With all the hype surrounding the 2014 British Touring Car Championship and circulating around the prospect of witnessing seven champions duking it out for the title, it is worth a reminder that the series will also see six rookies on the grid this season of whom will be threatening to make their life much harder…
One of the most exciting prospects is the addition of 20-year-old Tom Ingram, who will head the charge for Toyota and Speedworks Motorsport in his debut BTCC season, following a thumping championship-winning performance in the 2013 Ginetta GT Supercup.
The former KX Akademy racer capped off a hat-trick of titles in Ginetta machinery following Junior and G50 class championship victories in the previous two seasons, and has enjoyed his initial entry into the BTCC arena during testing with the Toyota Avensis.
“Testing has gone well”, said Ingram. “We’ve made a lot of alterations to the car set-up to suit my driving style, and by the same token, I’ve adapted my driving style to suit the car.
“It’s been particularly useful for me to understand what changes have what effect. The Avensis is a fantastic piece of kit, and as I’m getting more comfortable and confident behind the wheel, my lap times are coming down.
“I must admit that I felt quite nervous at Oulton, being out on the circuit for the first time alongside some of my racing heroes – drivers I’ve watched on TV for years. There had only been a couple of us at Silverstone, whereas at Oulton, MG were there, BMW were there and so were several others. It was real in-at-the-deep-end stuff and a much bigger deal, and I didn’t want to show myself up in any respect.”
Ingram returns this weekend to a Brands Hatch circuit at which victory during the third and final race began his charge towards the GT Supercup title last year, and admitted his excitement at taking on the experienced BTCC names will be a challenge he is up to.
He added: “Brands Hatch was the first real opportunity to gauge myself against a lot of the other drivers, and it was another overwhelmingly positive day. We found time throughout the test and learned a lot; we are making consistent progress and moving in the right direction – and there’s plenty more still to come.
“This year is going to be a tremendous challenge, and I know the greatest pressure will come from myself – but I just can’t tell you how excited I’m feeling ahead of the first round!
“It’s a big step into the unknown, but I genuinely cannot wait to get out on-track in qualifying to see where we really stack up against everyone else. It’s very nearly time for the talking to stop!”
Six of the best – the rookies are coming
Ingram is one of six drivers venturing to BTCC for the first time this season, along with Marc Hynes (Triple Eight), Jack Clarke (Motorbase), Hunter Abbott (Rob Austin Racing), Glynn Geddie (United Autosports) and finally, Handy Motorsport and Simon Belcher.
Formerly a British GT champion with Ferrari alongside his father Jim, Geddie recently added the Supercar Challenge title to his name to continue a promising sportscar career since his time in the Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain.
The Aberdeen ace will now switch his attentions to a maiden BTCC campaign for 2014 with GT team, United Autosports, and said that the timing for his move is perfect based on his team’s recent successes.
Geddie said: “The timing to make my BTCC debut is spot on while racing with United Autosports after winning the Supercar Challenge with them last year is a perfect scenario. I last raced a front-wheel-drive car back in 2006 when I began my motorsport career in a Mini championship and adapting back again after racing Porsche, McLaren and Audi GT cars has taken some readjustment.
“I’m also excited to be contesting ‘sprint’ races again after recent years in longer distance, two-driver GT races.”
Belcher, another rookie to field a Toyota Avensis this season, is looking forward to his learning process in the UK’s premier tin-top series, saying: “The hardest thing at Brands is going to be getting clear laps in qualifying with 31 cars on the grid!
“It’s been an unbelievably busy few months, and everyone involved in the project has been working so hard, but to finally almost be there at the first round is a fantastic feeling – I can’t wait.