What a manic week – from effectively having no drive on Thursday morning to be standing on the top step of the podium by the end of the weekend has to be one of the most surreal experiences I can ever remember!
During the winter break, people were asking me where I would be racing in 2011, and the answer was, 'in the Ginetta GT Supercup, but I need some money!' The Ginetta GT Supercup for me was going to be the next step in my career, as I wanted to stay in the Ginetta family and also on the TOCA package. I cannot see that there is a better race series to be in than the TOCA package provides. I had many offers over the winter, to be competing in many different categories, but my choice was always to stay with Ginetta
After not being very successful with finding any funding over the winter and the clock counting down, it was turning into a mad panic to try to raise money as quickly as possible! With only a week to go until round one, we had a 'phone call from Plans Motorsport asking if I was going to be racing at Brands Hatch, and the answer was quite a simple one…no!
We spoke to Plans Motorsport for quite a while, and they offered me a drive for Brands to help to promote the team and get some decent results for them, but at this stage we still had very little funding in-place. I was sending off e-mails and letters to every contact I had made in my local area from business groups, and I was invited along to talk at one of them. From the talk, I managed to drum up a little bit of interest and six companies all put in enough to enable me to compete!
So off we went, down to Brands for my first meeting in G50s and, indeed, my first full day in a G50!
Friday would be my first time in the car I was going to race, and also the first time in my car and not sharing with someone else as I had done at the media day! It was going to be a learning curve for both myself as well as my mum's nerves! First session out on Friday morning and I got seven laps under my belt, until all-of-a-sudden the car cut out on me. I managed to get back to the pits, but diagnosing the problem was far from easy and I lost most of the session.
In the second session, my engineers were not sure if they had found the problem, but after lap eight it started to appear again. Unfortunately, these problems set us back in terms of gaining data and set-up details. I fed back to my engineers and mechanics as much information as I could so that we would have a competitive car for qualifying, and it paid off! P1 in my first full run in the Ginetta G50 Plans Motorsport-prepared car, wow, what a buzz!
So I'd done it, I was on pole in class for my first race in a G50 – and boy, was I nervous! Unfortunately, as I'd had next-to-no time in the car, I didn't get to practise any starts so my first start was on the grid – and that lack of practice cost me dear as I stalled on the line. As I watched all the cars come past me, I knew I had to make it back; I had a quick car, and I love the Brands Hatch circuit!
I managed to get back up through the pack and on the last corner of the last lap, went up the inside of Rob Gaffney for third place, but where a car had dropped oil in a previous race I couldn't get it slowed down again, which left just enough of a gap for Rob to slip back up the inside and also gave Louise Richardson a run to pull alongside and just edge past – so although I'd stalled on the line, I managed to get back up to fifth place…but it should have been third!
After the disappointing start in race one, I made sure my second start was better, asking as many people as I could who had raced a G50 before what revs to use and how to get away well, and it paid off – I got a lighting start and jumped straight up to third place. The two leaders were now in my sights, and I just got my head down and pushed as hard as I could to gain ground on them, which I managed to do, and luckily enough, Jody Fannin got a little crossed-up through Surtees heading into Clearways and dropped a wheel off, which sent him bouncing across the grass.
I was now up to P2, with the leader only a second or so ahead of me and I knew I was quicker, so I set about chasing him down. After two laps of chasing, the safety car was deployed which meant I could get onto the back of Andy Richardson and start to put the pressure on! I got a great re-start and was right under his rear wing over the line, but he defended into Paddock so I went high to get the switch-back up to Druids, where he again defended the line. I thought there was little point in going for a risky move – I would just sit behind him and settle for second, as I could see it wasn't going to end well, so I settled for a cheap second rather than chance an expensive win!
I'd done it! My maiden podium in G50s, but from the pace I had, I knew I could go one better the next day.
After a wait that seemed like forever, my race was up and I was starting second in class – and I knew that, so long as I got away well, this one was mine! The lights went out and I got a brilliant start to lead the class heading into Paddock Hill for the first time, where I stayed for the whole race. Where a few of the G55s had made poor starts, they were beginning to catch me, and I knew there was no point in trying to defend from them as they were in a totally different race and it would only have ended in a crash.
I saw my team-mate, Alistair James, in my mirrors when we were under the safety car, and I tried to let him past somewhere that wasn't going to cost me, but in the meantime, effectively slow the cars down behind me by using Alistair as a kind of cushion. That's exactly what we did; Alistair and I were lapping at very similar times, which let us get away and start to ever-so-slowly catch the G55s. As soon as we both had a big enough gap from the chasing pack, I let Alistair past and set about maintaining good, clean, consistent and fast laps to build on the lead I had, all the way to the chequered flag.
So, my first meeting in a G50 and I had come away with a fifth, a second, a win – and the championship lead. It just topped off a truly brilliant and hectic week trying to get there!
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Graham, Mike, Tyler and everyone else at Plans Motorsport for giving me a fantastic opportunity and a fantastic car to race with, as well as a huge thank you to everyone at Ginetta, and to everybody who helped me to race; Aspen Graphic, Crown Coaching, Puzzle I.T – who are now season partners – Cannon Moorcroft, Hunter Stuckey Marshall and Hazel Cooch FCCA.
Remember also to follow me on Twitter @TomIngram80 and also my website: www.tom-ingram.com