Tom Ingram has already laid down the foundations for a successful Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship career, reckons former title-winner Tim Harvey, with the talented young High Wycombe ace turning many a head with his scintillating raw speed and palpable potential during his maiden campaign in the series.
Competing for independent outfit Speedworks Motorsport in the #80 Toyota Avensis, Ingram stunned observers and his rivals alike by qualifying an outstanding sixth for the season curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch back in March. He has since tallied two further top six starting positions from the subsequent five outings – missing the top ten just twice – and at Snetterton last time out, once more lined up on the third row of the grid before cruel misfortune proved to be his race day undoing.
The blu and Hansford Sensors-supported KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member featured as high as fourth in the opening encounter around the ultra-quick Norfolk circuit – one where Lady Luck has rarely deigned to smile upon him – and was set fair for a very solid points haul when stub axle failure on the final lap caused one of his wheels to part company with the car and effectively destroyed his weekend on the spot.
Whilst he was one of the fastest on the track over the closing stages of race three as he scythed his way through from the back of the pack, it was by then to little avail – although Ingram could at least take encouragement from the fact that he had again run up with the leaders in the ITV4 live-televised championship, commonly regarded as the world’s premier and most fiercely-contested tin-top series. He went on to top the morning timesheets at Snetterton’s post-weekend tyre test for good measure.
The competition in the BTCC is hotter than ever in 2014, with no fewer than seven former champions and 13 race-winners amongst the 31 contenders – illustrious company indeed for a 20-year-old rookie who is by his own admission still learning the ropes. Tim Harvey – who clinched the drivers’ crown in 1992 and now commentates on the series for ITV4 – argues that Ingram has more than made his mark and is confident there is plenty yet to come.
“Tom has made a really strong impression in his first half-season in the BTCC – in what is an extremely tough year in the championship,” he asserts. “You’ve got 31 cars all running to the same specification; that means it’s difficult to get into the top 15 let alone the top ten because the grids are separated by literally fractions of a second, but Tom has slotted in almost immediately and already looks like an old hand at touring cars.
“He has impressed a lot of people, particularly with his qualifying pace – and he has been consistently fast, too. Whilst there is a certain level of experience required to be able to compete at the front on a regular basis in the BTCC because it really is so different to anything else, he has very quickly picked up the racecraft – and I know for a fact that he is on the radar of several teams and team managers for next year.
“He has endured a number of issues that have prevented a greater points total, but hopefully his luck will change over the remainder of the campaign to allow him to maximise his opportunities – because he certainly has the pace to do so. I would like to see Tom on the podium between now and the end of the season; I think that is an achievable target, and one that would be a real feather in his cap going into 2015.”
Harvey is also Director of the prestigious British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStars programme, to which Ingram was appointed earlier this year. Aside from his evident speed and success on the racetrack – annexing some 11 points-scoring finishes to-date, seven of them inside the top ten – the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion is manifestly making significant progress away from the circuit, too.
“Tom is clearly very proud to be carrying the BRDC emblem on his car,” Harvey acknowledges. “The SuperStars scheme is a very exclusive group, and we are supporting him as much as we can. He is already reaping the benefits of the help and advice available, and has been a willing participant in all of the activities, workshops, training and education on offer. There are only 16 members in the SuperStars fold, and Tom merits his inclusion without a doubt.”