Speedworks enjoys most competitive weekend yet in BTCC curtain-raiser
Speedworks Motorsport reaped the rewards of its winter toil when the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship revved into life around Brands Hatch’s Indy Circuit last weekend – as the squad produced its most competitive display to-date in the all-action, ITV4 live-televised series.
With its trusty Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota Avensis becoming somewhat long in the tooth after four years amidst the cut-and-thrust of the BTCC – commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series – Speedworks has embarked upon the new campaign with a brand new and significantly lighter model and enlisted the services of experienced and renowned engineer Geoff Kingston to refine it. The results have been instant.
Despite travelling to Brands Hatch with little prior testing under his belt, last year’s leading rookie Tom Ingram was fast out-of-the-blocks in the heavily revised car. Indeed, in the opening free practice session, the 21-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member was the fastest of any of the 26 high-calibre contenders, and he went on to qualify a strong ninth, barely two tenths-of-a-second shy of the top spot.
From there, Ingram raced hard and well to secure a tenth-placed finish in the first outing, which meant he would carry 9kg of success ballast into the second showdown, restricting his straight-line speed and making it harder to attack and defend. Undeterred, he scythed his way through from 12th on the grid to an excellent sixth at the chequered flag, right in the slipstream of former BTCC Champion Andrew Jordan and lapping quickest of all on the last tour.
With his ballast increased to 33kg for the third and final encounter – and having to run the less durable, softer-compound tyres into the bargain – the multiple Ginetta Champion and erstwhile British Karting Champion performed admirably to clinch a second consecutive sixth position. That leaves Ingram eighth in the overall points table and fourth amongst the Independent drivers heading next to Donington Park, and Speedworks a superb second out of 13 in the Independent Teams’ Trophy.
“It’s a bit of a shock to be sitting second in the Independent Teams’ classification – if you’d told me that a couple of weeks ago when the car was essentially just a box of bits in the workshop, I’d have said you were mad!” quipped Christian Dick, team principal of the popular Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit.
“It’s testament to the enormous amount of hard work that everybody inside the team has put in over the winter to get the car ready in time – I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of them – and I think the impact that Geoff has had is clear to see. Brands Hatch gave us the opportunity to validate all the upgrades we have brought to the car and it’s pretty evident that we have taken a sizeable step forward – we were quick every time we took to the track, straight out-of-the-box.
“Everything ran like clockwork, the car was faultless throughout and Tom drove brilliantly. He immediately demonstrated the new Avensis’ potential by lapping fastest in FP1 – and when you look at the quality of the field and the sheer strength-in-depth inside the top ten in the BTCC this season, that really is no mean feat. Even more encouragingly, whilst tyre wear was our biggest Achilles’ heel last year, even on the softer compound and with 33kg of weight on-board in race three, the performance didn’t drop off.
“It was unquestionably our most competitive weekend in the BTCC to-date, but we haven’t shown our full hand yet by any measure. There are plenty more adjustments we can make and plenty more speed inside this package still to exploit.
“There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, but once we get a better handle on the set-up and extract more of the Avensis’ raw pace, I think we’ll be looking in really good shape. We are up there amongst the front-runners entirely on merit, and we are only going to move forward from here – and that’s tremendously exciting.”