- EXCELR8 star increases 2023 podium tally to seven in Hampshire
- Defending champion remains well in the hunt for second career crown
- Bucks-born ace now aiming to repeat last year’s Oulton Park success
Tom Ingram kept himself firmly in contention for a second British Touring Car Championship crown at high-speed Thruxton yesterday (4 June), taming the fastest circuit in the country to come away with a brace of rostrum finishes in the UK’s premier motorsport series.
As the scene of his maiden car racing triumph over a decade ago in Ginetta Juniors, Thruxton has always held a special place in Ingram’s heart, and its undiluted, old-school, flat-out nature is just the kind of ‘maximum commitment’ challenge the talented Bucks-born ace relishes.
It is somewhere that he has also frequently shone in the BTCC, claiming a double win there in 2020 – and going into last weekend, he still held the race lap record around the daunting, 2.36-mile Hampshire track.
Ingram immediately showed that he would be in the mix once more, lapping inside the top three throughout free practice amongst the 27 high-calibre contenders before, as he joked, putting his ‘big boy pants’ on in qualifying to secure a second consecutive front row start behind the wheel of his Hyundai i30N, despite encountering traffic on his quickest run.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a capacity trackside crowd the following day, the defending champion then converted that into the runner-up spoils in races one and two. In a pair of déjà-vu cat-and-mouse duels, he kept leader Ash Sutton honest on both occasions but could never get quite close enough to attack – not helped by a hybrid motor failure in the curtain-raising contest that denied him his two permitted laps of additional power.
By dint of judiciously looking after his tyres in the heat, however, Ingram was able to pull away from the chasing pack each time to increase his 2023 podium tally to seven from 12 starts, as he and Sutton again proved to be the class of the current BTCC field.
Lining up 11th on the partially-reversed grid for the day’s finale, the Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 star gained a place into the top ten when the lights went out, prior to settling into a multi-car scrap for seventh, with chief title rival Sutton just two spots behind.
Reading the situation ahead of him to perfection, Ingram opportunistically snatched ninth from Jake Hill on the penultimate tour, keeping his foot solidly planted around the outside of Goodwood to steal the position and a potentially vital extra championship point.
That means the 29-year-old will travel next to Oulton Park in Cheshire – where last season he sped to a commanding double victory – having strengthened his grip on second place in the overall classification, just 14 points adrift of Sutton at the summit of the standings.
Tom Ingram, Driver, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8, said:
“Thruxton is a circuit I always enjoy going to, and it was another very good weekend overall. I was pleased with qualifying; you only properly get one lap with the tyres at their peak round there, so you need everything to really flow and slot into place.
“There are so many variables, and – classic racing driver’s excuse, I know – I got held up on my fastest lap and was mindful of track limits with a lot of penalties being handed out. It didn’t feel like we hooked everything up or got the maximum we could out of the session, but the front row was obviously a good building block going into Sunday.
“The car felt great in race one and second was a good result, but I then got some contact from behind on the first lap of race two, which tipped me into a big slide at the Complex. That allowed Ash to escape down the road slightly, and to try to nibble away is so difficult when the margins are so tight, because it takes a lot out of the tyres and Thruxton isn’t the kind of place where you want to push too hard…
“I could see he was making a few mistakes in the closing stages, but he’s world-class – he knows what to do – so it was a case of just managing everything to the end and banking some more good points.
“It feels like we’re simply following Ash around every weekend at the moment and just about hanging onto his coat-tails, so we’ve clearly got some work to do to catch up – I might need to do an ‘Inspector Seb’ and have a sneaky look to find out what it is his team is doing to be so quick!
“That said, we clawed back a bit of ground in the last race at Thruxton, which as a circuit wasn’t fantastic for us last year, so it was good to have made some improvements since we were last there. I think fundamentally we’ve got a fast car, and that it’s a question of refining it. At the end of the day, Ash has won six of the last eight races and we’re still only 14 points behind him, so we must be doing something right…”
Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography