Tom Ingram shook off a troubled qualifying session and lowly grid slot to charge through the field to a brace of top 10 finishes at Thruxton on Sunday, gaining a staggering 13 positions in the final race alone to underline his superb overtaking prowess.
Ingram and his Speedworks Motorsport team endured a tough time in their last BTCC outing at Donington, and his struggles continued in qualifying at the weekend when the youngster lined up a disappointing 17th for race one, almost 1.5 seconds shy of the leading pace.
Significant changes were made overnight in an effort to extract more performance from the #80 Toyota Avensis, and they transformed the car, enabling the Hansford Sensors-supported KX Akademy graduate to fight up through the order in race one and snatch 10th position on the very last lap, pulling off some bold manoeuvres along the way.
From 16th on the grid for race two, Ingram again made early progress and was running inside the points in 12th – in the midst of a frenetic scrap over eighth – when differential woes spelt an early retirement, his first of the year.
That consigned the three-time Ginetta Champion and former British Karting Champion to just 23rd on the grid for the weekend’s third and final encounter.
Not to be outdone by misfortune, he picked up an impressive seven places on the opening lap alone and showcased his excellent racecraft to storm through to 10th once more.
His sixth top 10 finish from nine races in 2015, the results maintained Ingram’s 12th spot in the overall standings and fifth position in the Independents’ Trophy heading next to Oulton Park in a month’s time.
The 21-year-old said: “We struggled throughout practice with the set-up; Thruxton is such a unique circuit in terms of the demands it places on the car, and despite trying a different approach for qualifying, those problems persisted.
“The most frustrating aspect was that the balance actually felt OK but the lap time just wasn’t there, which made it difficult to pinpoint what was wrong.
“We made some big changes ahead of Sunday, and thankfully, they paid off. We were quick and consistent throughout, and the first race was good fun – I pulled off some strong moves and to finish inside the top ten from where we’d started demonstrated our fighting spirit.
“Race two was obviously a shame because another top 10 was definitely on the cards.
“The Speedworks boys did a great job to get the Avensis fixed again in time for race three, although from the back of the grid, I thought to even crack the top 15 would be an achievement.
“That said, I got a fantastic start, gained a lot of ground on the first lap and then just focussed on continuing to move forward. The safety car did help us in that it bunched the whole field up, but I still had to make the passes – and if we’d been able to start further up the grid, I think it could have been an entirely different story.
“Still, we left Thruxton in a much more positive mood than we’d been in after qualifying, and we came away with about the best we could have done considering we began on the back foot. We’ll go testing before Oulton, which hopefully will allow us to hit the ground running there in a much better position.”