Ingram leaves pros trailing on blistering but unlucky charity outing Up against the likes of British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) race- winners, British F3 front-runners, sportscar aces and McLaren/Autosport BRDC Award nominees, Tom Ingram ...
Ingram leaves pros trailing on blistering but unlucky charity outing
Up against the likes of British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) race- winners, British F3 front-runners, sportscar aces and McLaren/Autosport BRDC Award nominees, Tom Ingram might not have been considered one of the highest-profile entrants in the Race for Heroes charity karting outing - but by seeing off every one of his adversaries to clinch a superb pole position in qualifying, the exciting young High Wycombe star rapidly saw to it that his was the name on everybody's lips.
As a former British Karting Champion himself - in the same series that first set none other than a certain Lewis Hamilton on the fast track to future F1 glory - Tom knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in the sport.
What's more, the 16-year-old boasted a stellar recent record around Daytona Raceway in Milton Keynes - where the race in aid of the British Armed Forces took place, and a circuit he palpably enjoys - having chased the leader down for all he was worth the last time he had been there, only narrowly missing out on victory at the end of a spellbinding charge in torrential conditions.
This time around, Tom brilliantly put the kart he was sharing with four of his Ginetta Junior Championship rivals at the top of the timesheets in qualifying - meaning that when the lights went out to signal the start of the six-hour marathon, there would be no need for him to chase anybody at all.
"I was really pleased to get pole, especially considering how many professional drivers were out there and the number of big names amongst them!" he enthused. "Every single driver had to go out during qualifying, so they were all going for pole - and I was the fastest outright! We knew we had the pace after that, because I had been catching them up, overtaking them straightaway and then just leaving them - and that left us with high hopes for the race.
"I bunched the others up on the rolling-up lap so we were going really slowly, and then just gunned it at the start when they weren't expecting it. That gave me a six or seven kart-length lead by the end of the first lap, and then I just tried to get my head down and get away as much as I could.
"The only thing was, because it had been raining before the race and then stopped again, I was going into all the corners not knowing if they were still wet or dry, which was a little unnerving as I didn't want to spin with all those karts behind me! The others could gauge it better because they were able to see whether I was on the right line or not."
In the unpredictable and treacherous conditions, the Conway House-backed speed demon coped admirably, and following an energetic and entertaining scrap with former British Formula Renault UK Champion Duncan Tappy and 2009 Superleague Formula runner-up Craig Dolby, Tom pitted from second place at the end of his opening stint still very much in the hunt - but immediately, a problem was becoming apparent.
"We realised we were doing shorter stints than the others, which meant we were having to make more stops," he explained. "We were stopping every three-quarters of an hour, whilst some of the others were going as long as an hour-and-a-quarter. That was a major mistake on our part, without a doubt - it was endurance karting, and in endurance karting you don't do just 45-minute stints. I could quite easily have done an hour-and-a-half in one go; that wouldn't have bothered me at all. That was a lesson that we learned."
Further crucial time was lost when the exhaust on the #15 kart fell off and the engine decided to repeatedly cut out, whilst an oil change and failing brakes similarly offered scant cause for encouragement. The race swiftly degenerated, Tom reflected, into a frustrating exercise in damage limitation - and by the time he took over for his second stint behind the wheel the team was down in 12th.
"I was driving around in the pouring rain on slick tyres with no brakes!" he recalled. "I had to slow the kart down by just throwing it into the corners, but I was the quickest driver on the track in the wet and got us back up to sixth."
Unfortunately, a series of spins for his team-mates and a black flag subsequently sent the Ginetta Junior entry plummeting down the order again to 12th, where it would remain to the chequered flag - but nonetheless, on this occasion, and rewarding as victory would undeniably have been, it really was the taking part that mattered the most.
"I was a bit annoyed," the reigning Wycombe and Marlow Sports Personality of the Year concluded, "because I had been the quickest in qualifying and in both of my stints and I genuinely thought we had the pace to win it, but the troubles we had with the kart cost us the race.
"At the end of the day, though, we raised a lot of money for Help the Heroes, which is a very good cause. Me and my family raised £300, and overall the team managed to collect just over £1,000. That was the highest total of any of the teams, so we were really pleased with that."
-source: tom ingram