Double top for irrepressible Ingram at Oulton Park

Tom Ingram admits that his outstanding double victory in the BTCC-supporting Ginetta GT Supercup at Oulton Park constituted the ‘perfect’ weekend – enabling him not only to welcome new sponsor SKYCIG in the best manner possible, but also to narrow his deficit to the championship leader in the process.

Tom arrived at Oulton off the back of six podium finishes from the opening nine outings of the current campaign with JHR Developments, but equally some 115 points adrift of experienced early-season pace-setter Tom Sharp in the title standings. The fightback was about to begin.

“The principal goal was to close that gap and prove we can successfully challenge Sharp and stop his winning run,” affirmed the talented young High Wycombe-based speed demon. “He said at the beginning of the weekend that he had never won at Oulton before, so that was immediately a bit of a psychological boost.”

By stark contrast, Tom had won there before, and is a self-confessed fan of the popular and undulating Cheshire circuit, often fondly described as a mini Nürburgring Nordschleife and arguably the greatest test of a driver’s true skill level in the country.

“It seems to suit my driving style and we’ve always gone well there,” mused the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star and MSA Academy member. “I achieved my first pole position in cars at Oulton, and I won there in a Ginetta G50 last year. It’s a very flowing and technical circuit, and it takes some bravery to really be quick round there. At the same time, though, you need to be quite precise, too – you can’t afford to miss an apex or drop a wheel off the kerb, because it will bite.”

Lapping almost six tenths of a second clear of any of his adversaries in Friday’s wet practice sessions left Tom brimful of confidence heading into qualifying the next day, and on a damp-but-drying track surface, he duly delivered with a benchmark lap time that secured him his first pole position of 2012.

“The circuit was pretty much fully dry by the time Saturday’s race came around,” recounted the former Ginetta G50 Champion, Ginetta Junior Champion and British Karting Champion. “I got a little bit of wheelspin when the lights went out, but otherwise it was a nice, clean launch.

“The main thing I struggled with in the early laps was that it was the first time I had ever driven the G55 round Oulton in the dry. That meant I didn’t know exactly how quickly I could go into the corners; I was having to guess initially whilst at the same time trying to pull away from Carl Breeze, who has had a lot more mileage in the car than me.

“There was quite a lot of pressure on me to begin with, but I tried to not look in my mirrors and just concentrate on what I was doing, and once I had got my head round it, I was able to control the gap. I eventually managed to break the tow to Carl down the back straight, which was crucial, and after that, I knew that as long as I didn’t make any mistakes, the race would be mine.”

Taking care not to take too much life out of his tyres, Tom’s consistency – producing no fewer than seven laps all to within barely a tenth of a second of each other – was remarkable, and whilst he was able to ease off whenever he could, by the same token, he always had the extra pace in his pocket to respond to his rival’s attack if required.

“It felt brilliant to win,” he acknowledged. “We were over-the-moon! It was a great feeling to climb back onto the top step of the podium again, especially after being denied a possible victory in the final race at Thruxton when the driveshaft went. Having not been able to test during the long break either, it was particularly sweet to come back so strong – and of course, it was the perfect start to my new relationship with SKYCIG, who I’m thrilled were there to witness it.”

Sunday’s ITV4 live-televised encounter would follow a similar pattern, as Tom artfully staved off early pressure from behind before going on to effortlessly pull away. Once more laudably consistent, he was in a league of his own, lowering the lap record time and again and extending his advantage to nigh-on ten seconds at one stage. A fastest lap the best part of half-a-second quicker than anybody else told its own story.

“Like in race one, I had to defend a bit from Carl initially,” the 18-year-old recalled, “but I tried to back him up into the hairpin, to compromise his exit and give me a better run. After that, it was pretty much plain sailing, to be honest, and all a question of just keeping everything nice and consistent.

“I’ve been in that kind of situation quite a few times now, but even so, you can never afford to relax or take your eye off the ball. Towards the end, I just focussed on staying smooth and not hitting the kerbs too hard, and I even managed to put in a ‘purple’ split time on tyres that were by then some way past their best!”

Indeed, so consummate was Tom’s supremacy at Oulton, that the only point he missed out on all weekend was that for fastest lap in race one – and even then, he did so by a scant four hundredths of a second. More significantly, he reduced Sharp’s championship lead to 90 points – or 42 in the more representative dropped score table – and heading next to Ginetta’s home track of Croft in Yorkshire, the target is ‘more of the same’.

“We successfully clawed back some points, and it was good to show that all the development work we’ve done on the car has paid off,” he concluded, thanking not only SKYCIG but also JHR, Hansford Sensors, KENNETT, Matthew & Leigh-Anne Kirby, One Dry Wash, Race-Keeper and Teng Tools.

“It was just a perfect weekend – definitely one of the best of my career so far – but there’s a long way to go yet in the championship, and maintaining our consistency will be paramount. We’re still on the back foot points-wise, so we need to keep chipping away, keep the pressure up and get the best result we can every single time we take to the circuit.”

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