After a torrid last couple of months, Tom Ingram banished the bad luck that has been hounding him of late and returned to the top step of the Ginetta GT Supercup podium during Rounds 18, 19 and 20 of the 2011 campaign at Knockhill.
Having held a 96 points advantage in the title standings following race one at Croft in mid-June, Plans Motorsport's Tom arrived in Scotland with just a one point lead, so knew he had to re-assert himself at the driver to beat around the unique twisty circuit. Ingram headed into the meeting in extra positive mood after local man Matthew Kirby generously stepped in to sponsor him for the weekend, the deal helping Ingram who has been persistently challenged with a funding shortfall.
Ingram said: “Last year, we were ultra-consistent and finished every race. This year, we've had so many failures to finish and other problems already. Snetterton had just been a complete disaster, and I could sense the championship was beginning to slip away unless we turned things around pretty quickly.
“Matthew and I had been in contact with each other for a few months via Facebook, and I know he has been following my career over the last few years – but I never anticipated that it would lead to this! To have that kind of support was absolutely fantastic; for him to say out-of-the-blue that he would fund us to race at Knockhill left me flabbergasted, to be honest – it was just so completely unexpected.
“It was a bit of a novelty and actually quite surreal knowing we would be racing so soon before the meeting – it's usually such a last-minute panic due to finances – and given how we had done at Knockhill last year with a clean sweep of wins, pole positions and fastest laps, I couldn't wait to go back!
“It's a phenomenal circuit – so undulating and flowing – and driving it in a Ginetta G50 was absolutely unreal! I just love it and I know I'm quick round Knockhill, but there were some new kerbs this year, it was my first time around the circuit in a G50 and a lot of the others had been testing there in the build-up, so I was a little bit on the back foot going into the weekend from that perspective.”
The 18 year old was quickest straight out of blocks in free practice and backed this up with a commanding G50 class pole position in qualifying, the BRDC Rising Star's sixth pole position out of seven this season so far.
Commenting on Race One, Ingram said: “I retained the lead at the start of race one, but immediately, I found myself struggling to get the car to release from the corners, and Aaron Williamson was able to just drive straight past me as we came out of the first corner on one lap. I felt there was no point in fighting him too hard and risking an accident, because Jody Fannin – who is the closest to me in the championship – was behind, so as long as I stayed ahead of him and didn't do anything stupid, I knew I would extend my lead.
“I was also experiencing some trouble with the brakes, which meant I couldn't get the car slowed down as well as it should. Round Knockhill, you really need your brakes, and the problem left me particularly vulnerable. On the last lap, Jake Hill slotted down the inside of me with a good opportunistic move to take second.
“That was a bit disappointing, but you live and learn at the end of the day, and with Jody finishing fourth, I still increased my championship lead, which was the main thing. We really needed that kind of result after all the disasters recently – and I knew that once we solved the issues we had, we could find a lot more speed.”
It was a welcome podium return for Ingram and the reigning Ginetta Junior Champion would go on to repeat the result in the weekend's second race, though with Fannin winning, he would lose the championship lead in the process. This meant that he had to bounce back in the final race, which he did so, despite Fannin being gifted a surprise outright pole position.
Ingram explained:“Jody got the jump at the start and managed to keep the lead for the first couple of laps, but then the safety car came out, which bunched the field right up again. There was gravel across the circuit at the top hairpin from a car that had gone off, and Jody bolted surprisingly early at the re-start, which meant that by the time we reached that part of the track, we were already in fourth gear and he hit the gravel and slid sideways.
“That allowed three G55s as well as Aaron to out-drag him down the straight, and left me right on the back of him. Seeing Jody drop so many places in just 100 yards really motivated me, and I immediately tried to put him under pressure and got past into the final hairpin. I then got my head down and focussed on chasing Aaron, who was about a second further in front.
“It didn't take me long to catch him, and I tried to force him into a mistake, too. I managed to get him up the inside into one of the hairpins and from then on, I pulled away pretty easily and it was plain sailing, really.
“It was probably one of the best wins I've had, on reflection. With Jody starting that much higher up the grid than I was, the pressure had really been on as I knew I had to beat him to reclaim the championship lead. It was just a cracking race and – with him finishing further down – the perfect outcome. I was absolutely ecstatic, and I need to say a big 'thank you' to Plans Motorsport and Matthew Kirby for the weekend.”
The result reinstated Ingram to the top of the championship standings, with the High Wycombe-based driver concluding: “Everything finally came together and we managed to convert it into a win again. I think we proved to everybody that we haven't dropped off the pace – we've still got it and we're still right in there fighting. We're back on-track and back to where we were earlier in the season. Normal service is resumed!”