2010 Ginetta Junior Champion Tom Ingram had his first taste of BTCC machinery last week as he took to the track at Silverstone as part of his prize for winning the Junior championship. Sampling Andrew Jordan's Vauxhall Vectra, the youngster seized the opportunity with both hands, impressing both BTCC regular Jordan and his father and former BTCC racer Mike Jordan, who described him as “outstanding”.
Reaching speeds of over 130mph around the National Circuit, it was a huge leap up from the G40 Junior car he spent the season campaigning. This didn't faze Ingram though, who grew in to the car over the course of the test. Beginning the test 6.5 seconds off Jordan's benchmark time, he improved to end up just half a second off the pace, a lap time that would have seen him qualify 16th on the grid during the BTCC's visit to the circuit back in August.
Commenting on the test, Ingram said: “I was absolutely buzzing beforehand. I couldn't get to sleep the night before because I was so excited about it all, and when I got to Silverstone I just couldn't wait to get out in the car!
“It's the first front wheel-drive racing car I've ever driven, and I went through Copse Corner sideways on one of my first laps – it was just mental! I also had to adjust to the size of the car, the speed, the gearbox, the weight, the brakes and the braking distances – it's just so massively different to the Ginetta in every respect.”
“The Vectra really is so much fun to drive – I wanted to stay out there all day! When they gave me the 'IN' board, my heart just sank! Honda Racing were there as well, and it was a surreal feeling to look in the mirror and see two-time BTCC Champion Matt Neal chasing me – that was pretty cool.
“It was a just an awesome, mega day and I'm so grateful to Ginetta owner Lawrence Tomlinson, Eurotech and Pirtek, because to be given such a special opportunity as this showed great belief in me. It was a dream come true, and I loved every minute of it – and driving a touring car is definitely something I could get used to! Hopefully, I might have been able to turn a few heads, too…”
The car's regular pilot, BTCC race winner Jordan, was overwhelmed with Ingram's performance, saying:
“Tom did a sterling job, much better than I'd thought he would get on. He's a really nice lad, really enthusiastic and he seems very intelligent with a very switched-on approach – and he was quick, as well! I don't really want him to get too much quicker, or he will be after my drive!
“Most of the time he was losing was in high-speed places like Copse, which is natural and what you would expect as the last thing you find in a touring car is corner entry speed in the quick stuff – but he chipped away at that throughout the day and just got better and better and better. It's all a confidence thing.
“He took everything on-board from the data and always went out and went quicker on the next run, which was good to see. Sometimes you can keep explaining things to people and it's like banging your head against a brick wall, but Tom listened to everything we were telling him, really soaked the information in and learned from it all.
“He didn't put a foot wrong all day – he was a real breath of fresh air and we were all really pleased with him. It was just a shame the day went so quickly – I'd like to have another day with him if we could arrange it!
His dad, team boss Mike, was delighted with Tom, who matched and beat all of his expectatons:
“It was a very good day all-round. The Vectra was obviously a big change from anything Tom had ever driven before, and a modern-day BTCC car is a tricky car to get decent pace out of, but he approached it all incredibly sensibly. I told him at the start that it was not by going fast that he was going to impress us, and the worst thing that he could have done would have been to go and stick it in the gravel on his first run when the circuit was all horrible and slippery still – but he didn't put a single foot wrong all day and drove perfectly.
“We ended up giving him a lot more track time than we had planned, purely because we were so hugely impressed with his whole attitude and we wanted to give him the best opportunity possible – and he really grabbed that opportunity and just did an outstanding job. He learned a lot, and at the end of the day he was bloody fast – faster than we'd thought he would be. If he had a few more test days, it wouldn't take long before he is absolutely right-on-the-money in terms of pace.”