David defeats Goliath as Speedworks and Ingram triumph in BTCC opener

Tom Ingram leads at Brands Hatch. Pictures by Phil Laughton Photography
Tom Ingram leads at Brands Hatch. Pictures by Phil Laughton Photography

Speedworks Motorsport has joined the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship winners’ club in style after Bucks’ very own Tom Ingram raced to a commanding maiden victory in the 2016 curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch.

Entering its sixth season in the ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC, Speedworks was keen to build upon an impressive end to the 2015 campaign that had seen Ingram clinch the plucky independent outfit’s breakthrough podium finish at Rockingham before adding to it with another in the Brands Hatch GP finale.

In a record-breaking 32-car field, the talented young Bucks ace lapped fastest of all in opening practice after Speedworks had swiftly rectified a minor mechanical issue.

Ingram topped the timesheets for the majority of the second session, too, producing a series of metronomically consistent laps in the #80 Toyota Avensis.

In qualifying, both driver and team lived up to their pre-season dark horse status and maintained their winter momentum as the 22-year-old posted the best lap ever recorded by a touring car around Brands Hatch’s 1.2-mile layout to annex his and Speedworks’ first BTCC pole position.

On a greasy track, Ingram made a textbook getaway and led maturely from the front, fending off constant pressure from experienced duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal.

As he flashed across the line more than two seconds clear, Ingram was met by a rapturous reception from the Speedworks pit wall and the capacity crowd, who erupted in applause for an outstanding lights-to-flag performance.

An unfortunate collision prevented a second victory in race two before he narrowly missed out on a points-finish in the final outing.

Nevertheless, that fleeting frustration could not take the gloss off a momentous weekend for both Ingram and the Cheshire-based squad.

“In light of the form in which we had finished 2015 and the improvements made over the winter, the bar had definitely been raised going into the season,” said Ingram.

“But even allowing for that, if somebody had told us that we would be leading the championship after the first race, we would probably have thought it was an April Fool!

“I was able to control the pace quite comfortably. I felt I had the legs on Gordon and could hold a half-second margin without too much trouble, and when I needed to push to open up a gap, I could do so.

“That’s testament to the incredible work the Speedworks guys have done on the Avensis and underscores our conviction that despite being one of the earliest NGTC models, it still has plenty of potential.

“It was good to show people that it remains a competitive proposition and that we have the engineering expertise to extract the most out of it.

“When I saw the boys hanging over the pit wall as the chequered flag came out, I just screamed down the radio.

“Hearing the team’s reaction was such a special moment, because they have waited so long for this result and thoroughly deserve it for all the effort they put in.

“There’s no question that on paper, we shouldn’t be doing what we are doing. At the end of the day, Speedworks is only a small, family-run operation, but the awesome thing about the BTCC is that it gives teams like us the chance to shine and pull off some giant-killing exploits – and now David has beaten Goliath once, we want to do it again and again.”

“I still don’t think the magnitude of what we have achieved has sunk in yet,” reflected Speedworks team principal Christian Dick.

“I’m immensely proud of the entire team; we’ve finally proved what I’ve been saying we are capable of and this result means so much to us all.

“Everybody is hugely excited moving forwards, and the key will be to sustain this level of performance. We head to the next round with very little ballast and an extremely fast car, and we need to make sure we exploit that opportunity.”