Tom Ingram once again proved himself the class of the field in the G50 class of the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup, the Plans Motorsport driver taking a sublime double victory to pull away once again at the top of the championship standings.
After holding a commanding points lead earlier in the season, Ingram had his lead wiped out after a couple of bad meetings during the summer, but after getting back on the top step of the podium last time out at Knockhill, the BRDC Rising Star came to Rockingham hoping to re-establish himself as the driver to beat.
In qualifying, the 18 year old did just that and secured his seventh G50 pole position out of eight this year, impressively qualifying ahead of a couple of the faster G55 machines too, taking seventh overall. He went on to convert this into a hard fought win in the weekend's opening race.
Ingram explained: “In race one, I knew that if I got into the lead, I could just keep it all consistent and pull away, but equally, I knew I would struggle if I fell behind Andy [Richardson] from my experience of being behind him before and how defensively he can drive. I was on the inside line, and heading into the first corner, it all slowed right down and bunched up in front of me as the G55s jostled for track position. I was boxed in with nowhere to go, and Andy made a really good, opportunistic move to get past me around the outside.
“He was able to establish a decent gap initially because I got stuck behind the G55 of Colin White, but once I had cleared Colin, I just had to focus on closing Andy down and putting him under some pressure. He defended all the way through, which held us both up big-time, and I could see that at the rate the others were coming up behind me towards the end, I was going to have to make a move pretty quickly.
“Heading onto the banking with two laps to go, the back of Andy's car just twitched slightly, which sent him a few feet off-line and I was able to get to the inside of him. He squeezed me right the way over to the white line going into the first corner, but I somehow managed to slow the car down, get it turned in and block off his cutback on the exit. As soon as I was past him, I found two seconds a lap and was able to push on home from there – and it was absolutely fantastic to cross the line in P1 again!”
The Buckinghamshire based driver backed this up with a strong showing during the Supercup's first pitstop race, televised live on ITV4. Running second outright at one stage during the pitstop process, Ingram cruised home to a match his seasons best finish of fifth overall, while also taking his tenth G50 win of the season.
Ingram reflected: “I did what Andy had done in race one in going to the outside. There were a few G55s ahead that came perilously close to colliding, and they continued battling fiercely for quite a while, which was really slowing me up and meant I had Andy right on my tail and several other G50s closing in, too.
“Some of the G55s peeled into the pits when the pit-stop phase began, and then I managed to get past Colin White with a good slipstream onto the banking. That gave me some welcome breathing space, after which I just drove away and concentrated on not taking too much life out of the tyres and staying off the kerbs.
“We left our pit-stop until close to the end because I knew we could still lap quickly on older tyres, and that the guys who had stopped earlier would lose time in having to warm their new tyres up. That gave us a massive advantage, I think, and the Plans boys did a great job in the stop. After that, I just had to make sure I avoided any stupid errors – and it was brilliant to do the double!”
With Ingram now making it ten wins in 22 races in 2011, he will now travel to the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit for the penultimate meeting of the calendar 44 points ahead, with that becoming 80 on dropped scores.
Ingram concluded: “Everything came together and it's such a relief that it has all turned around again after our Croft and Snetterton nightmares. It feels like we're completely back on-track, and it was just a cracking weekend – really, really positive. I need to say a huge 'thank you' to Matthew Kirby for funding us again and to all the boys at Plans, who did a great job as ever. To come away from Rockingham with maximum points and an even bigger championship lead was just perfect – simply an awesome weekend!”