Tom Ingram has kick-started his bid to make it a hat-trick of car racing crowns in swift succession in 2012 with a trio of podiums including a ‘phenomenal’ breakthrough Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup triumph in the second meeting of the season at Donington Park.
After brilliantly clinching the runner-up spoils on his G55 class debut a fortnight earlier at Brands Hatch – in the headlining support series to the hugely popular and ITV4-televised Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) – Tom headed to Donington in confident mood, boosted by a positive and instructive test at Thruxton that he revealed had yielded ‘a good step forward’.
Although heavy rain limited his practice time – “It’s not worth pushing when the conditions are that treacherous; there was nothing to be gained, and there was the added risk of chucking it off the track,” he maturely reasoned – once the circuit had dried out, the talented young High Wycombe speed demon lapped right on the leading pace, and he converted that promising form into an excellent second on the grid for race one.
“I got too much wheelspin when the lights went out,” he rued. “Most of the other front-runners have had a year in the G55 already and have a lot of mileage under their belts, whereas I’m still getting used to it – and the starts are one of the biggest differences compared to the G50 I drove in 2011. There’s a bit more power to take into account, and it’s mainly a case of acclimatising to that – but we are getting there.
“I slotted into third behind Carl Breeze and then shadowed him for pretty much the whole race, but it’s very difficult to overtake around Donington because it’s all so fast-and-flowing with no real big braking zones – so there’s always a fair degree of risk involved. Had I been able to get past him, I’m sure I could probably have gone a couple of tenths faster, but then towards the end, it began spitting slightly with rain, so at that stage I backed off a bit and decided to settle for third and the points that went with it.”
Poring closely over the data that evening with his JHR Developments team, Tom’s attention-to-detail paid off the following morning as he made a much brighter getaway in race two – but then ultra-experienced former BTCC contender Breeze again conspired to stunt his charge.
“The top three of us quickly broke away, and I was just trying to keep it all nice and consistent,” reflected the 18-year-old BRDC Rising Star and MSA Academy member. “With another 16-lap race to go later in the day and only one set of tyres to last the whole weekend, I was very conscious of not taking too much life out of them. Approaching halfway through, I really began closing up on Breeze in second, though, and after that, I was practically glued to his rear bumper for the remainder of the race.
“I tried to put him under as much pressure as I could, but whilst he did make a few tiny mistakes, there was nothing I could really capitalise upon. He wasn’t defending as such; he was just driving very intelligently and always making sure he protected the inside line. He’s been racing for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and he knows exactly where to put his car to retain his position without costing himself too much time.
“As I was constantly in his dirty air, I didn’t have the front-end grip I needed to be able to properly challenge, so any overtaking move would have been extremely risky. At this stage of the season, we need to be scoring points – and third place is better than trying for second place and ending up in the barriers.”
Once more unable to demonstrate his true speed, Tom’s lap times were nonetheless impressively consistent, and from third on the grid in the last race of the weekend, he would finally get the opportunity to show what he could really do.
“The first lap was key,” affirmed the former Ginetta G50 Champion, Ginetta Junior Champion and British Karting Champion. “My team-mate was on pole position with Colin White in second, and I know Colin is able to drive the widest Ginetta in the world, so it was vital to get past him as soon as I could.
“I made a cracking start to pull past my team-mate straightaway, and then I followed Colin closely through the Craner Curves. Turning into the left-hand part of the bend, I kept my foot flat and I think he must have had a slight lift, because suddenly I had a lot of momentum and was able to dive down the inside into the Old Hairpin immediately afterwards to take the lead.
“By the end of the first lap, I had the championship leader Tom Sharp behind me, but I knew I had the pace to hold the gap to him and I tried to just keep it all silky smooth and not look in my mirrors too much. I was concentrating on putting consistent lap times in, hitting every apex and slowly counting the laps down – and believe me, they felt like they were going down very slowly!
“With five to go, the safety car then came out, which as the race leader is always the last thing you want to see! I got a good re-start, though, and was able to keep Sharp behind me right the way to the end. He was putting me under a huge amount of pressure and the gap between us was never any greater than half-a-second, but I was careful not to give him any opportunity to attack.
“To register my breakthrough victory in the G55 was absolutely phenomenal – I was just ecstatic! To win in only my second race weekend in the car, when everybody else has been testing all winter, I can’t put it into words, to be honest – it’s incredible!”
Not putting a foot wrong or a wheel out-of-place as he and Sharp traded quickest times throughout – pulling comfortably clear of all of their pursuers – Tom’s success was as popular as it was well-deserved, and the pride in the eyes of his family and his team as he took to the top step of the rostrum afterwards was clear to see.
Making a special point of thanking JHR and sponsors Hansford Sensors, Matthew & Leigh-Anne Kirby, One Dry Wash, Race-Keeper and Teng Tools, the highly-rated Bucks star has gained two positions in the title standings to lie second and will head next to ultra-fast Thruxton – scene of both his maiden car racing podium and victory and a remarkable triple triumph last year – in confident mood indeed. And ready to turn up the wick.
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