Ingram a class apart with peerless Rockingham double-top

To witness his sublime double victory in the Ginetta GT Supercup at Rockingham, it seems hard to believe that Tom Ingram had never triumphed there before – but in proving himself to be comfortably the class of the field once more in the eighth outing of the 2011 campaign, the talented young High Wycombe star has further strengthened his grip on the coveted crown.

Following a summer of discontent but a much more encouraging time of things at Knockhill that had finally returned him to the winner’s circle, Tom arrived at Rockingham with a slender nine-point advantage in the G50 class title standings – or 47 on dropped scores. His aim was to increase it.

“I really enjoy Rockingham,” he confessed, “and I was looking forward to going back there and trying to extend my championship lead. It’s quite a technical circuit, and you need to make every corner connect to really hook up a flow around the lap. You’ve got to look after your tyres round there, too. The Plans Motorsport guys know what they’re doing, though, and we knew from the pace we’d had so far this year that we had a decent package underneath us, so it was all about converting that pace into lap times out on-track.”

In qualifying, the 18-year-old BRDC Rising Star would do just that, narrowly pipping Andy Richardson to the top spot in class to annex his seventh G50 pole position out of eight this year to-date. Even more impressively, his scintillating effort was enough to place him ahead of a couple of the theoretically faster G55 machines as well, in seventh on the grid outright.

“I did my usual thing and tried to do the fewest laps possible,” Tom explained, “and although I didn’t have a huge margin at the end of the session, nevertheless, it was still pole position and another point – exactly what we needed.

“In race one, I knew that if I got into the lead, I could just keep it all consistent and pull away, but equally, I knew I would struggle if I fell behind Andy from my experience of being behind him before and how defensively he can drive. I was on the inside line, and heading into the first corner, it all slowed right down and bunched up in front of me as the G55s jostled for track position. I was boxed in with nowhere to go, and Andy made a really good, opportunistic move to get past me around the outside.

“He was able to establish a decent gap initially because I got stuck behind the G55 of Colin White, but once I had cleared Colin, I just had to focus on closing Andy down and putting him under some pressure. He defended all the way through, which held us both up big-time, and I could see that at the rate the others were coming up behind me towards the end, I was going to have to make a move pretty quickly.

“Heading onto the banking with two laps to go, the back of Andy’s car just twitched slightly, which sent him a few feet off-line and I was able to get to the inside of him. He squeezed me right the way over to the white line going into the first corner, but I somehow managed to slow the car down, get it turned in and block off his cutback on the exit. As soon as I was past him, I found two seconds a lap and was able to push on home from there – and it was absolutely fantastic to cross the line in P1 again!”

A gutsy and determined win – his ninth of the season – the highly-rated Bucks speed demon was fired-up indeed to make it cause for a double celebration the following day. From G50 pole position and eighth overall, he carefully and intelligently navigated his way through the first corner as a trio of G55s went heart-stoppingly three-abreast directly in front of him and briefly banged wheels. Tom takes up the story.

“I did what Andy had done in race one in going to the outside,” he recalled. “There were a few G55s ahead that came perilously close to colliding, and they continued battling fiercely for quite a while, which was really slowing me up and meant I had Andy right on my tail and several other G50s closing in, too.

“Some of the G55s peeled into the pits when the pit-stop phase began, and then I managed to get past Colin White with a good slipstream onto the banking. That gave me some welcome breathing space, after which I just drove away and concentrated on not taking too much life out of the tyres and staying off the kerbs. The car was mega, and it was incredible to see that I was catching the overall leader at one stage – that was a really good feeling!

“We left our pit-stop until close to the end because I knew we could still lap quickly on older tyres, and that the guys who had stopped earlier would lose time in having to warm their new tyres up. That gave us a massive advantage, I think, and the Plans boys did a great job in the stop – they were under quite a lot of pressure to deliver, and they got it spot-on. After that, I just had to make sure I avoided any stupid errors – and it was brilliant to do the double!”

Running as high as second outright and exhibiting some truly outstanding pace whilst still taking care of his tyres, as soon as Tom was in clear air, he bolted, and he took the chequered flag less than one-and-a-half seconds shy of the G55 podium and more than six seconds in front of his nearest G50 pursuer, matching his best finish of the season in fifth place overall for good measure.

Setting the fifth-fastest lap time to-boot in evidence of his raw speed – quicker than many of the G55s and a staggering half-a-second out-of-reach of any other G50 contender – the former British Karting Champion and reigning Ginetta Junior Champion weaved across the finish line with his arm thrusting immediately out of the window in sheer jubilation following another peerless performance.

With a commanding ten victories from 22 outings now in 2011 – and no other G50 competitor having prevailed in more than three – Tom will travel to the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit for the penultimate meeting on the calendar holding a lead of 44 points on full scores, and 80 on dropped. Rockingham was, he reflected, a pretty flawless weekend. The only downside was that there hadn’t been the usual three races rather than only two...

“Everything came together,” he acknowledged, “and it’s such a relief that it has all turned around again after our Croft and Snetterton nightmares. It feels like we’re completely back on-track, and it was just a cracking weekend – really, really positive. I need to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Matthew Kirby for funding us again and to all the boys at Plans, who did a great job as ever. To come away from Rockingham with maximum points and an even bigger championship lead was just perfect – simply an awesome weekend!”

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