Ingram takes clean sweep as he dominates 'mega' Silverstone birthday weekend As far as birthdays go, there are probably worse ways to celebrate than with a commanding double victory around the most famous circuit in the country - but that is ...
Ingram takes clean sweep as he dominates 'mega' Silverstone birthday weekend
As far as birthdays go, there are probably worse ways to celebrate than with a commanding double victory around the most famous circuit in the country - but that is precisely what Tom Ingram achieved as the hotly- fought, ITV-televised and BTCC-supporting Ginetta Junior Championship visited Silverstone on what he admitted was a 'mega' weekend that yielded a 17-point advantage in the chase for the coveted crown.
After proving to be the quickest driver in the field a fortnight earlier at Snetterton - only for ill-fortune to scupper his chances of mounting the top step of the podium - Tom headed to the legendary 'Home of British Motor Racing' determined to convert that scintillating raw speed into results.
Having not been there since the pre-season media day back in March, the highly-rated young High Wycombe star spent the practice sessions on his 17th birthday just 'tuning myself back into the circuit and re-learning it all', not remotely fazed by the ever-changing climatic conditions and laying down a few markers along the way in terms of lap time.
And then come qualifying, in front of family, friends, a whole host of well- wishers and new sponsor Teng Tools, he went and blitzed every single one of his rivals to notch up his first pole position of the 2010 campaign - and a double one at that - by the staggering margin of more than seven tenths of a second.
The last time he had achieved a double pole - at Oulton Park last year - the ex-British Karting Champion had been left distraught after being shunted out of contention on only the second lap and left with a hefty bill for damage, but this time around there would thankfully be an infinitely happier ending.
"I had been really disappointed at Snetterton, but after that I knew we had the pace to win - to be able to come through from stone dead last all the way up to third showed that - so it was just a case of turning that pace into race victories," mused the Hillspeed ace. "I knew I would be inside the top three, but I'd never expected to be almost a second quicker than everyone else in qualifying - that really shocked me, and after that I thought if I didn't win then I would need to get my head checked!
"I was so fired-up for the first race, but I didn't make things easy for myself at the start! I couldn't get it into second gear which cost me a little bit of speed and allowed Louise Richardson to pull ahead into the first corner, so I had to fight my way back again from that mistake.
"I got into her tow down Wellington Straight later around the lap, but that left me on the outside for the left-hand Brooklands corner; I managed to briefly get ahead on the brakes, but I ran out of road on the exit and bounced across the gravel, which let Chris Swanwick past me. On the next lap Swanwick then pushed me right off the track and onto the grass along Wellington Straight, but I kept my foot in and got the place back immediately into Luffield and three laps later re-took the lead from Louise into Copse at the end of the pit straight.
"She and Jake were able to stay in my tow for a while, because whilst I could pull away from them through the twisty bits, with such a long straight at Silverstone, they were always able to pull me back in again. It took me a couple of laps to break that trend, and when they started fighting it just helped me to establish a gap. It was absolutely fantastic to win, and I managed to set the windscreen wipers off on the slowing-down lap afterwards because I was kicking and punching so much inside the car!"
Taking the chequered flag just over three seconds clear in the end - and with a fastest lap time the best part of half-a-second out-of-reach of anybody else - Tom confessed that it had seemed like a long time since his previous triumph in the Thruxton curtain-raiser back in April, but it had undoubtedly been well worth the wait. In race two the following day he then promised to make life easier for himself - but he couldn't possibly have forecast just how much easier it would be...
"I made a fairly decent start this time," revealed the Conway House and NP Aerospace-backed hotshot, "but I still wasn't quite able to get Louise around the outside of the first corner, so I slotted in behind and then she ran wide through Becketts for the first time, which gave me the gap I needed to get up the inside. That had enabled Jake to get the cutback on her too, though, and as we went side-by-side down Wellington Straight he tried to squeeze me, but I just managed to out-brake him into Brooklands.
"Exactly the same happened on the next lap, but I held my ground again and could see Swanwick behind Jake in my rear-view mirror. I held Jake out wide so that Swanwick might try to go up the inside of him, and sure enough they started battling, which gave me just the gap I needed to break the tow. I certainly never expected to get the break I did, though - to have a lead of the whole back straight was a bit excessive, I thought!
"Coming out of Brooklands on one lap, I looked up on the big screen to see how much space I had behind me and they were just coming under the bridge! Towards the end I kept thinking I ought to slow down a bit to make sure I didn't do anything silly or throw it off, so I just eased it home after that."
With fastest lap to his credit once more - meaning he tallied a total of 74 points from the weekend out of a maximum of 74 - Tom was in a class of his own, and whilst he ultimately prevailed by just under 15 seconds, it might as well have been a year as he didn't merely beat the others, he fairly obliterated them in what was inarguably the most imperious and flawlessly impressive performance produced by anybody all season.
Sitting third at three points adrift of the championship lead heading into the meeting, courtesy of his clean sweep of pole positions, race victories and fastest laps, the former Wycombe and Marlow Sports Personality of the Year left again ensconced atop the table with 17 points in-hand over Richardson and 45 over Hill. He will travel next to the undulating Knockhill circuit in Scotland - the only one of the three remaining venues he has yet to visit, having had to miss it in 2009 due to budgetary constraints - vowing to approach it 'like any other track and go in and learn as much as I can', and with his sights firmly set on maintaining his advantage.
"It was a perfect weekend," Tom concluded of his peerless Silverstone showing. "We came away with maximum points, so I really couldn't have asked for any more. I could never have dreamed of that kind of result coming here, especially not at Silverstone - I hadn't really liked the circuit after racing there for the first time last year, but now I love it! I'm over-the-moon, bouncing off the ceiling - just an absolutely mega weekend!"
-source: tom ingram pr