The tears flowed almost as much as the victory champagne last weekend at Silverstone, where Tom Ingram completed what he described as the ‘realisation of a dream’ by storming to a third car racing title in just four years as he dominated proceedings to clinch the 2013 Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup crown.
Ingram travelled to Silverstone knowing that regardless of the results of his chief rival – defending champion Carl Breeze – a solitary eighth place would be sufficient to seal the deal, but nonetheless feeling a touch apprehensive having struggled to find the optimum set-up around the high-speed Northants circuit 12 months earlier.
Practice soon confirmed, however, that he had little cause for concern, as the talented young High Wycombe ace traded fastest laps with high-profile guest driver Alex MacDowall – a current FIA World Touring Car Championship front-runner and former British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) pole-sitter and podium-finisher – before ending the day in his customary position, ensconced at the top of the timesheets.
He duly carried that commanding form over into qualifying, annexing his fifth pole position of the campaign in his JHR Developments-prepared Ginetta G55. After shaking off the early attentions of team-mate Pepe Massot in race one, Ingram then edged away to notch up his tenth victory of the season – putting the destiny of the laurels firmly beyond the reach of any of his rivals as he added another trophy to his burgeoning collection to complement the Ginetta G50 Championship, Ginetta Junior Championship and British Karting Championship.
“I don’t think I’d ever been so nervous ahead of the start of a race,” confessed the 20-year-old SKYCIG and Hansford Sensors-backed KX Akademy protégé. “I could feel my stomach churning as we were sitting waiting for the starting lights to go out. I knew realistically that I only needed to finish eighth, but all along, I’ve been saying I wanted to secure it with a victory – and that’s exactly what we did.
“The weirdest thing for me was when I saw ‘one lap to go’ on my pit board, with the recognition that two years of hard work were finally about to pay off. I had butterflies all around the last lap, and after the chequered flag came down, I just turned into a blubbering mess! I was overcome, with so many emotions running through me. I must admit, it was quite unique to see all my hard-as-nails northern mechanics bawling their eyes out, too!
“It was the perfect way to win, and wrapping it up at the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ made it even more special. This is by far the best championship I’ve won. We’ve worked so hard for it since the start of last year and wanted it so badly, and I can’t describe how it felt to get it in the bag – especially four races early. It was incredible. All the people I wanted to have around me were there, and it was just amazing – the realisation of a dream.
“As people know, we’ve never been in the fortunate situation of being able to rely upon family money, and I can’t thank my sponsors – especially SKYCIG, KX and Hansford Sensors – enough, because without their unstinting support, we simply wouldn’t have been out there racing. I can never repay the faith they have shown in me.
“Last but most definitely not least, huge credit must obviously go to the team. I never feel like I’m going racing with my JHR Developments mechanics – I genuinely feel like I’m turning up every weekend with my best friends. I was up with the boys until 1am on Friday night going through everything, and we always win together and lose together.”
Not that there has been very much losing this year – indeed, you need to go right back to the opening round in March to find a race when Ingram did not finish on the podium – and Saturday’s triumph irrefutably went quite some way towards repaying his sponsors’ support.
Ever the consummate professional, though, following a popular appearance at the Saturday evening ‘KX Question Time’ event, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star, MSA Academy member and KENNETT brand ambassador did not celebrate too much as there was still a race to be won the following day – and win it he did.
Another textbook performance, it was a carbon copy of his earlier success as he equalled the record for the most victories tallied in a single season in the ITV4 live-televised, BTCC-supporting Ginetta GT Supercup – a record that he is determined to make his own in the final outing at Brands Hatch. So what did Ingram’s KX Akademy mentor Jason Plato make of his achievement?
“Tom has done a fantastic job this year,” stated the two-time BTCC Champion. “He has put together a championship campaign, the like of which you very rarely see in this game. To win it in the manner that he has is very difficult to do – and all the more impressive for it. It’s always a special feeling to win a title, and it will stay with Tom for quite some time – deservedly so.”