Irrepressible Ingram battles to crowd-pleasing podium in Brands Hatch thriller

  • A podium, a puncture and a ‘proper’ BTCC scrap for former champion in Kent
  • Bucks-born ace gets the better of arch-rival Ash Sutton in epic tin-top-duel
  • EXCELR8 Motorsport ace refuses to let final race misfortune deflate his optimism

Tom Ingram experienced the highs and lows of life in the British Touring Car Championship at a baking-hot Brands Hatch last weekend (11/12 May), with a hard-fought podium finish swiftly followed by a race-ruining puncture that denied him what could have been another champagne celebration.Heading to Brands Hatch as championship leader thanks to his double victory in the Donington Park curtain-raiser a fortnight earlier, Ingram knew he would be on the back foot with just a single second of hybrid deployment available to him in qualifying – the lowest in the 20-strong field.

Gritting his teeth, he hauled his Team Bristol Street Motors Hyundai i30N to an admirable eighth on the grid around the short ‘Indy’ circuit in the UK’s premier motor racing series. Wringing every last drop of performance out of the car in his trademark take-no-prisoners style, he missed out on advancing to the ‘Quick Six’ shootout by a scant seven hundredths-of-a-second.

Despite his hybrid handicap, the 2022 title-winner was fully focussed on moving forward and had climbed two spots in the opener when he found himself tagged sideways at Druids, dropping him down the order. After taking the chequered flag a frustrated eighth, a time penalty for his assailant subsequently promoted him to seventh.

Ingram had a full complement of hybrid boost at his disposal in race two, and in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a capacity trackside crowd, he made full use of it. By the end of lap seven, he had worked his way up to fourth, and just after mid-distance, he surprised Josh Cook with an ultra-committed late dive into Paddock Hill Bend to steal third.

His next target was defending champion Ash Sutton. Following a short safety car intervention necessitated by an incident back in the pack, he got his elbows out to execute an almost carbon-copy manoeuvre to the one he had pulled on Cook to unseat his arch-rival from second. It was the culmination of an epic duel between two of the BTCC’s very hardest-chargers, and deservedly secured the EXCELR8 Motorsport star the runner-up spoils.

Having saved his quicker, soft-compound Goodyear ‘option’ tyres for the final race of the day, Ingram began the partially-reversed grid encounter from tenth place – and once again, wasted no time at all in going on the attack.

He had battled through to seventh by lap nine, only one position and less than a second behind Sutton, when an unfortunate puncture sent him scurrying for the pits for a replacement. After rejoining the track a lap down, the 30-year-old Bucks-born ace salvaged all he could from the race by posting fastest lap – a flurry of them, in fact – to rescue a solitary bonus point. The fact that Sutton went on to finish third was illustrative of what might have been.

Ingram will travel next to Snetterton in Norfolk (25/26 May) – the longest circuit on the calendar at just shy of three miles – sitting third in the championship standings, ten points adrift of the top of the table.

Tom Ingram, Driver, Team Bristol Street Motors, said:

“That was an up-and-down weekend, to say the least! The balance of the car felt good in qualifying, but we were conscious the hybrid would have a fairly sizeable effect so I was always resigned to the fact that we probably weren’t going to make it into Q3 and it was no great surprise when we didn’t. We were right on the cusp, but I was happy enough to end up eighth, and in terms of lap time, we were actually a lot closer to the pace than I had expected us to be, which was encouraging.

“We knew race one would be similarly tricky, with the contact at Druids not making things any easier and likely costing us a better result, but the team did a superb job to give me an absolute corker of a car for race two when the Hyundai just came alive. It was so nice to have a car that was properly on its toes, and so much fun to be able to carve our way through like that.

“It was certainly a busy race; you never really get chance to breathe around Brands Indy, because every lap is so full-on and they just keep on coming at you! The power of the hybrid worked wonders – it was good to have it back over the course of the race distance – and it was a fantastic battle with Ash. When I went for the move, I knew he wasn’t going to give me a millimetre more than I needed. I can’t remember the last time we had a proper wheel-to-wheel ding-dong like that – it was exactly what touring car racing should be.

“I was very happy with that result, and was targeting another strong finish on the soft tyres to complete the weekend, but the puncture obviously put paid to that and has cost us a bit of ground in the championship. Still, there’s a long way to go, and at least we won’t be quite as disadvantaged in qualifying and race one at Snetterton now, so it’ll be game on again there!

“Massive congratulations to my team-mate Ronan [Pearson] on breaking his BTCC duck with a brilliant drive in race three, and to Tom [Chilton] for following him home to secure a double podium for EXCELR8. It was at Brands Hatch eight years ago that I achieved my first win in the series, and I know just how special it must have felt for Ronan. I’m very sure it won’t be his last.”