An emotional Tom Ingram took heart from the pace he showed in clinching a first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship victory in the opening race of the season at Brands Hatch.
The Speedworks Motorsport driver secured a fine maiden pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session, a position he duly maintained from lights-to-flag in the opening 27-lap encounter of the 2016 season.
Ingram fended off the attentions of the Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda duo of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, admitting afterwards that he expected the fight to be tougher than it was.
“I knew we had some decent pace in the car, but I didn’t expect to be able to get away and gap them as we did”, an ecstatic Ingram told The Checkered Flag after his celebrations. “It feels awesome.”
The dream turned to reality from the moment the lights went out, as Ingram made a terrific getaway to head the two Honda Civic Type-Rs into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time.
Asked whether it was one of his best BTCC starts, Ingram said: “It’s got to be! I know I did a lot of practice on my starts over the winter because it was one of my weaker areas, so I did a lot of work on start procedures and it’s paid off.
“It hooked up and just went. It’s uphill, greasy and off-camber up there as well which was not easy at all.”
Ingram was given heart by the fact that he could open the gap to the reigning champion during the race, adding: “Absolutely. We had the pace all the way through.
“I think Gordon was a bit quicker through sector one, but for the rest of the lap I seemed to have him. I knew that if he couldn’t get any closer then I could gap him immediately.
“If I needed to pull away from him a little bit then I could”, Ingram added. “If I needed to save the tyres then I could have, so it seemed to play into my hands.”
The only brief scare for the 22-year-old came in the opening laps of the race, caused by a safety car intervention to remove Alex Martin‘s damaged Ford Focus. Ingram and Shedden came across the lapped Volkswagen of Mark Howard, almost handing a chance for the Honda man to pounce.
“It was awkward because the safety car boards were out, but I was trying not to overtake [Howard] while not letting Gordon past me”, commented Ingram. “We got a fantastic restart though and managed to build up a gap.”
Ingram will have to contend with an additional 75kg worth of success ballast in his Toyota Avensis in race two, the Speedworks driver again starting from pole position ahead of Shedden and Neal.
On just how much the ballast could affect him, Ingram teased: “We’ll have to wait and see really.
“We’ve ran with weight in the car before, but not on the soft tyre. If we’re going to get caught out anywhere, this could be the one, but I’m going to try my hardest.”