Tom Ingram is approaching the start of the 2019 British Touring Car Championship in quietly confident mood following a solid pre-season testing programme in his new Team Toyota GB with Ginsters Corolla – and whilst he forecasts a ‘learning curve’ in the early races, the Bucks-born ace has promised to ‘come out fighting’ over the second half of the campaign.
Ingram already has five full seasons under his belt in the UK’s premier motor racing series, all of them spent with Speedworks Motorsport – the title-winning outfit behind Team Toyota GB with Ginsters’ BTCC challenge – and all of them at the wheel of a Toyota Avensis. Over that period, the 25-year-old has claimed nine victories, 26 podium finishes and back-to-back Independent Drivers’ championship crowns in 2017 and 2018 – but now, it is time for a change.
Enter the new Corolla, whose race debut will neatly coincide with the launch of the latest-generation, ‘Built in Britain’ road-going model – the world’s best-selling car. In recent weeks, the #80 entry has been put through its paces by Ingram at Oulton Park – Northwich, Cheshire-based Speedworks’ home track – Spain’s Circuit Calafat, Donington Park and Brands Hatch, where all the teams gathered last week for the BTCC’s annual Season Launch following an evening function at nearby Hever Castle, at which the Toyota was proudly on display.
The three-time Ginetta Champion placed sixth on the timesheets out of the 30 high-calibre protagonists at the end of the Brands Hatch test, putting 72 laps on the board and catching the eye with his commendable consistency as the team concentrated its efforts on longer race runs. Ingram will return to the Kent circuit for the 2019 BTCC curtain-raiser this weekend (6/7 April), with all of the high-speed, high-octane, wheel-to-wheel action to be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Team Toyota GB with Ginsters, said:
“We’re really happy with the way testing has gone on the whole. We’ve made consistent progress with the Corolla and achieve a better understanding of how it works every time we take to the track. The Season Launch test is always a bit of an unknown, because you can never be sure what everybody else is doing in terms of ballast, fuel load and tyres, but we just kept our heads down and focussed on our own programme and that will hopefully pay off.
“We need to remain mindful that the Corolla is still a brand new car and that many of our competitors have a lot more miles on the clock with race-proven packages, but by the same token, we are all very excited to get the campaign underway and see where we shake out. The goal for the first few rounds has to be to put some solid points on the board while we continue to refine the car, and if we can do that, I think it will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.”
Tom Ingram, Driver, Team Toyota GB with Ginsters, said:
“After driving the same car for five years, it inevitably takes a little bit of time to adjust to a new one but the feeling in the Corolla is already very good. The BTCC is a tremendously competitive series – if you stand still, you go backwards – and with five former champions not to mention an ex-Formula 1 driver and Le Mans winner on the grid this year, 2019 will be no different.
“It was good to have the opportunity to gauge ourselves against the rest of the field at Season Launch, although it’s not necessarily the most accurate form guide – that won’t become apparent until qualifying at Brands Hatch.
“Saying that, I think we’re all feeling pretty positive – we’ve adopted a sensible approach to testing and are moving in the right direction with the car, and there is still plenty of untapped potential. Ultimately, I think we need to treat this first year with the Corolla as a bit of a learning curve, and acknowledge that the opening half of the season is likely to be spent getting to grips with it – before we truly come out fighting over the final five weekends.”