Tom Ingram overcame the odds to storm to what he described as the ‘best win’ of his career to-date in the third outing on the 2013 Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup calendar at Thruxton – and the mesmerising performance has seen the talented young High Wycombe-based speed demon more than double his championship lead.
Ingram travelled to Thruxton with a superb record around the fearsomely-fast Hampshire circuit, and on-form having surged to the top of the Ginetta GT Supercup title standings courtesy of a magnificent podium hat-trick in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship feeder series a fortnight earlier at Donington Park.
“I was really looking forward to Thruxton and to keeping our positive start to the season going with some more strong results and good points,” affirmed the SKYCIG and Hansford Sensors-backed KX Akademy protégé. “I love the challenge that Thruxton poses with its ultra high-speed nature and I’ve always gone well there – and having lapped quickest during the pre-weekend test day, we headed into the meeting full of confidence.
“Qualifying was tricky because the conditions changed with every lap; there was no consistency at all. That made the grip level really difficult to judge, and in hindsight, we changed over from wet-weather rubber to slicks a fraction too soon, which meant that by the time the track was at its best at the end of the session, my tyres were beginning to fade. We missed the window of opportunity, but in the circumstances I was still happy to line up second and I was ahead of my main championship competitor Carl Breeze, which was important.
“I found myself boxed in on the inside line heading into the Complex on the opening lap of race one, which left me with nowhere to go and dropped me to fifth. There was then a long safety car period to clean up an accident further down the field, and when the race finally resumed, we had literally just a handful of laps remaining, which didn’t give me much time to try to fight my way back through!
“That meant I had to pull off some pretty bold moves, and I passed one driver down the inside at Church on lap eight and another around the outside at the same place the following lap for third. I thought overtaking around the outside of the Craner Curves at Donington had been scary – but I soon appreciated that’s nothing compared to going flat-out around the outside of Church at Thruxton at 130mph! I’d never realised how bumpy it is there away from the racing line... It was one of those moves where you just think, ‘I really hope somebody saw that!’”
It was a truly crowd-pleasing effort and a superb recovery drive – and to put Ingram’s bravery into perspective, Church is the fastest corner around the fastest circuit in the UK. In race two later in the day, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star, MSA Academy member and KENNETT brand ambassador worked his way up into second with a peach of a manoeuvre around the outside of the Complex on lap six – but facing a nigh-on insurmountable gap ahead to the leader by then, he judiciously elected to settle for the runner-up spoils.
Moreover, with tremendous stress placed upon the tyres through Thruxton’s high-speed corners, Ingram was mindful of not pushing too hard and taking too much life out of them, and his policy of preservation would reap dividends in the final 16-lap outing the following day.
Further fuelled by an appearance at a ‘KX Question Time’ event alongside two-time British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato on Saturday evening – during which he was presented with the inaugural KX ‘Yellow Jersey’ award for his Donington heroics – the JHR Developments ace headed into Sunday’s ITV4 live-televised, reverse-grid encounter determined to turn the tables on title rival Breeze.
“It was never going to be easy starting from fifth,” he confessed, “but after conceding points to Carl in both of Saturday’s races, we knew we needed to beat him on Sunday! I hadn’t been 100 per cent happy with the car the previous day, so we made a few changes overnight to try to generate better grip and we knew we had tyres that were in better condition than Carl’s – and that really paid off.
“I got boxed in at the Complex on the first lap again, unfortunately, which cost me a position, and when I saw that Carl was already right up at the front, I really thought I had blown it, to be truthful. I got my head down, though, and focussed on battling my way through.
“One driver spun off ahead of me on lap five, and next time around, Mark Davies had a bad run coming out of Church, which allowed me to pull alongside on the inside line heading down to the final chicane. He tried to squeeze me a little, but I made the move stick and then Carl Boardley got it all crossed-up on the exit which gave me a run on him, too, and I went through on the inside into the first corner.
“I passed Jamie Orton for second on lap nine, which left me with seven laps to close down a four-second deficit to Carl in the lead. I knew that was going to be a massively tall order, but you never give up in those situations, and I saw I was gaining on him a lot faster than I had anticipated. It really was a case of qualifying lap after qualifying lap, and when I saw ‘fastest lap’ on my pit board and that I was taking a second-a-lap out of Carl, that only spurred me on even more.
“I got onto the back of him with three-and-a-half laps to go, but then I had a different problem because as a former BTCC racer and the defending Ginetta GT Supercup Champion, Carl knows every trick in the book and is renowned for being incredibly difficult to overtake. I quickly pinpointed the Complex as the place where I would have to make my move, as that was where I seemed to have the greatest margin over him.
“I attacked immediately by trying to dive down the inside into Seagrave on lap 13, but he slammed the door shut. That cost me my run around the rest of the lap and meant I had to regroup, but having seen it done in the BTCC before, I knew you could pass around the outside of Campbell – which gives you the inside line for Cobb. I resolved to give that a go, knowing I would have to plan practically a whole lap ahead to make sure I was right on his tail by the time we got there.
“On the penultimate lap, I got a good run up the hill out of Allard, which gave me the opportunity to pull alongside Carl on the outside line heading into Campbell. It was literally doorhandle-to-doorhandle and real heart-in-mouth stuff as he tried to squeeze me, which resulted in slight contact. Although I then had the inside line for Cobb, the touch sent me a little bit wide and Carl pulled back alongside on the drag down to Noble, but I made sure I held him off and was able to ease away.
“It was probably the best win I’ve ever had, in all honesty. I really had to fight hard for it. In the past, we’ve never had the funds to risk the car or try moves like that due to fear of damage, so I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my sponsors SKYCIG, KX and Hansford Sensors for giving me that chance now and allowing me to really race for victory.”
Few would be inclined to disagree with Ingram’s assertion, as he set not only the fastest lap of the race in his Ginetta G55 – for the sixth time in 2013 – but indeed all four of the quickest laps, with none of his adversaries capable of getting to within even half-a-second of his blistering raw pace.
A stunning performance, the 19-year-old’s second triumph of the campaign and seamlessly consistent seventh consecutive rostrum finish enabled him to re-assert his authority, extend his advantage from 15 points to 32 in the chase for the coveted crown and steal a vital psychological edge going into the early-season hiatus.
What’s more, when the Ginetta GT Supercup action resumes in early June, it will do so at Oulton Park, another of Ingram’s favourite circuits and one where the former Ginetta G50 Champion, Ginetta Junior Champion and British Karting Champion claimed his maiden pole position in car racing in 2009 and sped to a commanding lights-to-flag victory double last year. As he bids to maintain his current momentum, a repeat 12 months on would be just the ticket.