Team Toyota GB’s Tom Ingram believes the new-for-2019 Corolla model will be “in a strong place” come mid-season of the British Touring Car Championship after a positive debut at the Brands Hatch opener.
The 2018 runner-up has switched from the venerable Toyota Avensis to the new Corolla and will enjoy manufacturer backing for his 2019 campaign.
After qualifying eighth, Ingram struggled on the wet tyre and slipped to 13th in race one, but progressed to fifth in the second encounter.
In the final race of the day, Ingram was hampered by the soft tyre which deteriorated rapidly in the low temperatures, compounded by carrying weight from the previous race.
Despite not being right at the sharp end, he told TouringCars.Net the results matched expectations, and admitted that he was not going to be immediately equalling the pace of the Avensis.
“We’ve got to take the positives from it,” said Ingram. “We know that we’ve got some improvements to make, but we were always going to. It’s a brand new car for us.
“So we knew that we were going to be – not struggling – but not right at the front. We’re not going to be taking off from where the Avensis finished.
“So I think we’ll be in a strong place come mid-season. But I think we can look at this weekend actually with a lot of positivity. Two solid results, and just about a top ten in the last one!
“I think we know what we need to improve on, and we go to Donington now with a fighting chance because we’re carrying very little weight.”
Reviewing the decision to run wets in the opening race, Ingram admitted he was forced to play it safe to stay on the same strategy as the other frontrunners.
“There’s safety in numbers, and we kind of had to go with other people that we’re looking at hopefully fighting with for the championship throughout the rest of the year – like the BMWs, like the Hondas, like the Subarus,” he said.
“I talked myself out of it because I wanted to go on slicks, and then amazingly talked myself out of doing it.
“Sometimes that little man in your ear is not the best guy to listen to! So it was a bit of a ‘what could’ve been’ for that first race, but it was so difficult, whatever you did was going to be the wrong choice.
After strong pace in race two, Ingram fended off late-race pressure from Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan as the Corolla struggled on worn soft rubber.
Although he was pleased to hold on to tenth at the flag, Ingram admitted he was hoping for more from the debut weekend of the Corolla, but is confident that he and the Speedworks-run operation know what to improve for Donington next time out.
“We were carrying a little bit of weight and the soft tyre as well. We saw from the other guys in race two that they really struggled doing the same thing,” explained Ingram.
“The soft tyre was never going to be the favourable tyre. Certainly around here with the temperatures we’ve seen, it’s kind of a double hit when it’s like that.
“It’s not great, but like I say, it’s not what we wanted – we wanted three race wins! Of course we did as a racing driver and as a team, but being very realistic I think that’s about what we could have hoped for.
“But we know what we need to improve for the next one.”