First pole and second race win for potent new Toyota Corolla
25-year-old on-course to double up until turbo issues intervene
Tom Ingram had vowed to come out fighting over the second half of the British Touring Car Championship campaign, and the Team Toyota GB with Ginsters star was as good as his word at Snetterton last weekend (3/4 August), outpacing all of his rivals to score the new Toyota Corolla’s first BTCC pole position and second race win.
Team Toyota GB with Ginsters had been very clear entering 2019 that the first half of the year would be spent getting to grips with the Corolla before going on the attack later on – and an encouraging mid-summer test at Snetterton last month left the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad feeling bullish about its prospects for late-season success.
Upon his return to the circuit, Ingram was fast straight out-of-the-blocks, placing third amongst the 30 high-calibre contenders in the opening free practice session – going quickest in two of the three sectors around what is the longest lap in the country – and backing that up with another top five showing in FP2.
In qualifying, the Bucks-born ace then produced a stunning effort that shaded practice pace-setter Dan Cammish by a scant 0.002s, despite the distraction of traffic. In a tense battle for supremacy, Ingram lowered the existing lap record by almost half-a-second to secure his third career pole in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras and an enthralled trackside crowd, the 25-year-old seamlessly converted that into a lights-to-flag triumph in the curtain-raiser, withstanding Cammish’s early threat before increasingly stretching his legs and eventually taking the chequered flag more than three seconds to the good as the top two left the rest of the field trailing in their wake.
It was a dominant drive, and his 11th BTCC victory earned Ingram the top spot on the starting grid again for the day’s second contest, albeit now with the maximum 54kg of success ballast on-board and on the less favourable medium-compound tyre. Artfully leading the first half of the race, he calmly resisted championship top two Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan – both on the faster soft tyre and carrying less weight – as he placed his Corolla inch-perfectly to keep his pursuers at bay.
Unfortunately, a handful of laps in, a turbo wastegate failure in the engine resulted in a loss of power, allowing the pack to close right onto his tail. After soaking up intensifying pressure with a gaggle of cars breathing down his neck, the reigning two-time Independents’ Champion was eventually forced to yield and limped home a frustrated and entirely unrepresentative 23rd, last of the classified finishers.
In the day’s finale, he then shrugged off the disadvantage of running on the slower hard-compound rubber to gain a staggering nine positions over the course of a meteoric opening lap. With the Corolla taking good care of its tyres, Ingram was able to go on a late charge to cross the finish line an excellent eighth, barely two seconds shy of the podium. The result elevated him to seventh in the Drivers’ standings heading next to Thruxton in Hampshire on 17/18 August, as Team Toyota GB with Ginsters consolidated ninth spot out of 19 in the Teams’ table.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Team Toyota GB with Ginsters, said:
“Given we’re not really in the championship hunt this year, the major focus over the summer has been on pushing for performance and getting faster and faster as the season progresses. From that perspective, I think it’s fair to say Snetterton marked a big tick in the box.
“After the pre-event test, I felt we should be inside the top five at the race weekend and could hopefully crack the top three – but for Tom to grab pole in qualifying exceeded expectations and proved that everybody’s hard work over the past few weeks has really paid off. It was an incredible lap and I think took people a little bit by surprise.
“The Corolla then looked after its tyres extremely well in race one and in the end, it was actually quite a comfortable win – although for me, race two was arguably an even more impressive drive.
“It was the first time the car had carried any significant ballast in a race, so it represented a bit of a journey of discovery. We knew the BMWs would be quick on the softer tyre, but with everybody else towards the front on the medium compound like we were, we still had hopes of battling for the podium – and without the wastegate issue, I have no doubt we would have done so.
“The Corolla handled the extra weight and medium tyre in its stride and our pace was really strong again. Tom put up a stellar fight, but we knew the problem was there a couple of laps before it became apparent to everybody else and that put paid to any chance of back-to-back victories.
“Fired-up by that disappointment, Tom went on a real charge in race three, which was a great tonic for everybody in the team. We all know how good he is at coming through from the back of the field, but to do so on the hard tyre I thought was particularly impressive. After a blinding start, he kept on pushing and even set some of his personal fastest laps towards the end, which proved how well the performance level held up. We were sat on the pit wall desperate for the race to carry on!
“Still, the weekend as a whole was overwhelmingly positive – we took pole position, another victory and led more than twice as many laps as anybody else. We’re not satisfied to stop there, though, and having kick-started the second half of the season with a win, we now want to win again, and again, and again...”
Tom Ingram, Driver, Team Toyota GB with Ginsters, said:
“What a mega weekend! The Toyota Corolla showed really good speed in a variety of situations – over a single lap, leading from the front, defending with maximum ballast and fighting through the field – and it felt fantastic throughout. It actually felt better than the Avensis ever did, even at the peak of its powers, which is a really exciting prospect.
“I was so chuffed to take our first pole with the Corolla. It wasn’t the most perfect lap I’ve ever put together – there were a couple of tiny mistakes in there – but it was enough to get the job done, and I know how Dan felt because I’ve also been on the wrong side of that kind of margin before!
“We’ve just been quietly going about our business in recent weeks, trying to understand as much as we can about the Corolla and slowly nibbling away. The test last month was so useful in that it allowed us to finally experiment with a lot of things on the car. Everybody has improved over the summer break, but perhaps we have improved a little bit more, which is testament to a heck of a lot of hard work behind-the-scenes. It’s been an awesome job by all the Speedworks boys and girls.
“Going back to Snetterton, the first race of the weekend is always the most satisfying to win, because it’s down to pure performance. I had the pace in my pocket to extend the gap had I needed to, and I really enjoyed that one – I was more than happy to have a boring run!
“Obviously what happened in race two was disheartening, because I think we should have come away with two wins rather than one. We were hanging on well with the weight and on the medium tyre and I genuinely felt like I had everything under control; I wasn’t having to drive in my mirrors or over-defend like you sometimes need to.
“For me, we were sitting in a strong position and until we encountered the problem, it was ours to lose. The most frustrating aspect was that we were approaching the crossover point where Colin and Andrew’s soft tyres were going to start fading while the medium compound was still performing well, but there was nothing we could do – it was completely out of our control. The highs and lows of motorsport...
“From there, the first lap of race three was absolutely mint – I remember coming over the team radio and telling the guys, ‘that was sick!’ I had so much fun, and considering we were running on the hard tyre, our pace held up well all the way through. Towards the end, we were around a second-and-a-half quicker than anybody else on that compound, and with just one more lap, I’m convinced we’d have picked up another couple of places – if not more. I guess we’ll simply have to go again at Thruxton in a fortnight’s time...”