Speedworks Motorsport concluded the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign with a terrific top ten hat-trick in the Brands Hatch finale – sending the squad into the winter months with ‘a spring in its step’.
Following a torrid time of things at Silverstone a fortnight earlier – culminating in Speedworks’ only scoreless outing of the season – the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit travelled to Brands Hatch firmly focussed on rediscovering its mojo and returning to the upper echelons of the grid.
Mechanical woes in the second free practice session left the team somewhat on the back foot heading into qualifying, but standout rookie Tom Ingram mastered the mixed conditions behind the wheel of the #80 Hughes Safety Showers-backed Toyota Avensis to line up 11th amongst the 30 high-calibre BTCC contenders for what would transpire to be a lively opening encounter.
From there, the 21-year-old KX Akademy graduate, British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar and MSA Academy member fought his way up into eighth, scything past Nick Foster and James Cole in swift succession and going on to hound multiple European touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi right the way to the chequered flag. The message was clear – Speedworks were back in business.
That was corroborated in race two, as Ingram rapidly despatched Giovanardi before resolutely withstanding an intense threat over the closing stages from the Volkswagen CC of Árón Smith. By dint of artfully and consistently placing his car so that his pursuer would not be able to launch an attack, he was rewarded with a season’s best sixth position – which became fifth following a subsequent penalty ahead.
The heavens opened with a vengeance in time for the third and final tin-top showdown, but despite having scant experience of such treacherous conditions in the all-action BTCC, the triple Ginetta Champion and erstwhile British Karting Champion calmly and maturely kept his cool and put not so much as a wheel out-of-place to wind up ninth, completing his second top ten treble of the campaign.
That secured Speedworks the same spot in the teams’ standings amongst the 21 protagonists and seventh out of 19 in the Independents’ Trophy, with a total of 19 points-scoring finishes from 30 starts – 13 of which were inside the top ten. Team principal Christian Dick reflected that it was an encouraging manner in which to sign off the season.
“We were determined to bounce back from the disappointment of Silverstone and show what we are capable of as a team,” he underlined. “The pressure certainly builds when you have a bad meeting, but we were quietly optimistic about our chances at Brands Hatch – the GP layout is a circuit we’d been competitive at in the past, so we were confident that we were starting from a solid base.
“We’ve been constantly developing the Avensis over the course of the year and learning with every weekend. We know it has some genuine potential, so it’s a question of finding its sweet spot at each track we visit.
“Considering the time loss in FP2 and the unpredictable weather, we were very pleased to qualify 11th – there were some big names well down the order, so in the circumstances, it could have been a lot worse. From there, Tom drove three fantastic races; in fact, it was probably his best performance yet on a Sunday.
“He thought everything through, pushed when he needed to whilst carefully looking after his tyres and defended superbly in race two. He worked out where he was stronger and where Smith was stronger and made sure to put his car in all the right places. It was flawless. He was particularly impressive in race three as well, given his glaring lack of experience in such torrential conditions in a front wheel-drive touring car.
“Overall, it was an excellent weekend, and it’s always good to finish the season on a high and with a spring in our step – especially as people say you’re only as good as your last race meeting. It has given us plenty of direction to take into winter testing and improvements to bring to the Avensis, and most importantly, it raises the spirits and morale of everybody inside the team, which will hopefully help us to carry this momentum forward into 2015.”
*The immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised BTCC is commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series and counts amongst its 2014 crop no fewer than seven former champions and 13 race-winners.