One of the UK's brightest prospects is set to miss out on the 2010 Ginetta Junior season unless a big money sponsor comes on board before the opening rounds of the Championship at Thruxton.
High Wycombe based Tom Ingram, who showed glimpses of genuine pace during a part season in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2009 is in danger of missing out.
Ingram, who secured a brace of pole positions at Oulton Park last season as well as a single podium finish at Thruxton, will be considered one of the favourites for the crown if he makes it to the starting grid.
He made an instant impression during a recent test at Silverstone in the brand new Ginetta G40, which has been introduced to replace the old G20 Junior which the series has used for the last few years.
About the Silverstone test and the initial shakedown which Ingram did the day before, he said: “Bruntingthorpe was all about getting as many miles and laps on the engine and gearbox as possible in the time we had, just to run through everything really,” Tom explained. “We did over 100 laps in total, so it went well – and at Silverstone it was good to get back out testing in the car at a proper race track to be honest! The last time we had been out in a Ginetta was in the final 2009 meeting at Brands Hatch in early October.
“It was the first time I'd had a mechanic fully dedicated just to me, and it was good to have someone who was able to give me a bit of guidance. My dad has been brilliant, but it was just interesting to have someone else there who sees things from a different perspective too.
“The car felt really good – it was all very positive and I really enjoyed driving it. We didn't get a chance to skim the tyres down to 'race-spec'; we reckon that lost us about one to one-and-a-half seconds a lap, but we were still pretty close to the ultimate pace, which was good to see. It was all a learning experience really – we were just trying to get as much out of the day as we could.
“The new G40 was immediately a lot better than the old one; you get a lot more feel from the car, and every change you make affects it a lot more – you can tell pretty much straightaway what kind of difference it has made. It goes through the gears a lot quicker, and all-round grip levels are excellent too. You struggle to compare it to the old car to be fair, because it's just so different.”
The official Ginetta media day has already happened and Ingram's approach was to prove that he will be competitive in a G40; he showed a steely determination to succeed. He is weighing up a number of options from different teams but still faces the possibility of watching the season opener from the sofa at home.
With the carrot of a test in the Pirtek Racing Vauxhall Vectra as a reward for the Champion of the Ginetta Juniors this season, as well as the improved live television coverage for the season's races, it's the perfect place for any companies to get noticed.
“The championship looks brilliant this year!” underlined the former Wycombe and Marlow Sports Personality of the Year. “The interest generated by the new car alone has been incredible, and a lot of big teams have come in off the back of that. The car just looks a lot sharper than the old one, and the whole championship seems to have taken a step up in terms of professionalism too. There's nothing else comparable at this level in terms of exposure and what sponsors can get out of it.
“I've got a year under my belt now of learning about standing starts and everything else, and getting used to all the circuits – so I'm going to go into this season without doubt a stronger driver. There's only one goal, and that's the title. The Pirtek opportunity is once-in-a-lifetime, and to win that would be awesome! To say I've tested a touring car at the age of 17 would be quite special – and it's definitely something to aspire to.”
Ingram recieved a glowing report from the Team Principle of Porsche Carrera Cup outfit In2 Racing, Nick Dudfield, he ran Ingram during the Silverstone test and saw a great deal of potential and promise in the Conway House backed 16 year old.
“It was the first time I had really met Tom,” Dudfield remarked. “From somebody who has had the pleasure of working with some pretty good drivers, my first impression of Tom is that he has potential and a lovely family – and working with people you can relate to and get on with always helps!
“He's done everything off his own back and through family effort. Having been there myself, and having not had a great pot of family money or sponsors behind me, I can see that he is deeply conscious that he can't afford to go out there and ruin the car, because they are costs you know you can't afford to repair. I sympathise greatly with his position and would love to assist Tom if I can.
“It was a good day at Silverstone, and I sense that with the right guidance and a bit of nurturing, he has got a good chance of doing very well. From just the first instance of working with him, he clearly has a very natural speed. From my point-of-view in having sat on the pit wall for many years, watching Tom at Silverstone I could see he was carrying a significant amount of speed into the first corner in comparison with a lot of the other drivers out there – so commitment clearly isn't an issue.
“I'm full of enthusiasm to try to support him and help him along, and we would definitely like to help him move forward. We are looking to expand our footprint within the TOCA package with the right individual. We're looking for opportunities to work with new people and generate some new blood – and working with Tom was refreshing. I would certainly give him a glowing report.
“The new G40 for me ticks all the boxes of what the old G40 should have been about – and it has all the ingredients to be a good step forward. Tom just wants to go out there and get on with it, which is great! There are already some big egos even at that level, too – so it would be incredibly good if we could get him up the front and kicking some a**e!”
If you are interested in backing the young star of the future, please visit www.tom-ingram.com.
Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography