48 hours before the weekend began and Tom Ingram was looking set to miss out on the season opener of the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup. But after a late deal was finalised to enter with Plans Motorsport, the 17-year-old was instead picking up the winner's champagne after taking his maiden G50 win and leaving Brands Hatch with the early championship lead.
The reigning Ginetta Junior Champion has been struggling throughout the winter to get the budget together and was looking set for a season on the sidelines. This was until a phone call from Plans Motorsport on Thursday night offered him a drive and with some last minute sponsorship in his pocket, he jumped at the opportunity.
Reflecting on the winter, Ingram said: “It was heart-breaking, but as the race weekend got closer-and-closer-and-closer, we just thought 'we can't give up'. Even though nothing was coming up and it looked pretty bleak, we kept working away at it – and it was a miracle when it all came together! It was just unbelievable – I was overjoyed!”
With only half a day's running in a G50 over the winter, Ingram was forced to get used to the car quickly during Friday practice, but was hampered by electrical issues restricting his track time. This meant he headed into qualifying under-prepared, but the BRDC Rising Star showed his talent to get pole position in his class and seventh overall.
His hard work was undone at the beginning of race one though, with a stall on the grid leaving him at the back of the pack. He worked his way through the field to finish fifth in class and thirteenth overall. The second race saw him make a great start and leap into second in class. Despite feeling quicker than the class leader ahead, rather than make a risky move, he decided to settle for second and take the points it offered.
Starting eighth for the final race, another great start saw him nab the class lead and he never looked back, leading from lights to flag for his maiden G50 win. He also challenged the faster G55 models throughout the race, finishing in sixth overall.
The results see Ingram, who was able to make it out at Brands thanks to Moorcroft, Puzzle IT, Hazel Cooch FCCA, Crown Coaching, Hunter Stuckey Marshall and Aspen Graphic – lead the G50 standings by 11 points as the series move onto Donington Park in two weeks time, a meeting he hopes he can get the budget together to compete at.
Ingram said: “It was the first weekend for the team in the championship as well, and they're a great bunch of guys – if they weren't a great team, we wouldn't have won the race. I'd like to say a huge 'thank you' to everyone at Plans for giving me this opportunity and putting me on the grid at Brands Hatch.
“It was really encouraging to be up there with the G55s, and it showed we had the pace even in the 'slower' car! It was fantastic to win on my first weekend in the G50 and with the team. The main aim for the weekend was to get my name back out there, and I thought to come away with two podiums and leading the championship was pretty good. It was great to be spraying the champagne again – it felt just like I'd never been away.”
Plans Motorsport team manager Graham Horgan added: “I've followed Tom's career for a while, particularly last year in Ginetta Juniors, and when we had the opportunity to run a second car, Ginetta suggested he would be the ideal candidate. A deal was done at the last-minute, and I was very pleased and looking forward to running Tom for the weekend.
“He drove fantastically well, gave great feedback and showed amazing maturity for someone who's only 17 – there wasn't so much as a mark on the car afterwards. It was a shame he stalled on the start-line in the first race – it was just a case of him not being used to racing on slick tyres – as I think he would have got three wins without that. If you have a problem in race one, it messes up your whole weekend, but I thought Tom did a brilliant job to fight back.
“He really demonstrated his potential, and if the funding can be found, we're very much looking forward to the possibility of maintaining the relationship throughout the season.”