Firstly, I must apologise for taking so long to get this blog written – I have been so busy since the last two rounds on the never-ending trail of sponsorship leads!
After a great first Ginetta GT Supercup weekend at Brands Hatch, my focus was on enjoying an ever better weekend at Donington. Testing went okay, but we were on the back foot slightly from running on our used race tyres from Brands. This meant that although we were a few tenths down, I knew as soon as we got some fresh rubber we would be bang on the pace, so I wasn't too worried about that.
First up on Saturday was qualifying, and I had a great session. Although I had to do a few laps to get the surface off the new tyres, once they were rubbered-in, I could really push on and start putting in some times. I saw 'P1' on my pit board, and I knew I still had some in reserve if I was challenged for pole and that I'd saved my tyres a little more than others – so although it was only a small margin, I knew I still had time in me!
The first race went to-plan as I got off to a cracking start and managed to hold my lead from lights-to-flag, increasing it as the race went on – so race one, P1 and off to great start!
Race two, however, wasn't so good! I got off to a fairly average start, didn't gain any places but also didn't lose any, but from my qualifying position I was ahead of some G55s. I tried to let one of the faster cars come past me along the back straight so as not to lose much time; initially he didn't come past, but then he decided to overtake me into the braking zone instead, thereby slowing my run down pit straight, which enabled Aaron Williamson to overtake me, too.
I stayed behind Aaron for a lap or so to find out where he was weak and I was strong. I made my move up the inside into Coppice, but he closed the door and I had to go across the kerb and grass to avoid a collision. This obviously slowed my run down the back straight and enabled three other cars to come past me, so I was now down in fifth with my work cut out to get them back.
I started to reel them in and was making my way through until I got up to the leaders. I overtook Aaron down the Craner Curves and immediately got right onto the back of Andy Richardson, and then a lap later I pulled off the same move on Andy and made it stick to retake the lead – and then on the approach to Macleans, I was shunted into the gravel by Andy and Aaron's spinning cars behind. Unfortunately, it was just of those 'wrong place, wrong time' moments!
Plans Motorsport did a great job of getting the car all ready for race three, but I was starting off the back of the grid and so again had my work cut out to make my way through the pack! I got a good start and was picking off the cars one-by-one as the laps counted down, and with one to go I had the leader in my sights. Unfortunately, he had his team-mate in a G55 behind him as a rear-gunner so I couldn't get past. Still, to go from last to second – and I think with one more lap I could have won – was a great result for me and all the team.
After Donington was the usual struggle and worry about whether we were going to be at the next meeting, but on the Wednesday evening before the next round, we had an e-mail from Walker Logistics saying they would like to sponsor me for Thruxton. We were in absolute shock, as this was so unexpected. I had to frantically get everything ready so I could go down to Thruxton to help the boys set up – and while I was setting up, I had a call from my dad to say that Ellis Clowes also wanted to be part and help out for the weekend! So from nothing, we were racing – and even now writing this, I can't believe how we keep managing it!
Thruxton is a track I've always gone well at, getting my first win in cars there in Ginetta Juniors with Hillspeed in 2010, and the year before a podium in only my second meeting in cars, so I was hoping that after the two previous meetings at Brands and Donington, I would this time get some luck and take three wins!
As ever for us, in testing we were running on our race rubber from the previous meeting, but even though those tyres were well past it, I was still able to be quickest in FP1 and again we felt confident that we could bolt some new rubber on and find pace immediately. In FP2, I said to the boys that the tyres were destroyed and to get the new ones out so I could do a flying lap and then call it a day – and once the tyres were off, we had a look and they had delaminated, so it was lucky I came in when I did! We bolted on the new tyres and I did an 'out' lap to scrub them in before one flying lap and then an 'in' lap and I had put it on P1 again. This was perfect!
We were then ready for qualifying, and we felt confident we could get pole position after FP2. My plan was to do the least amount of laps possible to preserve the tyres. As soon as I went out, I could feel the car was right and I just had to hook a clean lap up, which I did – and that put us on pole. I came in and parked it in the pits and then just sat in my car with a timing screen to see if anyone was improving, but by then, the optimum had been taken out of the tyres for everyone. I had secured P1 – three poles out of three so far, and a great job done by Mike, Tyler and the rest of Plans Motorsport to get the car spot-on.
That afternoon was race one, and I knew I had to push but try to preserve the tyres at the same time. I knew from where I was starting that I was going to be straight into the G55 battle into the Complex for the first time, so I had to try and get through without it slowing me down too much, which I managed to do. From there, I had to just look forward and concentrate on not making any mistakes and not taking the life out of the tyres by using the kerbs too aggressively.
With four laps to go, I was catching a G55 and looked in my mirror to see that a G50 wasn't that far behind, so I knew I couldn't afford to get slowed up too much. I tried to drop my lap times by half-a-second so as not to catch him too soon, but it was no good – I was catching him, and I knew I had to overtake in a place that wasn't going to cost me time and where he would struggle to get back past.
I pressurised him into the final chicane and he missed the apex, giving me a run up the inside into the first corner, so I stuck my car straight in and held him out so as not to give him a chance to get back past me. After that, I had to try and regulate my times so I didn't take any more life out of the tyres, but at the same time open my gap to the G55 and the G50 who was now right on him. I managed to do it, though, and came across the line in P1!
The next race was on Sunday morning. I knew I had to do the same thing – get into the lead and stay out of trouble – which I managed to do, and I stretched my lead throughout the race, whilst once more trying to be as smooth as possible so as not to ruin the tyres for the final race. Again, I came across the line in P1, but I knew that the tyres were far from their best and that I had to re-use them in race three!
In the final race, my team-mate Alistair James had drawn P1 for the start, but he unfortunately stalled and a couple of cars collected him, resulting in a lot of damage and causing the race to be red-flagged – but I can happily confirm that he is fine and ready for Oulton Park.
After the mess had been cleared up, we had a re-start and I made an excellent getaway and was even in a position to challenge the G55s into the Complex! Obviously I didn't need to, though, so I just concentrated on my race and on trying to keep hold of my tyres for the duration. Although they were just starting to go off towards the end, the car was fantastic and I was able to take three wins out of three races, taking the fastest lap in all three of them as well! It was just a perfect weekend for us, achieving maximum points and extending my championship lead even further.
The struggle now goes on to raise the money for Oulton Park, a circuit I love and where I really want to take another three wins!
Remember to follow me on Twitter – TomIngram80 – and to keep up-to-date with all my latest news on my website at www.tom-ingram.com. Finally, check out this ace video from Thruxton on how I got started with Ginetta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzP7PMVGlZQ&feature=youtu.be&hd=1