Tom Ingram maintained his sensational Silverstone record in the British Touring Car Championship last weekend (24/25 September), racing to a fourth success of the 2022 campaign to set up what he describes as his ‘best chance’ yet of lifting the biggest prize in UK motorsport.
Having tallied five prior victories and six further podium finishes at Silverstone since 2016, Ingram is indisputably a master of the Northants circuit’s 1.64-mile National layout, and he duly topped the timesheets in the opening free practice session behind the wheel of his Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 TradePriceCars.com Hyundai i30N.
With only three seconds of hybrid deployment available to him in qualifying due to his championship position, the talented Bucks-born ace was pleased to line up fourth on the grid amongst the 29 high-calibre contenders, barely a tenth-of-a-second adrift of the top spot and – more importantly – ahead of two of his three title rivals.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras the next day and a capacity trackside crowd, Ingram made a bright start to the curtain-raising contest. After relieving Adam Morgan of third at the end of lap one, he set his sights on Jake Hill in second, but light contact between the pair cost the Hyundai driver ground as he found himself shuffled down to seventh, with a tag from behind at Luffield not long after prompting a stellar save. From there, he fought his way back to fifth, hassling triple champion Gordon Shedden right to the chequered flag and posting the race’s fastest lap to snare a valuable extra point.
The 29-year-old had to dig similarly deep in the second encounter, with a wheelspin-afflicted getaway dropping him to eighth before he made short work of reclaiming positions from Stephen Jelley, Dan Cammish and Adam Morgan. Once released, he immediately set another fastest lap as he zeroed rapidly in on the three-way tussle over the runner-up spot, trying every trick in the book to unsettle defending title-holder Ash Sutton ahead and ultimately winding up just 0.6s away from the rostrum in fifth again.
That put Ingram fourth on the partially-reversed grid for the day’s finale, and after nicking third from Cammish into Copse for the first time, he proceeded to snatch the lead a few corners later when Morgan and Josh Cook tangled into Becketts. After soaking up some early pressure from Sutton, he then eased clear to cement his 23rd career win in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
The result not only kept his spectacular Silverstone run going, but also means he will enter the Brands Hatch GP season finale in just under a fortnight’s time (8/9 October) in with a shout of clinching the coveted crown for the sixth consecutive year.
Indeed, at only seven points shy of the summit of the standings, the two-time BTCC Independents’ Champion is in the best position he has ever been to add the overall laurels to his increasingly impressive résumé – and he will go there with momentum on his side. A grandstand finish is unquestionably in prospect.
Tom Ingram, Driver, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 TradePriceCars.com, said:
“I love Silverstone, and I went there feeling confident. Qualifying around the National circuit is always quite a stressful affair, because just a few hundredths-of-a-second here or there can mean the difference between pole position or tenth place. It quickly became apparent that hybrid was worth quite a chunk of time, and with the limited deployment we had available, I was really happy to secure fourth on the grid, which put us in a good starting spot for Sunday.
“Race one was quite fraught, with things getting a bit spicy early on. We all know where each other’s weaknesses are, and the only way we can really match the pace of the rear wheel-drive cars is in the opening laps because once they get their tyres up to temperature, they are very difficult to attack.
“Jake [Hill] left a bit of a gap going into Luffield on lap two and I stuck my nose in to try to fill it, but he took the apex as he is fully entitled to do and I inadvertently caught his right-rear wheel, which tipped him into a slide. Then it was a case of having to drop back a bit so as not to gain an advantage from the contact, and it was just bedlam – I was trying not to go past Jake while the rest of the pack were trying to come past me!
“Once I settled into a rhythm, the car felt good and we managed to recover to fifth, but then in race two I think I won the world’s worst start award, after which I pretty much spent 20 minutes staring at Ash [Sutton]’s bum! It’s difficult to make progress around Silverstone when everybody is so equal on pace, so that was a frustrating one – particularly as it was self-inflicted!
“While the first two races were – to quote my new favourite word – ‘pointsy’, they weren’t quite pointsy enough, so we were definitely on the hunt for a trophy in race three. We knew that would be hugely important, especially given we were starting ahead of our main championship rivals. We had to really maximise the opportunity to outscore them, and I couldn’t have asked for the first lap to go any better. I felt like Moses – the sea just seemed to open up in front of me, and I obviously wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth!
“I have to admit, I’d been getting a bit worried halfway through the day, wondering if I would be able to continue my podium streak at Silverstone, so to get the win at the end was fantastic. The Hyundai felt brilliant, and I’m absolutely buzzing for Brands Hatch now. This is on – it’s absolutely on – and I’d go there tomorrow if I could!
“There’s clearly going to be a lot of pressure on all of us in the finale, but I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never known a season like this, with so few points covering the top three. It’s going to be a massive weekend – this feels like the best chance I’ve ever had and I cannot wait. Let’s do it!”
Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography