Tom Ingram demonstrated that a hat trick of championships could be possible in 2012 after showing front-running performance during the opening weekend of the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup at Brands Hatch.
Ingram, the 2010 Ginetta Junior Champion and 2011 Ginetta G50 Cup Champion, signed a late deal to join the main G55 class of the Supercup with JHR Developments. Despite a lack of running in the car over the winter, Ingram was straight on the pace in Friday practice and despite struggling with set up for qualifying, the 18 year old was able to put himself third on the grid.
Relfecting on the opening race, Ingram said: “With not having been able to try any practice starts beforehand, I struggled a little to get away from the line in race one, but I held my position and had a look at taking second place into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, only to be squeezed towards the pit wall.
“The driver ahead of me then received a jump-start penalty, which moved me up a spot, and after that I briefly reduced the gap to the leader who had been able to get away at the start. We were lapping at quite a similar pace, though, and I was always conscious of not taking too much life out of my tyres given that there were two longer races still to go – so after a little while, I just concentrated on keeping it all smooth and maintaining P2. For my first race in the car, to finish second was absolutely brilliant – and it proved that we've got the pace to feature right up at the front this year.”
The BRDC Rising Star was having another strong race in the second encounter, running a comfortably third until lap four, when a move by a rival around the outside of Paddock Hill bend forced Ingram over the inside kerb and on cold tyres that resulted in a spin that put them both into the gravel and out of the race.
Ingram commented: “It was a risky move from him, I thought, and it left me with nowhere to go on the exit of the corner. With the room he gave me, it was inevitable that one or both of us was going to end up going off, and the most upsetting part of it was the substantial amount of damage it caused to the car.
“The team worked their fingers to the bone to get it repaired again in time for the final race; it was amazing to see it come back on a recovery truck and be turned around in less than a handful of hours – an absolutely unbelievable effort from all the JHR boys. They did a fantastic job, and to see that many people all pulling together to get the car right was actually quite emotional. Even sponsors were getting their hands dirty – it was just remarkable.”
Unfortunately brake issues forced a pitlane start for race three, but Ingram overcame this and a late spin to take a strong sixth place finish, as he explains: “Every time I pressed the pedal, it just went straight to the floor, and heading towards Paddock Hill Bend at 120mph, that doesn't really fill you with too much confidence. I took it easy over the first few laps just to see how the car was.
“It was making a few strange noises and suffering from understeer going into corners, and really bad oversteer coming out. Before long, it was really starting to move about and behaving very oddly, which we subsequently discovered was due to a problem with the differential.
“I got up into sixth place, but then coming out of Clearways for the final time, the diff didn't fancy playing ball anymore and spun me round – it was one of those really embarrassing moments when you realise you've just done that in front of everybody! As I was facing the wrong way, I could see another car heading straight towards me, and it was a massive relief when there was no impact and I was able to carry on to the finish line.”
Sitting fourth in the championship, Ingram is now looking ahead to Donington Park next weekend, where the goal is to claw back some points in the championship standings.
Tom concluded: “Obviously there were ups-and-downs, but I learned a lot and to be working with such a good team who are clearly so passionate about what they do is just fantastic. After Brands, I would say there are probably four drivers in contention for the title this year, so the key will be to keep on picking up the points – and then we'll see where it goes from there.”