, and with grip at a premium on the greasy and slippery track surface, a strong getaway saw the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion maintain second place when the lights went out.
Struggling slightly for traction, he was overtaken by eventual winner Ashley Sutton midway through but thereafter maturely withstood a concerted attack from rapid rear wheel-drive duo Colin Turkington and Rob Collard, evincing some superb defensive racecraft to secure his fourth podium and fifth Independent victory of the campaign – more than any of his rivals.
That vaulted Ingram from tenth up to sixth in the overall Drivers’ standings – just eight points adrift of the top four – and from fourth to second in the Independents’ Trophy. Speedworks remain seventh in the Teams’ classification and have gained a spot to second in the Independent Teams’ Trophy.
“I’m very pleased with that weekend,” acknowledged the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit’s Team Principal Christian Dick. “We didn’t manage to fulfil our potential in qualifying, which left us significantly further down the grid than we should have been but we fought back well and were consistently fast throughout race day, which was reflected in our results.
“Tom drove brilliantly and didn’t put a foot wrong. He received some criticism earlier in the year from people saying he couldn’t string a whole race meeting together, but that’s two on the bounce now where we’ve come away with a mega points haul – and this time from a much lower starting position.
“All of the Speedworks lads have done a first-class job with the Avensis and it was competitive in all conditions. That allowed us to make progress in each championship table and with four podium finishes and five Independent wins from the opening half of the season, I think we can be very satisfied indeed.”
“Coming off the back of a big points-scoring weekend at Oulton Park, our objective for Croft was more of the same,” concurred Ingram. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy as Croft is renowned for favouring rear wheel-drive cars, but three strong results were clearly the aim and that’s exactly what we achieved.
“It’s a circuit I’ve always loved driving, and our pace in practice was really encouraging – we didn’t expect to be as far up as we were on old rubber in FP1. That left us feeling optimistic for qualifying and until the red flag, things were looking good but then obviously it all went a bit awry. Still, the car was inherently quick, so once the issue was resolved, we knew we would be able to work our way through the pack.
“We did that in races one and two to bag a couple of very solid results, as the Avensis performed well on both slick tyre compounds. That was the key to putting us in with a shout in the reversed grid contest, by which time the weather had changed completely. I enjoy the challenge of those conditions, although we didn’t quite have the outright pace and I was mindful of not wanting to throw it off the road.
“We had to soak up quite a bit of pressure from behind, and I was very happy to leave with another podium. That was a great way to finish the weekend, and it helped us to move a fair distance up the standings which gives us a lot of confidence and momentum heading into the summer break.”