Speedworks and Ingram maintain Independents' advantage on torrid weekend
Tom Ingram endured a torrid time of things at Oulton Park last weekend (20/21 May) as Speedworks Motorsport found itself consistently out-of-luck on home turf in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, but the Independents’ Trophy pace-setter has vowed to immediately fight back in his quest to clinch the coveted Drivers’ crown.
Ingram and Speedworks arrived at Oulton riding the crest of a wave, off the back of a brace of victories and three further podium finishes from the opening nine races of the 2017 campaign in the tremendously popular, ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC – commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
As championship leader, the talented young Bucks ace headed into qualifying with maximum success ballast aboard his #80 Toyota Avensis – a significant handicap around Oulton Park’s undulating, stop-start 2.2-mile Island layout.
Struggling for straight-line speed, he was unable to replicate his usual stellar single-lap form, leaving him a frustrated 11th on the grid around a circuit at which overtaking is notoriously difficult. To rub salt into the wounds, barely another two tenths-of-a-second would have elevated him to fourth in the 32-strong field – composed of some of the finest touring car protagonists on the planet.
Whilst anticipating an uphill battle in the races – the first of which marked Ingram’s 100th BTCC start – he was firmly focussed on moving forward, until a hefty tap from behind on the opening lap of the curtain-raiser sent the 23-year-old spinning onto the grass at the chicane and tumbling down the order. The legacy of that contact would subsequently force him out of contention altogether, with suspension damage precipitating Ingram’s first non-score of the year.
>From 30th on the grid in race two, the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion was making progress when an ambitious move by Will Burns fired him into James Cole’s Subaru at the hairpin, with the sizeable impact prompting a frantic effort by the Speedworks mechanics to repair the engine in time for the day’s finale.
Although too far back to salvage any kind of solid result, Ingram nonetheless rewarded their tireless commitment by clearly demonstrating the Avensis’ raw pace, posting the fastest lap of the race by more than a third-of-a-second to prove what might have been. He was on the verge of cracking the top 20 when – in-keeping with the theme of his weekend – an over-zealous rival clattered into him, tagging the Toyota into a spin.
His misfortune cost the KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member his hard-earned championship lead, meaning he will travel to Croft in North Yorkshire next month sitting 25 points shy of the summit of the standings in third place – albeit still atop the Independents’ Trophy table. Speedworks similarly continue to lead the Independent Teams’ classification, while slipping just one spot to fourth in the outright Teams’ rankings.
“You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, and it’s fair to say this has been our roughest weekend for quite some time,” mused the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit’s Team Principal Christian Dick. “On the positive side, though, to come away having not lost our Independents’ lead and having conceded only minimal ground in the overall championship certainly eases the pain somewhat and is testament to the buffer we built up over the first three meetings.
“Tom beat himself up a bit after qualifying, but it’s impossible to criticise because he has done such an outstanding job all through last season and this year to-date, repeatedly proving himself to be the fastest average qualifier in the field.
“Starting 11th undoubtedly left us with some work to do, but that was achievable and without the early contact, it could have been an entirely different outcome to the weekend – just look at the pace we had in race three. Ultimately, the BTCC regulations make it incredibly difficult to lead the championship from start-to-finish and there’s still a very long way to go. Oulton Park was a bad day at the office but whilst we’re currently down, we’re far from out.”
“When it’s not your day, it’s not your day, is it?” echoed Ingram. “The catalyst for it all was qualifying, and for that I can only blame myself. We were well down in the speed traps in all three sectors, and I overdrove in an effort to compensate. The second row of the grid was definitely on the cards, but I didn’t put the lap together and that left us right in the danger zone at the mercy of midfield squabbles and the less experienced drivers further back in the pack, for which we paid the price.
“The Speedworks boys worked their socks off to enable me to get out again in race three, and to set the fastest lap – by quite some margin – proves the pace is in the car and what we could have accomplished had things gone to plan.
“At the same time, that gives us cause for encouragement because the Avensis seems to be working well wherever we go – the team has done an absolutely fantastic job with it – and we were at least handed a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free card at Oulton with a few of our main rivals having troubled weekends too. Make no mistake, we’ll come back stronger at Croft – ready to fight tooth-and-nail to regain our championship lead!”