Tom Ingram will return for a third Dunlop MSA British Touring Championship season in 2016, again racing a Toyota Avensis for the improving Speedworks Motorsport outfit.
Formerly a champion in multiple Ginetta support categories, Ingram’s second BTCC campaign was a memorable one as he claimed 18 top-10 finishes from 30 outings for the Cheshire-based Speedworks outfit.
The season also saw a maiden visit to the podium for Speedworks after 132 starts, Ingram battling it out with double champion Jason Plato for honours at Rockingham in September. Ingram then backed up the emotional result with a second visit to the rostrum at the final event of the season, coming at Brands Hatch GP circuit a month later.
“For me, it was a complete no-brainer to stay with Speedworks,” former KX Akademy star Ingram explained. “The team’s work ethic is second-to-none; everybody is ultra-professional, but at the same time they know how to have fun, which is important – this is hardly a cheap sport, so you need to make sure you’re enjoying it or else you might as well not bother.
“The second half of last year was hugely positive for us, and it was encouraging to see all the development that we had put in paying off. Our performance just got better and better, which shone through in the results with two podiums from the last three race weekends. From our point of view, the season ended too soon because we were on a roll!
“That has left us with a lot of unfinished business, which is massively exciting. I really feel at home at Speedworks – part of the family – and personally-speaking, I’m now a much stronger driver, from my knowledge and understanding of the car to my relationship with the engineers. We’re such a tight-knit unit, and although I did have discussions with other teams, having come so far together, this was no time to walk away. I’m in absolutely the right place for 2016.
“We only really scratched the surface in 2015 of what we can achieve with this car – although the first half obviously wasn’t what we had been hoping for, we dug deep and turned it around in style. There is a lot more to come from the Avensis yet, and I genuinely believe we can be a force to be reckoned with this year.”
Ingram’s Avensis will be on display at the Autosport International Show this week (14-17 January) alongside Speedworks’ new Honda Civic Type-R for BTCC rookie, Matt Simpson. With focus now towards a stronger pre-season testing schedule, team boss Christian Dick is confident the team can now progress further up the grid towards a shot at the Independents’ title.
“2015 was our most successful campaign to-date in the BTCC, but we’re far from content to sit on our laurels and we need to make sure we continue pushing if we want to keep on moving forward and accomplish our objectives,” Dick said.
“A shortage of pre-season testing – due to lack of budget or deals coming together too late – has been an Achilles’ heel of ours over the past couple of years and left us somewhat on the back foot, but hopefully 2016 will be a different story and the aim is to get up-to-speed nice and early so we can really hit the ground running. There are a lot of new parts to get to gripswith, so the more track time, the better.
“With Geoff Kingston at the helm on the engineering side, we took a sizeable step forward in 2015, and there is still plenty of untapped potential in the Avensis. We resolved the tyre degradation issues over a race distance that had hampered us so much the previous year, to the extent where the car is now stronger on Sundays than Saturdays.”
“As soon as we left Brands Hatch in October, attentions turned towards this year and all the boys have put in a colossal effort over the winter to ensure we go into 2016 in the best shape we can possibly be. I’m so proud of every single one of them. There is such a close bond inside this team and everybody pulls together – we go about our business with minimal fuss, keep our heads down and work hard and that is reflected in the results.
“Of course, none of that would be achievable without having the right pedaller inside the cockpit, and in that respect, we have absolutely no concerns. Jason Plato described Tom as world-class after their battle at Rockingham last year, and I would not disagree – the kid is a champion in-waiting in my eyes.
“He has grown tremendously as a driver since joining the BTCC two years ago, and his form at the end of last season was superb. Tom’s raw speed has never been in doubt, and his racecraft is now also amongst the best in the business – as Rockingham proved, he’s not afraid of getting stuck in and going wheel-to-wheel with anybody else on the grid. Reputations don’t faze him at all.
“He shares our approach and he shares our goals, so keeping him on-board this year was extremely high on our ‘to-do’ list. Although we received interest from a number of other drivers, Tom was always our number one choice and we are delighted to have retained his services. He’s ready to take the next step and we’re ready to take the next step, so from our point of view, the start of the season really can’t come soon enough!
“We have made it very clear from the outset that weare not here to make up the numbers; we are here to win – races and ultimately championships. We regard 2016 as the next phase of that journey, and havingestablished ourselves as consistent top ten contenders last year, we now need to be targeting consistent podiums and our first race victory. If we can dothat, a tilt at the Independents’ trophy won’t be too far away.”