Speedworks pocket second BTCC victory as Ingram shines at Silverstone


Speedworks Motorsport celebrated its most competitive and successful weekend to-date as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship dropped into Silverstone, with Tom Ingram producing a stellar performance to secure the squad’s second victory of the season.
Since breaking through with its maiden BTCC triumph in the 2016 curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch back in April, Speedworks has been a consistent front-runner in what is commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series, but the plucky Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit travelled to the legendary ‘Home of British Motorsport’ with a point to prove after scoring no points at all three weeks earlier during a luckless outing at Rockingham.
Right from the get-go, Ingram was in the ballpark, lapping second-quickest in free practice behind the wheel of his #80 Toyota Avensis before replicating that form in an extremely tight and tense qualifying session as he missed out on a third career pole position by a scant three thousandths-of-a-second amongst the 31 high-calibre protagonists – some of the finest touring car exponents on the planet.
Fully expecting a dogfight in the opening encounter with many of the fastest qualifiers having little to lose, the talented young Bucks ace anticipated the starting lights with razor-sharp precision to out-drag pole-sitter Ashley Sutton and snatch the lead into Copse Corner for the first time.
The pair raced nose-to-tail as Ingram valiantly fended off his pursuer’s constant attentions, until the MG man snuck past at the end of lap seven and proceeded to tactically back the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star towards team-mate Josh Cook, leaving him in the unenviable position of having to attack and defend all at once.
An aggressive move by the second MG driver sent Ingram sideways on lap 12, and despite pulling off a superb save, it cost him second position, after which he shadowed Sutton and Cook all the way to the chequered flag, with the trio palpably in a class of their own. The 22-year-old was subsequently promoted to the top spot, however, when the two Triple Eight-run cars were disqualified for a rear wing infringement, earning Ingram his second outright success and seventh Independents’ victory of the season.
Starting from pole in race two – albeit with 57kg of success ballast on-board his Toyota and on the less durable soft-compound tyres – the KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member again led away and grittily clung on for as long as he could under increasing threat from Andrew Jordan and Adam Morgan behind, before almost inevitably being shuffled down to third on lap eight.
He subsequently found himself having to fend off a dual-pronged Subaru assault from Colin Turkington and Jason Plato, in addition to Rob Collard and Mat Jackson – title contenders all. To his immense credit, Ingram soaked up the tremendous pressure from a gaggle of quicker cars right in his wheeltracks to snare his and Speedworks’ sixth outright rostrum of the campaign and first double podium in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC.
Carrying the same weight in race three and from sixth on the reversed grid, the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion nabbed fifth off Turkington on the exit of Copse on lap two and thereafter ran between the two Subarus in a multi-car scrap for the runner-up spoils until a suspected head gasket failure spelt an early bath on lap 15, just as he had been poised to jump up to ninth in the overall standings.
Ingram will nonetheless travel to the Brands Hatch GP finale at the beginning of October having returned to the championship top ten and sitting fourth in the Independents’ Trophy courtesy of his best-ever BTCC points haul, with Speedworks holding second spot in the Independent Teams’ Trophy and advancing to sixth in the Teams’ table.
“It’s fair to say that was our best weekend in the BTCC to-date, with a cracking points tally that would have been even better but for the DNF in race three,” reflected Team Principal Christian Dick. “We proved we are making progress in the areas in which we have previously been weaker, like managing the soft tyres and success ballast, and around a track that has not always been particularly kind to us, the Avensis was on great form and properly hooked-up throughout.
“We took a lot of pain at Rockingham but that also taught us several valuable lessons, and to bounce back from one of our worst weekends with our best – with a lot of guests and sponsors on-site to enjoy it – is testament to the quality of people we have working here at Speedworks and I cannot praise them all highly enough.
“Qualifying was as close as you like, Tom made good starts in all three races and produced blinding opening laps and he was very smart in terms of deciding when to really use his tyres. With the number of punctures we saw, the harder you pushed the greater the risk so there was a very fine balance to be struck.
“We had the pace to win race one on the track, but the MGs worked together to keep us off the top step. Ultimately, of course, it didn’t matter and it was fantastic to score our second BTCC victory – at the end of the day, you take it whichever way it comes! To then back that up with another rostrum in race two with the soft tyres, plenty of success ballast and under such intense pressure was arguably even more impressive.
“Our strategy was working perfectly in race three and Tom was happily controlling his pace. He was actually closing in on the cars ahead when he had to retire, and there’s no reason why we wouldn’t have been right in the mix to claim a podium hat-trick, which would have been a phenomenal result. Whilst frustrating, that does give us an awful lot of confidence going to Brands Hatch – so bring it on!”
“That was a really strong weekend for us,” echoed Ingram. “Rockingham had been a bit of a shocker, but at the same time perhaps it was something of a blessing in disguise. We learned a lot from what happened there and were able to maintain the form that had allowed us to charge through from the back of the grid to ninth in the final race before being taken out.
“Straightaway at Silverstone, we were right on the pace in practice and so very nearly grabbed pole position in qualifying – and that was without even benefitting from a tow! That said, out of all the circuits at which to start second, this was probably the best as it’s on the inside line and my aim was to outgun Sutton into the first corner, which is precisely what we did.
“Pace-wise, there wasn’t really anything between the three of us in the first race. I felt I had everything under control early on, but equally, I knew the MG boys would be coming for me. Sutton pulled off a mint move, but I stuck right with him and was confident of being able to return the favour later on until Cook robustly shoved me aside. After that, they worked as a pair to keep me behind but in the end it was all immaterial as they both got disqualified.
“Obviously that wasn’t the way we’d have liked to have won and it would have been nice to cross the finish line first on the road, but a win is still a win and in any case, we had the speed to run at the front throughout.
“I was conscious that race two would be a much tougher prospect with the success ballast and soft tyres, but I held on for as long as I could and when Andy attacked me, I knew he would play fair so I gave him enough room and Adam was able to follow through on the undercut. I’ve learned from earlier in the season that in situations like that, you shouldn’t always fight too hard and that it’s more important to think of the bigger picture, which is what I did.
“After that, I had my mirrors full of Subarus for the rest of the race! We were really beginning to struggle by that stage and it’s incredibly difficult to break the tow with Silverstone’s long straights, so I never thought I’d be able to keep them at bay right to the end and I was over-the-moon to come away with another podium finish – that was far more than we’d dared hope for at the start.
“We had a strong car underneath us again in race three and were running comfortably inside the top five and producing consistent lap times. We were looking in good shape for a late charge, but then we picked up the problem and had to retire. That was clearly disappointing, but it didn’t detract from an otherwise excellent weekend, which was just the tonic for all the Speedworks boys after a difficult few outings.
“Given the standard of drivers and teams we are up against in this championship and the number of points we’ve lost this year, it’s insane to think we would have been in with an outside shot at the title going to Brands Hatch had we finished race three at Silverstone, and that is hugely promising for next year because we’re only just getting started. We’re not looking too far ahead yet, though, because in the meantime, we still have one more opportunity to add some silverware to our collection in 2016...”