- Reigning champion adds two more podiums to career tally in Kent
- EXCELR8 star goes on the attack to keep title defence on-track
- Bucks-born ace narrows gap at top of the table to just five points
Tom Ingram kept the pressure on in the 2023 British Touring Car Championship title fight with another podium double at Brands Hatch last weekend (6/7 May), producing a trio of hard-charging performances to zero in on the summit of the standings.
Heading into the event sitting second in the points battle, Ingram had only three seconds per lap of hybrid deployment available to him in qualifying around Brands’ short Indy loop. In a disrupted, rain-plagued session on Saturday, he secured seventh on the grid amongst the 27 high-calibre contenders, mastering treacherous conditions to progress safely through to the top ten shootout but lacking the outright pace to push for pole position.
The next day dawned dry, and in the curtain-raising contest – in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a capacity trackside crowd – the defending champion stole sixth from Bobby Thompson on the opening lap at Druids before proceeding to hound Jake Hill and Rory Butcher ahead.
He despatched the latter with a late dive into Paddock Hill Bend on lap eight, only to run wide on the exit and concede the place again, but he made a similar move stick later in the race to seal a strong fifth at the chequered flag.
Having got his Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30N into a sweet spot, Ingram went on the offensive from the outset in race two. After making a superb start, he swept around the outside of Dan Cammish at Paddock Hill Bend, ducked to the inside of Jake Hill on the run-up to Druids and squeezed past Colin Turkington into Surtees to climb to second over the course of a characteristically feisty first lap.
The 29-year-old then set about hunting down Ash Sutton in the lead, narrowing the gap to less than four tenths-of-a-second as the pair pulled away from the chasing pack, but never quite getting to within striking distance. Wisely calling off the pursuit in the closing stages, he switched his attention to cementing the 65th podium finish of his impressive career in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
Ingram lined up tenth on the partially-reversed grid for the day’s finale, eyeing another ‘pointsy’ race. A bright start elevated him immediately to ninth, with subsequent passes on Josh Cook and Butcher – allied to dramas for a number of his rivals and a track limits penalty for the leader – lifting him to third.
His fourth rostrum result from six starts this season consolidated second spot in the championship classification, and the talented Bucks-born ace will travel next to Snetterton in Norfolk (20/21 May) – scene of his breakthrough victory for EXCELR8 two years ago on the team’s home turf – having cut his deficit to the top of the table to just five points, and ready to turn up the wick…
Tom Ingram, Driver, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8, said:
“I’m very pleased with the weekend overall. Like in the season-opener at Donington Park, we didn’t have the best qualifying but we went about things the right way, did a good job, managed race day pretty well and ended up coming out it quite successfully.
“Qualifying was tricky. We were lacking a little bit of performance in the first part of the session and weren’t too sure why. We were able to put in a lap that got us through to the top ten shootout while also saving a set of tyres, but we were missing something again in Q2, which meant we wound up further back on the grid than we would have liked to be.
“That was disappointing, but we knew Sunday would be a completely different day weather-wise and we did plenty of work overnight to give ourselves the best possible chance of hitting the ground running in race one. We adopted the same game plan as at Donington, with the focus on moving forward, staying out of trouble and scoring some good points.
“When you start seventh at Brands Indy, you can usually expect a little bit of chaos but actually, everything ran pretty smoothly from our side. We needed a decent result in the first race to set us up well for the next one and the car felt fantastic, with fifth place putting us in good stead for the remainder of the day.
“I was mindful of having to attack early on in race two before the rear wheel-drive guys brought their tyres up to temperature – that first lap was key to unlocking the podium – and right from the start, I felt like we were properly in the mix.
“Once things settled down, I could see where I was quicker and where Ash [Sutton] was quicker. I don’t think either of us wanted to put everything on the line too soon and it turned out to be a bit of a cat-and-mouse battle. I used some hybrid to try to close the gap slightly, but when he then began to deploy his to edge away again, I just thought, ‘let’s focus on bringing it home now’, and second was still a great result. I was more than happy to settle for that.
“In race three, my engineer Spencer came over the radio with a handful of laps left to tell me that [Ricky] Collard had a penalty and that I needed to just manage the gap to him. A few other drivers had issues, too, so I was lucky to pick up those places, but as ever in the BTCC, you need a bit of luck on your side sometimes – and I’m never going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“I’m not too fussed about championship positions at this stage of the season; it’s more about scoring consistently well and keeping in touch with the top of the table, which is exactly what we’ve done. Most importantly of all, the biggest thing to take away from Brands Hatch is that the Hyundai feels alive again – we’ve got that feeling back, so roll on Snetterton!”