Ingram tames Britain's fastest circuit for another points-scoring hat-trick
Tom Ingram kept himself firmly in contention for the biggest prize in UK motorsport with a strong performance at Thruxton last weekend (18/19 May), as he piloted his Team Toyota GB with Ginsters Corolla to a third consecutive points-scoring hat-trick in the fiercely-disputed British Touring Car Championship.
Not only is Thruxton ‘home’ turf for Cornwall-based Ginsters, it is also the fastest circuit in the country, with top speeds peaking at around 160mph. Ingram arrived there with his tail up having clinched the first outright victory for a Toyota Corolla in Britain’s premier motor racing series in more than three decades at Donington Park last month – albeit acknowledging that repeating the feat in Hampshire would be a far taller order.
The reigning two-time BTCC Independent Champion’s task was not assisted by damp conditions that all-but wrote off the first free practice session. With 24kg of success ballast on-board – the first time this season that the Corolla had carried any significant weight into qualifying – he went on to line up 15th on the grid amongst the 30 high-calibre protagonists, just over three tenths-of-a-second adrift of the top six after falling foul of track limits transgressions.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a large trackside crowd the following day, Ingram pulled off a number of bold overtaking manoeuvres in the opener to flash past the chequered flag in 12th place for a clutch of valuable championship points. The Bucks-born ace maintained that forward momentum in race two as he fought through to finish eighth, posting a best lap time comparable with that of the winner, but from fourth on the reversed grid for the finale, he found himself delayed by a first lap incident.
As spots of rain made for a greasy track surface, Rob Collard spun across the Toyota’s bows entering the Complex, obliging Ingram to jink swiftly out of his slipstream in avoidance and sending him bouncing across the grass and down to seventh. Following a short safety car intervention, the 25-year-old immediately went back on the attack, revelling in the low-grip scenario and swiftly dispatching defending champion Colin Turkington by artfully squeezing his Speedworks Motorsport-run Corolla up the inside into Segrave.
Gaining another spot when Sam Tordoff suddenly slowed, Ingram thereafter applied pressure on three-time title-winner Matt Neal all the way to the flag to cap his weekend with a fine fifth-place finish. That maintained his record of having scored in every race so far this season – one of only two drivers to do so – while consolidating sixth position in the overall Drivers’ standings, just 21 points shy of the summit heading next to Croft in North Yorkshire on 15/16 June. Team Toyota GB with Ginsters sits seventh out of 19 contenders in the Teams’ table.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Team Toyota GB with Ginsters, said:
“We made steady improvements throughout the weekend and came away with another good, solid points haul. It wasn’t a show-stopper in terms of results, but it was never going to be. Thruxton is so unique as a circuit and comes with very specific demands, and being such a new car, we’re still getting to grips with the Corolla. That meant it was always going to be a challenge first time round, but we learnt a lot and when we return in August, I’m confident we will have a much better handle on everything and will consequently be a lot stronger.
“As the track never fully dried out in the first practice session, we opted to take care of some housekeeping and get the tyres and everything else properly prepped for qualifying and the races. Given that Tom’s fastest two laps in qualifying were taken away from him, we felt we were a little out-of-position on the grid – and that inevitably impacts upon your race day chances.
“With the quality of the field in the BTCC this year, it’s difficult to make a lot of progress, but we gained ground every time and once he was able to settle into a rhythm in race three, Tom’s pace was really encouraging – as quick as anybody else out there over the race distance. That gives us plenty to build upon moving forward.”
Tom Ingram, Driver, Team Toyota GB with Ginsters, said:
“Overall, I’d classify that as a very solid weekend. Thruxton is such a niche circuit – there’s nowhere else like it in the UK – so we didn’t really know how things would play out, and the weather in free practice didn’t help in terms of gathering information. There was very little point in going out in those conditions, so we just scrubbed some tyres in and prepared for qualifying. Our grid slot wasn’t truly representative of our speed, but we knew we could make up ground on race day.
“In races one and two, I just tried to stay out of trouble and pick up places where I could, but in race three, Collard’s spin cost me a lot of momentum and positions. On the plus side, the Corolla felt the best it had all weekend, which enabled us to fight back to finish a strong fifth and we were competitive against all the other front-runners. The chassis was superb – we were just lacking a little bit through the final sector, so that’s something we’ll need to work on before we return later in the year.
“The main aim of the weekend was to put some more solid points on the board and come away with ideas of where to improve for August, and we successfully ticked both of those boxes. We made up positions in every race and continued to score consistently, and we’re still there-or-thereabouts in the championship. It’s all about playing the long game in the BTCC, and now that we’re moving on to some circuits that will hopefully suit us a little bit better, we’re fully focussed on closing that gap.”