THE NEWEST BTCC WINNER
WE SPEAK TO TOM INGRAM
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