Ingram heads into mid-season break with another double podium - and right in contention Tom Ingram has ensured that he heads into the mid-season break in the ITV- televised, British Touring Car Championship-supporting Ginetta Junior Championship...
Ingram heads into mid-season break with another double podium - and right in contention
Tom Ingram has ensured that he heads into the mid-season break in the ITV- televised, British Touring Car Championship-supporting Ginetta Junior Championship firmly in contention to lift the laurels by notching up a brilliant brace of podium finishes in round five at Croft - his second 'double' of 2010 to-date.
Tom travelled to the North Yorkshire circuit having shown well on his maiden appearance there 12 months earlier - until he was unceremoniously removed from the fray by an over-ambitious rival at the beginning of race two, at least - but needing to rebound from a frustrating weekend at Oulton Park that had unquestionably marked the nadir of his campaign thus far, with a rare mistake in the opening encounter costing him a significant haul of points.
What's more, the highly-rated young High Wycombe hotshot was facing the perpetual disadvantage of not having sufficient funding to be able to test in the run-up to the meeting - unlike many of his direct competitors - and with one fewer practice session than usual at Croft due to noise restrictions, he found himself up against it from the off.
"I was just aiming to regain some of the points I had lost at Oulton Park and claw back some ground," he recounted. "I had given away a stupid number of points there, which put me on the back foot going into Croft. I love the track, though; it's very technical and really challenging to drive, and you've got to get all the apexes spot-on and make sure your braking-points are sorted.
"I was feeling confident and I knew I just had to keep my head, but the lack of practice time did put the pressure on a bit, because it meant we had less opportunity to perfect the set-up - we would have liked to have tried some more things out on Saturday morning, but unfortunately we were straight into qualifying."
A solid P3 on Friday as he maturely elected not to chase lap times but rather focus on providing good, solid feedback to the Hillspeed outfit for whom he competes, Tom really turned the wick up in qualifying the following day, with nobody else able to hold a candle to him through the first two- thirds of the lap. Absolutely on it, the 16-year-old was mega in the first sector - a full four tenths out-of-reach of every single one of his adversaries - and lightning-quick in the second, too, but he would end the session encouraged and disappointed in equal measure after winding up P2 on the starting grid for both races.
"I set two purple fastest sector times two laps in a row," he explained, "but on the first lap I hit traffic in the final sector and then on the second the session was red-flagged for an accident. I was quick in the third sector as well, but unfortunately it never showed up because something else always happened. The data afterwards revealed that I would have been on pole by almost half a second...
"I was very frustrated by that, because I knew we'd had the pace to be on pole, but equally I was feeling confident for the races. In Saturday's race I made a good start and then just tried to push Jake Hill and put him under pressure as much as I could. Jake made a mistake and briefly went off the track, but he came back on again right in front of me which held me up too, and bunched the pack up a bit. That allowed Louise Richardson to catch us and overtake me, and she held me out wide which cost me speed and momentum and enabled Alex Austin to get past as well.
"I got Alex back again and chased Louise down, but she just defended so much that there was never even the slightest chance to get past without risking an accident. I was annoyed about that, because we would have been quicker if she hadn't been defending all the time - I lost two seconds a lap as soon as she overtook me, whereas if we'd worked together we might have been able to catch Jake. I think if Louise hadn't come past, Jake and I could have pushed away at the front, because I'm confident I had the pace to challenge him."
Nonetheless, a podium finish was an excellent result, and race two would underline Tom's conviction that he could take the fight to Hill, with whom he has tussled over the championship lead since round one. Tracking his rival all the way, the fact that there was less than five hundredths of a second between the pair in terms of fastest lap time - and more than half a second back to the next-best - only went to demonstrate that they are very much the class of the field as they push each other on in what is fast developing into an epic duel.
"I got a really good start and pulled ahead of Jake into the first corner, and then I tried to build a gap," recalled the Conway House-backed speed demon. "He overtook me going into Tower later around the first lap, but I got the cut-back on him straightaway and held the position around the outside.
"We knocked door-handles a bit and I got back ahead and tried to pull away again, but then going into the hairpin at the end of the lap I left the door open a bit and Jake took his chance. I just took my normal line because I thought I was far enough ahead, and I didn't defend well enough.
"I then stayed right on his tail and tried to keep him under pressure again; that was starting to work because he was making a few small mistakes here and there, but there was never any real opportunity to get past - if there had been, I would have taken it!"
Still nip-and-tuck in the chase for the coveted crown, a scant nine points separate Tom from the top of the standings - with a full 370 still to play for once the action resumes at Snetterton in Norfolk in early August. Embroiled as he is in a fierce, see-saw scrap for supremacy in which it has been proven time and again just how easily the pendulum can swing, he is well aware that consistency will be key.
The former British Karting Champion, though, has shown himself to be the very model of consistency with five rostrums and only one finish outside of the top five from the first ten races - and as he is fond of saying, points ultimately make prizes.
"I was really pleased with the weekend overall," Tom concluded. "Two podiums and decent points - I was really, really happy with that. It's a bit of a shame we're not leading going into the mid-season break, but we're up there and feeling confident. Now we just need to get some more funding together to be able to make Snetterton, and then aim for more podiums over the second half of the season - and more wins."