Tom Ingram has kick-started his bid to make it a hat-trick of car racing crowns in 2012 with a 'phenomenal' breakthrough Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup victory during the second weekend of the season at Donington Park.
After brilliantly clinching a maiden podium on his G55 class debut at Brands Hatch, the 2010 Ginetta Junior champion and 2011 Ginetta G50 Cup champion headed to Leicestershire in confident mood, boosted by a positive test at Thruxton in the fortnight between the events.
Despite heavy rain limiting his practice time, the High Wycombe-based driver was right on the leading pace by the time qualifying came round and a great session saw him put his JHR Developments G55 second on the grid for the opening race.
Reflecting on the opening race, Ingram said: “I got too much wheelspin when the lights went out. Most of the other front-runners have had a year in the G55 already and have a lot of mileage under their belts, whereas I'm still getting used to it – and the starts are one of the biggest differences compared to the G50 I drove in 2011.
“I slotted into third behind Carl Breeze and then shadowed him for pretty much the whole race, but it's very difficult to overtake around Donington because it's all so fast-and-flowing with no real big braking zones – so there's always a fair degree of risk involved. Had I been able to get past him, I'm sure I could probably have gone a couple of tenths faster, but then towards the end, it began spitting slightly with rain, so at that stage I backed off a bit and decided to settle for third and the points that went with it.”
Starting the weekend with a podium put the 18 year old in a positive mood for the next day and it showed at the start of Round Five, Ingram producing a much better getaway. Unfortunately just like in the opener, former BTCC racer Breeze again stunted his charge.
Ingram explained: “The top three of us quickly broke away, and I was just trying to keep it all nice and consistent. With another 16-lap race to go later in the day and only one set of tyres to last the whole weekend, I was very conscious of not taking too much life out of them. Approaching halfway through, I really began closing up on Breeze in second, though, and after that, I was practically glued to his rear bumper for the remainder of the race.
“I tried to put him under as much pressure as I could, but whilst he did make a few tiny mistakes, there was nothing I could really capitalise upon. He wasn't defending as such; he was just driving very intelligently and always making sure he protected the inside line. As I was constantly in his dirty air, I didn't have the front-end grip I needed to be able to properly challenge, so any overtaking move would have been extremely risky. At this stage of the season, we need to be scoring points – and third place is better than trying for second place and ending up in the barriers.”
Ingram finally got to start ahead of Breeze courtesy of the reverse grid for the final race, the BRDC Rising Star and MSA Academy member lining up third on the grid. Ingram certainly made the most of the opportunity, storming through for his maiden victory.
Ingram commented: “The first lap was key. My team-mate was on pole position with Colin White in second, and I know Colin is able to drive the widest Ginetta in the world, so it was vital to get past him as soon as I could.
“I made a cracking start to pull past my team-mate straightaway, and then I followed Colin closely through the Craner Curves. Turning into the left-hand part of the bend, I kept my foot flat and I think he must have had a slight lift, because suddenly I had a lot of momentum and was able to dive down the inside into the Old Hairpin immediately afterwards to take the lead.
“By the end of the first lap, I had the championship leader Tom Sharp behind me, but I knew I had the pace to hold the gap to him and I tried to just keep it all silky smooth and not look in my mirrors too much. I was concentrating on putting consistent lap times in, hitting every apex and slowly counting the laps down – and believe me, they felt like they were going down very slowly!
“With five to go, the safety car then came out, which as the race leader is always the last thing you want to see! I got a good re-start, though, and was able to keep Sharp behind me right the way to the end. He was putting me under a huge amount of pressure and the gap between us was never any greater than half-a-second, but I was careful not to give him any opportunity to attack.
“To register my breakthrough victory in the G55 was absolutely phenomenal – I was just ecstatic! To win in only my second race weekend in the car, when everybody else has been testing all winter, I can't put it into words, to be honest – it's incredible!”
The hugely popular win moves Ingram, who's sponsored by Hansford Sensors, Matthew & Leigh-Anne Kirby, One Dry Wash, Race-Keeper and Teng Tools, into second place in the championship standings ahead of a trip to Thruxton, the scene of both his maiden car racing podium and victory and a remarkable triple triumph last year.