It was an emotional moment, he confessed, as he climbed from his Plans Motorsport car at the end of race three at Brands Hatch and ascended the podium to collect his trophy – and as Tom Ingram reflects upon his superb title glory in the 2011 Ginetta G50 Cup, he admits that it has always been very much a family effort.
Arriving at Brands Hatch’s celebrated GP Circuit – home to the British Grand Prix on no fewer than 12 occasions between 1964 and 1986 – Tom knew that at 42 points ahead of any of his rivals on full scores and 78 in the more representative dropped totals table, he had a decent chance of clinching the crown without even needing to compete in the Silverstone finale later this month, but equally, he still had to produce the goods.
“I just tried to approach it as I would any normal race weekend,” underlined the talented young High Wycombe star. “I treated it exactly the same as all the others, targeting some solid points and then seeing where that left us. It was going to be about consistency – not necessarily winning races – and we’ve always been consistent in terms of wins and podium finishes. That’s the way to win championships, at the end of the day.”
It is a tactic that has worked well for him in seasons past – yielding title success in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2010 and the BRDC Stars of Tomorrow British Karting Championship four years earlier – but that should not disguise the fact that Tom has also been comfortably the out-and-out quickest G50 competitor in 2011.
Unfortunately, an anti-roll bar snapping in half and lodging itself in a wheel did not get proceedings off to the best of starts in qualifying at Brands, restricting the 18-year-old BRDC Rising Star to just two timed laps and an uncharacteristic sixth on the grid for race one – distinctly unaccustomed territory for a driver who prior to that had set seven pole positions out of a possible eight. He maturely refused to let the misfortune throw him off his stride.
“I knew that as long as I didn’t allow it to faze me too much, used my head and kept everything nice and smooth and consistent, it would be ok,” he explained. “I was aiming to just make my way through the pack and regain as much ground as I could in race one – and third place given where we had started was more useful points towards the championship. Although you’d always rather be up on the top step of the podium, in the circumstances, third was just fine.”
Indeed, with his principal adversary finishing further down the order, the result enabled Tom to eke out his advantage once more and take another step closer to the laurels. In race two, despite palpably possessing the pace to triumph and making a bid for the lead, minor contact as he found his attempt brusquely rebuffed prompted the highly-rated Bucks speed demon to wisely think better of it.
“That focussed my attention,” he conceded, “and caused me to stop and think, ‘look, use your head here, Tom – you’ve near-enough got the championship in the bag, so just stay where you are and it will be fine, don’t blow it now!’ I knew there was no point in taking an unnecessary risk to go for the race win when second position was more than enough in terms of the championship, so I just settled for that. My main rival was some way behind again, so the pressure was off a bit and it was all about remaining consistent and not making any mistakes.”
As usual, he made none, and following his supremely intelligent performance, Tom and his Plans Motorsport team immersed themselves in feverish calculations ahead of race three to work out just what he needed to do to put the title definitively beyond the reach of his pursuers. Realising that third position would be sufficient irrespective of what else happened, he sat dutifully in second place throughout, right in the leader’s wheeltracks. As in race two, he had the pace to challenge – but also as in race two, he didn’t need to.
Completing the job to perfection, the former Wycombe and Marlow Sports Personality of the Year was left afterwards to look back upon a campaign in which he has been indisputably the class of the field from lights-out to chequered flag – and having begun his bid for glory at Brands Hatch all the way back in March, it was somewhat appropriate that he should be crowned there, too, at the end of a season that has yielded no fewer than ten victories, 18 podiums and 13 fastest laps from 25 starts. Simply staggering.
“When I crossed the finish line in race three, it was just complete joy,” Tom enthused, after leaping over the parc fermé fence to celebrate with his family and team and kissing the ITV4 camera following his live interview. “I struggled to put into words how it felt to be champion – it’s just crazy! From the start of the year, when we didn’t even think we were going to be racing, to now be the 2011 Ginetta G50 Champion is insane! I was speechless.
“To come away with our second championship in as many years is absolutely phenomenal! It’s been my first year in a senior championship, and as last year’s Ginetta Junior Champion, there was a lot of pressure on me to do well – everybody’s expectations were high.
“I felt totally overwhelmed. I spent a lot of time doing interviews afterwards, and then I was able to have a moment to myself in a corner of the truck on my own – and I just burst into tears. I sat there balling my eyes out! It really brought it all home to me.
“It’s always been such a family affair, and I need to thank my mum and my dad and my grandparents so much. I’ve had incredible support throughout the year from so many people, and in particular I need to say a massive ‘thank you’ to Matthew and Leigh-Anne Kirby, Walker Logistics, Cannon Moorcroft – and of course, Plans Motorsport for a tremendous team effort. I want to thank everybody! This completely makes all the sacrifices and ‘Asda Price’ meal deals worthwhile! It’s just amazing!”
Tom is seeking sponsorship to enable him to continue progressing his burgeoning career in 2012; if you are interested in supporting him, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org