Ingram closes on championship lead with 30th career triumph in Cheshire

  • Team Bristol Street Motors star out-boxes title rivals at Oulton Park
  • Former champion enters summer break just four points off top of table
  • Bucks-born ace praises EXCELR8 crew for ‘outrageously good’ car
Tom Ingram produced a peerless performance to outscore all of his adversaries in the British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park last weekend (22-23 June), seeing him enter the mid-season break just four points adrift of the top of the title table – and with the momentum very much on his side.

The picturesque and undulating Cheshire circuit was the scene of Ingram’s first pole position in car racing 15 years ago, and behind the wheel of his Hyundai i30N, he added another to his tally on Saturday, topping the timesheets in all three parts of a breathless qualifying session as he obliterated the existing lap record by more than six tenths-of-a-second with a stunning effort. Impressively, it represented the Team Bristol Street Motors star’s third pole out of a possible five so far in 2024.

Under glorious sunny skies and in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a capacity trackside crowd, Ingram converted that into a 30th victory in the UK’s premier motorsport series in Sunday’s curtain-raising contest – although he was made to work hard for it early on.

After surviving an attack from Ash Sutton on lap two – as his title rival made contact with him at both the hairpin and the chicane – the 30-year-old expertly fended the Ford driver off before edging away, judiciously deploying some of his limited hybrid to extend his advantage significantly on the penultimate tour. As has so often been the case in recent years, the pair proved to be the class of the field, with Ingram’s winning margin in the end a shade under two seconds.

That meant he would have to run the slower hard-compound tyres in race two, and with just a single lap of hybrid available to him – less than anybody else, by dint of his earlier success – the 2022 champion was always going to be up against it, but he has never been the type to lie down without a fight.

After conceding the lead to a flying, soft tyre-shod Josh Cook – with the discrepancy between the two compounds in excess of a second per lap – Ingram soaked up intense pressure from a growing train of cars snapping at his heels in the scrap for the runner-up spoils. He staved off a fired-up Sutton once more as the pair ran side-by-side down The Avenue towards Cascades prior to inching clear of his pursuers to seal second place – the 86th podium finish of his illustrious BTCC career.

From fifth on the partially-reversed grid for the day’s finale and back on the softer rubber, the Bucks-born racer lost out to Cook again over the course of a frenetic opening tour, but regained his starting position not long after courtesy of a neat dive into Old Hall corner. He subsequently latched onto the tail of Dan Cammish, snatching fourth with a great run out of Lodge heading onto lap nine, finding himself squeezed towards the pit wall in the process but boldly holding his nerve.

He then zeroed rapidly in on Árón Taylor-Smith in third, but with no hybrid left to exploit – unlike the Irishman – the EXCELR8 Motorsport ace was unable to mount a challenge, taking the chequered flag less than half-a-second shy of a fifth consecutive rostrum result. He nonetheless goes into the BTCC’s five-week summer hiatus sitting a close second in the standings in the chase for the coveted crown, and when the action resumes at Croft in North Yorkshire on 27-28 July, he will be poised to pounce.

Tom Ingram, Driver, Team Bristol Street Motors, said:

“The Hyundai felt superb all weekend – really confidence-inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever known a car that has felt so alive. It was honestly on another level and an absolute pleasure to drive – every single member of this team has been working harder than ever behind-the-scenes and has done such an unbelievable job.

“As a driver, that naturally makes you more relaxed, which certainly helped in qualifying because the new format is relentless; you never get a chance to breathe, process or reset – you’re constantly busy and on your toes. You can’t get away with a single track limits infringement and there’s so much pressure to deliver right from the word ‘go’, but I really enjoy that challenge and with the car feeling so outrageously good, I could basically just crack on.

“Taking another pole felt pretty special. The lap simply hooked up in Q3, which is something that is so difficult to achieve at Oulton. I knew the time we had done in Q2 was good but that there was a little bit more to find – and in Q3, we found it!

“Still, we were aware the big points would only be handed out on Sunday, and I got a really good launch in race one. There was obviously a bit of elbows with Ash [Sutton] at Island Bend on the second lap; I then deployed my hybrid coming over the brow of the hill and unfortunately there was some further contact before we got to Hislops. It’s a tight part of the lap and it’s always tricky there, and I had no option but to jump the chicane.

“After that, I knew with Ash behind me, I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and I was conscious of needing to keep him at arm’s length. You’re also inevitably at the mercy of tyres and brakes at Oulton – particularly in temperatures like that – so there’s a lot to try to manage; we know the soft tyre is fantastic, but it can also sometimes be a little vulnerable if we push it too hard.

“It was a sizeable contrast going from the soft to the hard in race two and it was always going to be a tough ask to repeat the win, but to finish second was a great result – I was really pleased with that, and the fact that the car felt so good on both compounds was extremely encouraging.

“To then cap the weekend with fourth place in race three was just the ticket. Could I have tried a bit harder to take third towards the end? Arguably. Would it have been worth the risk? Probably not, and with Ash not scoring due to damage, I was mindful of not wanting to do anything silly as I knew we were already in a good place. It was another very ‘pointsy’ result – and ultimately, as we all know, points make prizes…”