Tom Ingram underlined his pleasure at topping the timesheets during testing at Donington Park during Media Day last week [16th March], and provided a positive evaluation on his Speedworks Toyota Avensis challenger prior to the opening round at Brands Hatch.
Ingram, whose fastest time of 1:09.995 sits just half a second adrift of the qualifying lap record around the 1.9 mile circuit, edged out the fellow Avensis of Rob Austin despite simulating success ballast conditions with additional weight on board the car.
The rising star told TouringCars.net that Dunlop’s newer SportMaxx compound of rubber seems to have a larger window of performance, which he believes will translate into drivers pushing for longer sections of races this season.
He also admitted that, despite showing strong performance at Portimao in Portugal earlier in their winter testing programme, there were questions over how that setup would translate back to the UK, especially in less favourable climates.
“Donington was a bit of a leap into the unknown for us,” admitted Ingram.
“The car had felt really strong in Portugal, but until you get back to more familiar circuits, you can’t quite be sure how that form is going to translate. This represented our first proper opportunity to gauge ourselves against the rest of the field.
“The facelifted Avensis looks awesome and is unquestionably a step forward. It’s very easy to drive on the edge, which is a good feeling and we managed to complete a lot of work and evaluate a variety of different set-ups and race strategies. Being fastest doesn’t mean a great deal at this stage because you never know what your rivals are doing, but it’s always nice to end up at the top of the timesheets and it was encouraging to be so competitive with a fair amount of weight in the car.
“I think we can be confident going to Brands Hatch. We know we have a quick car underneath us thanks to a tremendous effort by the entire team over the winter, but by the same token, nobody else has stood still and it’s clearly going to be an exceptionally tough season – probably the toughest since I joined the BTCC.
“To see 18 cars all blanketed by a second at Donington demonstrates just how close it’s going to be this year, so the key will be to make sure we come away from each weekend with a solid haul of points – and then we’ll see where that leaves us by the time we return to Brands Hatch for the finale in October. I can’t wait to get going!”