Tom Ingram: It Doesn’t Feel Like A Job, Just Fun


Being thrown in at the deep end of one of the most competitive British Touring Car Championship seasons of recent times sounds a daunting and pressure-cooker affair to any new face that graces a record grid, but 21-year-old Tom Ingram tells The Checkered Flag that his BTCC debut has so far been nothing but enjoyable…

The fresh-faced youngster from High Wycombe conquered all before him in the BTCC’s support package championships with Ginetta, last season completing the hat-trick of Junior, G50 and GT4 Supercup crowns to earn a call-up to the premier tin-top series for 2014 – which eventually came through Speedworks Motorsport.

Ingram’s challenge was not to set the world on fire immediately, but to enjoy his new office and show the increasing crowds at Britain’s circuits that he can mix it with the big names now synonymous with the sport, something he felt he had done instantly after a consistent top-10 turn of speed in the opening round at Brands Hatch.

The big stage is one that some can take in better than others, and the reigning GT Supercup champion – who claimed 11 wins in his crowning season  – admitted at Knockhill that, seven rounds into his rookie BTCC season, he has found it a thoroughly enjoyable experience on the learning curve.

“Massively actually”, Ingram told TCF of the enjoyment of his rookie BTCC season to date. “It’s been really, really enjoyable so far.

“At the end of the day I’m having fun, and that’s really the main thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s a job, it just feels like fun every weekend!”

Ingram has been a top-10 contender in 2014 (Photo: Phil Laughton Photography)
Ingram has been a top-10 contender in 2014 (Photo: Phil Laughton Photography)

Ingram’s introduction to the series comes behind the wheel of a Toyota Avensis which, in three years and seven rounds of experience in the BTCC under current NGTC regulations, has just the one race win next to its name from the 2012 Brands Hatch finale.

The more competitive 2014 grid has seen Ingram slot himself consistently ahead of the midfield pack, currently lying 15th in the championship and a mere nine points behind double BTCC champion, Alain Menu – a scalp for any rookie if there was one to take.

10 finishes inside the top 10 prior to Rockingham in 21 races have come the way of Ingram, who has turned the heads of many with his rapid qualifying pace, such as at Thruxton when he planted the Avensis fifth on the grid.

Ingram admits that the learning process is vital to his and the team’s confidence, adding: “It’s been a big learning curve at the same time. But it’s only good stuff it seems that we’re doing so far.

“Every weekend I’m going out there, I’m learning more about the car and moving forward on set-up of the car as well.”

Tom Ingram crash 2014 BTCC Brands Hatch
Ingram’s scrapes have come in reverse-grid contests (Photo: btcc.net)

It can be all too easy to become entangled in the pantomime-style vortex that the BTCC often puts on in the heat of the moment, the series no stranger to producing its fair share of fall-outs and finger-pointing across the years in the aggressive arena.

The attitude of Ingram however is much more positive, and he intends to stay clear of such shenanigans and continue to enjoy the pressure-free situation he and Speedworks find themselves in, as they grow into the position as spoilers to the regular front-runners.

“The trouble is that when you’re expected to be at the front, then that’s where the pressure-cooker comes in”, continued Ingram on the nature of the big stage for many of his opposition.

“We’re in a really cool position where people don’t expect us to be at the front, and when we do, it’s a nice surprise and makes it a really, really good situation for us.

“If you start getting into the arguments then it becomes less enjoyable I’d imagine, so I’m just looking to stay out of that and we can do our own thing like we are at the moment.”

Fresh from challenging the likes of championship leader, Colin Turkington, at Knockhill, Ingram targets a rostrum visit, adding: “At the same time though – I want to be on the podium.”

The dramas have still been there however, an incident with Menu at Brands Hatch which pitched the Avensis into the barriers starting a trend Ingram wishes to banish; that being a string of reverse-grid race misfortunes.

Ingram’s Season So Far:

Best finish

7th

Top-10 finishes

10

Best qualifying position

5th – Thruxton

DNFs

5

Championship position (after 21/30 races)

15th (87pts)

 

Ingram’s luck in the third races of this season’s BTCC weekends have seen him only achieve a best result of 13th at Thruxton’s finale, as well as the ignominy of three of his five non-finishes.

Snetterton was the most disastrous in terms of luck for the Toyota man, who was running strongly before the wheel literally fell off his weekend (and his Avensis), one of two non-finishes in a visit to Norfolk he would rather forget.

“The third race has been what has caught me out every single weekend”, he said, “so I’m not going to count my chickens so far each time because we all know that disaster can strike! It’s happened to me too much this year.”

Ingram’s showings so far have warranted praise through the paddock, including from former BTCC champion, Tim Harvey, who tipped Ingram to potentially even make that trip to the podium he is aiming for as early as the latter stage of this season.

The 1992 champion said that the youngster’s abilities are comparable to an experienced touring car hand, commenting: “Tom has made a really strong impression in his first half-season in the BTCC – in what is an extremely tough year in the championship. You’ve got 31 cars all running to the same specification; that means it’s difficult to get into the top 15 let alone the top 10.

Ingram Ginetta BTCC
Ingram’s switch from Ginettas has seemed effortless (Credit: Lee Foxon (l), Phil Laughton (r) )

“He has impressed a lot of people, particularly with his qualifying pace – and he has been consistently fast, too. Whilst there is a certain level of experience required to be able to compete at the front on a regular basis in the BTCC because it really is so different to anything else, he has very quickly picked up the racecraft – and I know for a fact that he is on the radar of several teams and team managers for next year.

“I would like to see Tom on the podium between now and the end of the season; I think that is an achievable target, and one that would be a real feather in his cap going into 2015.”

When asked by TCF about such praise from a household name in the sport, the youngster felt complimented by such words in the still early stages of his car racing career.

“It’s nice to hear some positive stuff out of people’s mouths in the paddock, rather than people finding ways to criticise in any way, shape or form”, concluded Ingram.

“It just proves that people are taking note that we are doing a good job and, like I say, I’m just enjoying it so much.”

Ingram also lies 11th in the Independent Drivers’ Championship, and heads next to a Rockingham circuit over 6/7 September which he holds a resounding level of success at, having never been beaten in three years and six Supercup races around the Northamptonshire venue.

Ingram Harvey BTCC
Former champ Harvey (c) has high praise of Ingram (r) (Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography)