Tom Ingram went wheel-to-wheel with the very best in the business as the 2015 British Touring Car Championship stopped off at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire, with his most competitive weekend of the season to-date yielding a hat-trick of impressive points-scoring finishes.
The talented young Bucks ace began the weekend with high hopes and things started promisingly as he lapped fastest and second-fastest in the two free practice sessions behind the wheel of his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis.
He looked set to sustain that stellar form during qualifying, featuring comfortably inside the top four amongst the 30 high-calibre contenders until traffic woes stymied his efforts and left him down in 13th on the grid.
Light rain in the opening encounter rendered the track surface slippery and contributed to several wild moments, and with grip levels reduced, the Hansford Sensors-supported KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member needed all of his skill to pull off a number of incisive manoeuvres to advantage to eighth place at the chequered flag.
Despite finding himself surrounded by fast-starting rear-wheel-drive cars on the race two grid, Ingram maintained his position when the lights went out and again was involved in a multi-car scrap throughout the encounter before racking up a second consecutive eighth-place finish.
The three-time Ginetta Champion displayed his consistency in the final race where he bagged his best result of the weekend as a seventh place finish – his 11th top 10 finish from 15 starts – capped a superb points haul and consolidated 12th spot in the overall standings and fifth in the Independents’ table.
“After our pace in the final race at Oulton Park, I felt like we had taken a genuine step forward and I was excited heading to Croft,” reflected the 21-year-old. “It’s one of my favourite circuits and I’ve always gone well there so we expected to be quick – although we did surprise ourselves a bit in practice!
“Qualifying was immensely frustrating because on my fastest lap, I was almost half-a-second up on my previous best when I hit traffic, which cost us a top five slot at the very least.
“I got a good start in race one, but everybody bunched up on the inside going into Tower Bend for the first time and I dropped a couple of places.
“It was really enjoyable battling back because we had a lot of speed and after every overtaking move, I immediately set about hunting down the next one – the car was so good that I didn’t want the race to end!
“I was pleased to finish eighth, though, and to come away with the same result in race two with the soft tyres and extra weight on-board was very satisfying. The car felt great for the first ten laps, then as soon as the tyres fell away, I had to concentrate on holding station, because I knew the guys behind were closing in all the time.
“We lost some aerodynamic performance early on in race three following the contact and also picked up a slow puncture, but other than that, the car felt strong again thanks to all the hard work put in by the Speedworks crew and we could take the fight to the big boys.
“It was fantastic to secure another top eight finish, and the only disappointment from the weekend was wondering what we might have been able to achieve had we qualified where we should.
“Still, the most encouraging aspect is that we were quick in all three races and we’re not massively far away now from consistently cracking the top five. It’s all going in the right direction and I can’t wait for the second half of the season!”