- Reigning BTCC champion opens his 2023 victory account in Norfolk
- EXCELR8 Motorsport star fights through to the front on team’s home soil
- Bucks-born ace credits strategic masterstroke for 26th career triumph
Tom Ingram might have been feeling distinctly below par in the third outing of the 2023 British Touring Car Championship campaign at Snetterton in Norfolk last weekend (20/21 May), but the defending champion ‘dug deep’ to deliver a characteristically hard-charging performance that yielded his first triumph of the season.
Going into the event, Ingram was the qualifying lap record-holder at Snetterton – the longest circuit on the BTCC calendar – and in a session disrupted by red flag stoppages for oil on the track and a car stranded in a dangerous position, he pulled a superb lap out of the bag once again behind the wheel of his Hyundai i30N to seal second on the starting grid. Even more impressively, he did so despite having less hybrid deployment than all bar one of his 26 rivals, by dint of his championship standing.
In the curtain-raising contest the next day, the Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 star found himself under attack from a pair of fast-starting rear wheel-drive BMWs when the lights went out and forced wide through the opening sequence of corners, dropping him to sixth. With the bit between his teeth and on the soft Goodyear tyres, he reclaimed fifth from Adam Morgan on lap two with a well-calculated manoeuvre, before displacing Ricky Collard next time around.
A devastating new fastest lap – more than three-tenths-of-a-second quicker than anything anybody else could muster – subsequently drew Ingram right onto the tail of Colin Turkington and Jake Hill ahead, but with less hybrid use available, he was unable to prise the door open, obliging him to settle for fourth at the chequered flag.
In race two, the talented Bucks-born ace was the only driver in the field to bolt on the least favourable hard-compound rubber, meaning he was always going to be fighting with one hand tied behind his back. Conventional wisdom said he would plummet down the order, but following a valiant defence, he defied predictions to finish seventh – representing an excellent effort in damage limitation.
Ingram then lined up for the day’s finale on the medium-compound boots – with five of the six cars ahead of him lumbered with hards. In front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a capacity trackside crowd on EXCELR8 Motorsport’s home turf, he went immediately on the offensive, despatching multiple champions Turkington and Ash Sutton in one fell swoop in before similarly demoting Hill, Morgan and Stephen Jelley to climb to second by the end of lap two.
Proceeding to hunt down the similarly-shod Dan Rowbottom in the lead, he pulled off a trademark millimetre-perfect pass after selling the Ford driver a dummy at the end of the pit straight heading onto lap five to seize the initiative. The 29-year-old thereafter confidentlycontrolled the pace and judiciously saved enough hybrid to stave off a resurgent Dan Cammish – on the faster soft tyres – in the closing stages for his first win of the season and the 26th of his glittering career in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
The result – his seventh top five finish and fifth podium from nine races in 2023 – consolidated Ingram’s second position in the title standings, just seven points adrift of the top of the table travelling next to high-speed Thruxton in Hampshire on 3/4 June.
Tom Ingram, Driver, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8, said:
“Snetterton is a circuit where I’ve always gone well and that has been good to us over the years, and I was happy to put the Hyundai on the front row in qualifying. We were up against it a bit given that Ash [Sutton] got a banker lap in early doors whereas we didn’t have a time on the board after the red flags – and even though there was a load of cement dust down, the oil hadn’t actually gone so it was still fairly slippery and the car was moving around a fair bit, which made things quite lively!
“Every lap was a new adventure, which was tricky, and I didn’t manage to link all three sectors together. I probably missed out on about four tenths-of-a-second which obviously was the difference to pole, so we knew there was a little bit more left in the tank.
“Race days in the BTCC are hard enough even when you’re on top of your game, and given I really wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, it was an achievement in itself just getting through Sunday, let alone coming away with a win! That was the last thing I expected, but the adrenaline from being out on-track helped to pull me through.
“After the first few corners of race one, it would have been easy to let my head drop but I was pleased to battle back to fourth and the Hyundai felt good on the soft tyres. I think we then made the right call to take the hit on the hards in race two; we dug deep to keep ourselves in contention and seventh was a really solid result, and it meant we had an advantage over most of the drivers around us in race three.
“Even though the reversed grid draw as usual didn’t fall our way, the goal was to get stuck in and try to win. Tyre-wise, we knew we were in a good place and our strategy really paid off. It was hard work – it took everything out of me and a bit more besides – but to secure our first victory of the year under big pressure was fantastic, and I was delighted to end the weekend on a high. Hopefully it’s something we can build upon at Thruxton.”