Tom Ingram was left to battle through the field in Sunday’s British Touring Car Championship races at Croft, after set-up woes with his Hyundai on Saturday left him starting outside the top twenty for race one.
Having only just made the top ten in first practice on Saturday morning, Ingram then slipped down to 22nd in the second practice session.
Matters then failed to improve in qualifying for the Excelr8 Motorsport driver, with Ingram only managing the 21st fastest time, some eight tenths of a second off the pace.
But starting so far back at Croft wasn’t unusual for the title contender, as he had done so a year prior. Ingram duly fought hard in race one, despite carrying 66 kg of success ballast.
Freed from most of the weight for race two, Ingram then battled up to fourth in what he described as ‘one of the toughest races’ he had been involved in.
With none of the top eight drivers making any progress in the reverse-grid race three, Ingram had to settle for another fourth-place finish, despite having a tyre deflation on the final lap.
His results mean he the 28-year-old has dropped to fifth in the drivers’ championship standings, meaning Ingram will be 27 kg lighter heading into this weekend’s event at Silverstone.
“Croft is a circuit that I really like and where I’ve gone well in the past,” said Ingram. “When we tested there in March, the Hyundai felt fantastic, and we were able to set really strong lap times even with weight on-board.
“We’ve developed the car a lot since then, so we returned with a new base set-up but right from the get-go, it just didn’t work.
“Instead of reverting to what we knew, we initially tried to improve what we had, which made Saturday one of the hardest days I’ve known in the BTCC.
“With lessons learned and plenty of midnight oil burned analysing every minor detail, we went back to basics on Sunday and after beginning race one practically in Darlington – not for the first time – it was fun to fight through to finish 12th.
“We stayed out of trouble and salvaged some points, which was the most we could have hoped for.
“Even more importantly, we shed all 66 kg for race two and bolted on the soft-compound tyres. The i30 N felt ace, and it was very rewarding to charge up the order again.
“Croft isn’t the easiest place to overtake – you have to be brave and a little bit creative, and that’s exactly the approach we took.
“It was intense and physical the whole way through and unquestionably the toughest race I’ve been involved in for a while as I was constantly having to either attack or defend – sometimes simultaneously!
“I think we had the pace to challenge for third or even second, but by the time I caught up to Josh [Cook], there was so little time left and he was understandably defending his position pretty hard so we settled for fourth.
“I also had an enjoyable little paintwork-swapping scrap with Ash [Sutton] along the way; as my main rival, it’s always good to get one over on him, particularly around a rear wheel-drive track that on paper suits his car more than mine.
“Race three was then unusually quiet by BTCC standards, but we scored well again and ultimately, we only conceded seven points to Ash over the weekend despite starting so far back – and dropping a few spots in the table should definitely give us an advantage going into qualifying and race one at Silverstone.
“We’ve been second in the standings practically all season and it has done us no favours at all with the extra weight that has meant we’ve had to carry.
“Now, despite being in the worst place we’ve been in the championship all year, I actually feel like we’re in the best place we’ve been in the championship all year as we can really go on the offensive.
“I’m feeling properly fired-up for a big points-scoring weekend.”