Speedworks Motorsport concluded a tremendously impressive opening half to the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in fine style at Croft, as Tom Ingram mastered wet and dry conditions alike to deliver a fourth podium finish from five race weekends.
Ingram featured up at the sharp end from the outset in Speedworks’ front wheel-drive Toyota Avensis, although tyre vibration left him unable to set a quick qualifying time as he lined up 12th on the grid.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras, the 22-year-old navigated carefully through the traditional Turn One mêlée in the curtain-raiser to settle into a four-way scrap over eighth.
He’d have to settle for ninth at the fall of the chequered flag but he continued to move forwards, gaining ground at the start and subsequently pulling off a peach of a move on 2013 champion Andrew Jordan to advance to seventh position.
Ingram came under pressure but the Bucks racer did not yield to seal a front row start in the reverse grid finale.
By that stage, the sunny skies had made way for rain, prompting Speedworks to bolt wet-weather rubber onto Ingram’s Avensis. It proved to be the correct call, and with grip at a premium on the greasy and slippery track, a strong getaway saw the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion maintain second place when the lights went out.
Struggling slightly for traction, he was overtaken by eventual winner Ashley Sutton midway through but thereafter maturely withstood a concerted attack from Colin Turkington and Rob Collard, evincing some superb defensive racecraft for his fourth podium and fifth Independent victory of the campaign – more than any of his rivals.
That vaulted Ingram from tenth up to sixth in the overall Drivers’ standings – just eight points adrift of the top four – and from fourth to second in the Independents’ Trophy.
“Coming off the back of a big points-scoring weekend at Oulton Park, our objective for Croft was more of the same,” said Ingram afterwards. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy as Croft is renowned for favouring rear wheel-drive cars, but three strong results were clearly the aim and that’s exactly what we achieved.
“It’s a circuit I’ve always loved, and our pace in practice was really encouraging – we didn’t expect to be as far up as we were on old rubber in FP1.
“I enjoy the challenge of those conditions, although we didn’t have the outright pace and I was mindful of not wanting to throw it off the road.
“We had to soak up quite a bit of pressure, and I was very happy to leave with another podium. That was a great way to finish , and it helped us to move a fair distance up the standings which gives us a lot of confidence and momentum heading into the break.”