- Reigning champion overcomes early setback for podium double at home circuit
- EXCELR8 star one of just two drivers who can still clinch coveted crown
- Bucks-born ace promises to fight to the end in Brands Hatch season finale
For the seventh year in succession, Tom Ingram will enter the British Touring Car Championship season finale in contention for title glory, after producing a scintillating performance in front of a capacity crowd at Silverstone yesterday (24 September) to scythe from virtually the back of the grid to the podium.
Ingram boasts a stellar record at the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’, and he was on fine form once again as he targeted a ‘punchy’ and ‘pointsy’ weekend behind the wheel of his Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8-run Hyundai i30N.
Sporting a striking new helmet design following a team competition, the defending champion duly secured third place in qualifying amongst the 27 high-calibre contenders, a scant 0.030s shy of pole position in a characteristically close session around the 1.64-mile ‘National’ circuit – and ahead of chief rival, Ash Sutton.
Sunday would then prove to be a day of two halves. The onset of drizzle just before the curtain-raising contest turned tyre choice into a lottery, and while Ingram made a bright start to gain a spot to second, it soon became apparent that he was on the wrong tyres for the conditions as the rain intensified.
To compound matters, he was tagged into a spin on lap three and sent tumbling down the order, with a subsequent pit-stop to switch from slicks to wet-weather rubber putting him a lap down. Despite holding fastest lap for most of the race, the deficit to the drivers ahead was too big to overcome and he had to settle for 22nd at the chequered flag – albeit a place ahead of Sutton, who had adopted a similar strategy.
That frustration set the scene for an epic fightback in race two in front of the live ITV4 television cameras. On a dry track, the talented Bucks-born ace was making up ground when he found himself ‘torpedoed’ by Jack Butel at Brooklands on the opening lap, but he rapidly regrouped and unleashed a devastating turn-of-speed to carve his way through the pack.
By lap 13, he was into the top ten, and following a brief safety car neutralisation to clear up some errant debris, he continued his irresistible charge in the UK’s premier motor racing series. Belying a broken wishbone, he picked off his adversaries with clinical precision, snatching third from Adam Morgan at the end of the penultimate tour to cement his 14th rostrum finish of the 2023 campaign.
From tenth on the partially-reversed grid, the weekend’s finale would yield another masterclass. After climbing to sixth on lap one – artfully avoiding a collision immediately ahead of him – Ingram made short work of Michael Crees, his EXCELR8 team-mate Ronan Pearson and Dan Lloyd before unsettling Dan Rowbottom from second midway through.
A power steering failure with six laps to go scuppered any hopes he had of challenging four-time champion Colin Turkington for victory, but the runner-up spoils ensured the 30-year-old remains in the reckoning and second in the standings going into the Brands Hatch GP finale in just under a fortnight’s time (7/8 October) – 45 points adrift of Sutton with only 67 left to play for, but determined to keep fighting to the last.
Tom Ingram, Driver, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8, said:
“It was a bit of an upside-down weekend really; historically, to qualify third, finish 22nd in race one and then end up on the podium in races two and three isn’t the right way round to do it, but I’ll take it! We showed great pace again and generally outperformed [Ash] Sutton, but unfortunately the points don’t reflect that, which was circumstantial more than anything.
“The times are always so tight around the ‘National’ Circuit at Silverstone – it’s such fine margins, and hybrid does have an effect there – so I was happy to qualify third. That was a solid starting point and it felt like we were in good shape, but we instantly knew we’d made the wrong call in race one – I like going forwards, not backwards! Annoyingly, had we made our bed and actually lay in it, I think we’d have come away with a reasonable result, but while it clearly didn’t work out in our favour, we quickly put that behind us.
“Race two on the other hand was brilliant. The car felt fantastic – absolutely alive – and it was a case of ‘put the headlights on, we’re coming through’! I love races like that – it was just so much fun and the adrenaline was really coursing through my veins.
“I lost a handful of positions to Ash [Sutton] on the first lap when [Jack] Butel came in like a torpedo at Brooklands and I had to jump out of his way in avoidance. Without that, I think we would have won, being completely honest, but still, it was phenomenal to battle through and rescue a result out of what could have been a disaster. To finish on the podium was marvellous, and it was a similar story in race three.
“When you’re staring down the barrel of a pretty dismal day like we were after race one, that’s when you have to really focus on the bigger picture. It takes a bit of mental resilience to dig deep and know that it can come back to you – you can never give up in this game, and I’m very pleased with our results. Yes, there was an element of ‘what might have been’, but it could also have turned out a lot worse.
“Now we need to go all-in and maximum attack at Brands Hatch. The points gap is fairly significant which means we’ll require a slice of luck, but there’s still a lot to play for and anything can happen so we’ll keep fighting to the end. The ‘GP’ circuit was very strong for us last year and we’ve improved the car in recent events. The pressure is on Ash, not us – we’ve proved he’s beatable, and it’s his to lose…”
Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography