Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Matt James

Brands Hatch’s open­ing Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship round at the start of April is the one ev­ery­one wants to win. That is be­cause it is the only event of the year where no driver or car com­bi­na­tion is sad­dled with pesky suc­cess bal­last. It is, in ef­fect, the only ‘pure’ race of the sea­son. This year, it also marked a wa­ter­shed for Tom In­gram.

The Speedworks Toy­ota Aven­sis driver showed his brace of podi­ums at the end of the 2015 sea­son weren’t a fluke as he con­trolled the race to record his maiden win in the top flight.

It was the end of an emo­tional ride for In­gram. The 22-year-old ripped up the ju­nior lev­els, claim­ing the Ginetta Ju­nior, G50 class and G55 Su­per­cup ti­tles in four sea­sons to land in the BTCC in 2014 with Speedworks. From there, he has im­proved year on year un­til that mo­ment at Brands.

It was a tough week­end in many ways. That glory was fol­lowed by a shunt in race two and a penalty in race three – but even that couldn’t take the gloss of the vic­tory.

“Af­ter the open­ing race, you don’t re­ally get a chance to look back – you are straight in to race two,” ex­plains In­gram. “The ela­tion of what you have just done is lost in the rest of the day. I think it mud­died it with what hap­pened in race two and race three. We didn’t re­ally get a chance to sit back and re­alise what we had done.

“We stayed over at Brands Hatch on the Sun­day evening. We were at the ho­tel at the track and had some din­ner and a few drinks. I was sat eat­ing my food, and I all of a sud­den just burst in to tears. I had just done what I had al­ways wanted to do – it sunk in then.”

That vic­tory at Brands wasn’t just lucked in to ei­ther. The Toy­ota man had taken his ca­reer first pole, pow­ered into the lead af­ter an ex­cel­lent get­away and he was able to keep reign­ing cham­pion Gor­don Shed­den’s Honda at arm’s length through­out the 27 laps.

“I didn’t push too hard at the start of the race, and that comes down to knowl­edge,” ex­plains In­gram. “I was con­fi­dent we had the pace if I needed it and I knew I could push harder if I needed to. We had the pace to con­trol the race the way we wanted. We were in to­tal con­trol. I re­mem­ber see­ing the pit board with 15 laps to go, and I knew I had it bar­ring any punc­tures or any­thing stupid like that.”

And af­ter it sunk in, he fol­lowed it up with an­other podium fin­ish at Don­ing­ton two weeks ago. The tar­gets have shifted sig­nif­i­cantly for the High Wy­combe man.

“Win­ning a race does close a chap­ter, but it opens an­other one,” he says. “There is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent mind­set now we have got that. In pre­vi­ous years, we came in and just wanted fin­ishes or tro­phies. Not any more. It is not about top 10 any­more, or even sneak­ing a top five. We want to be win­ning races con­sis­tently. We want to be the one be­ing knocked off the top of the perch.”

It is a heart-warm­ing story. The Speedworks op­er­a­tion has be­come more and more pro­fes­sional. Team boss Chris­tian Dick and his wife Amy have crafted the team in to a fron­trun­ner, and they have nur­tured In­gram’s tal­ent along the way. There were op­tions for In­gram to jump ship over the win­ter, but the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the team own­ers and In­gram him­self meant that he wasn’t tempted.

“I would much rather have had the suc­cess the way we have done it rather than go straight in and buy it,” ex­plains In­gram. “It has been de­vel­oped. Peo­ple look­ing from the out­side now would look at Speedworks and see that it has all come to­gether. We have a driver that can do it, there is an en­gi­neer that can do it [Ge­off Kingston] and there is a team that can do it. It has built up. It has hap­pened over the space of two years, whereas peo­ple would have said that I would only have been win­ning be­cause I was in a good car.

“It has been a long jour­ney. I trust my own abil­ity enough that I wasn’t doubt­ing my­self. It was about get­ting ev­ery­thing to­gether at the right time. If in my first year I had gone straight in with a man­u­fac­turer team, then I am cer­tain that I would have won races. But where does that leave ev­ery­one’s sup­port for you, and ev­ery­one else’s ex­pec­ta­tions and fu­ture goals when you have al­ready done it straight away?

“The fact that Speedworks has worked very hard to make this hap­pen and I have worked very hard to make this hap­pen means it is more spe­cial than win­ning it any other way. It has not been gifted. No one has walked in with £2mil­lion and told me to go and drive a car around. That makes it more worth­while. When you look at the team and the re­sources we have, we shouldn’t be do­ing what we are do­ing.”

But they are there, and the signs are that more wins will fol­low later in the sea­son. And In­gram says he will only get bet­ter with more time in the BTCC.

“I think my knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing has im­proved,” he adds. “And that has been the key to this. It is know­ing what is hap­pen­ing be­fore it is hap­pen­ing. It comes with time. I look back and watch some of the on­board from my first year – and I think ‘Je­sus, what was I do­ing?’. You learn. I watch footage from last year, and it was bet­ter but there were still mis­takes be­ing made. This year, com­ing in to it and know­ing what changes what has helped. I have a bank of data in my mind. It is down to con­fi­dence.

“I have got ex­pe­ri­ence of the cir­cuits from pre­vi­ous years now – I know that sounds like a lit­tle thing, but look at the names at the front of this cham­pi­onship – they have been there for years, and that is down to knowl­edge. I am build­ing that up with every race week­end that goes by.” ■

“It has been a long jour­ney” TOM IN­GRAM

In­gram starred at the Brands Hatch opener

Ge­off Kingston and In­gram are two of the key in­gre­di­ents

Flanked by Matt Neal and Gor­don Shed­den af­ter his win

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