Tom Ingram rolled the dice in a bid for glory in the British Touring Car Championship at Croft and while his bold tyre gamble narrowly failed to pay off, the Team Toyota GB star insists he would ‘do the same again’ as Team Principal Christian Dick revealed his pride in his Cheshire-based Speedworks Motorsport-run squad for having the ‘courage of its convictions’.
On a freshly-resurfaced track near Darlington, Ingram worked methodically through his pre-planned programme during free practice in North Yorkshire, but a disjointed qualifying session – punctuated by a succession of red-flag stoppages for incidents and rain showers – restricted him to a frustrated and unrepresentative 15th on the grid amongsthe 30 high-calibre contenders in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
That left the Bucks-born ace with a mountain to climb on race day and he began the first of the three contests with 24kg of success ballast on-board and on the less favourable hard-compound tyres, making his task doubly difficult.
Undeterred, an assertive start saw him swiftly gain four positions to 11th behind the wheel of the #80 Toyota Corolla, and – despite losing his power steering not long after – that was where he would finish.
The best-placed driver on the hard tyres, the result confirmed Ingram as the only competitor to have finished inside the points in each of the opening 10 races of the campaign – testament to his commendable consistency in what is widely regarded as the world’s most fiercely-disputed tin-top series.
Now free of ballast and back on the regular tyres, the reigning two-time BTCC Independents Champion pulled off a flurry of gritty overtakes to advance to seventh in race two, earning him third on the partially-reversed grid for the day’s finale.
With his closest rival on the standard rubber all the way down in 14th, the stars were aligning – at least, until a heavy shower soaked the circuit and left teams in a quandary.
With the track drying out, Ingram took a gamble and bolted on slicks – the only driver inside the top 15 to do so – knowing that the initial laps would be all about establishing the grip level, tiptoeing around and remaining patient while waiting for the conditions to come to him.
They eventually did, but too late, and it was only in the closing stages that he was able to begin scything back through the field from 23rd, eventually taking the chequered flag 16th, just 1.7 seconds shy of the points.
Posting the race’s fastest lap on the final tour, all the 25-year-old could realistically do was prove his pace and prowess, and that he did with aplomb, circulating at times almost five seconds quicker than any of the other slick-shod drivers and thrilling fans along the way by repeatedly rescuing lurid sideways slides.
Next up on the 2019 BTCC schedule will be Oulton Park on June 29&30 and Ingram will head there sitting ninth in the overall drivers’ standings, with Team Toyota GB occupying the same spot in the manufacturers’ table.