EXCELR8 Motorsport’s Tom Ingram admitted that he has ‘some work to do to catch up’ after being unable to prevent British Touring Car Championship points leader Ash Sutton from extending his advantage at Thruxton.
Ingram went into the fourth event of the season seven points adrift of NAPA Racing’s Sutton, but left it with the gap having doubled, after twice following home the Ford driver in Sunday’s races.
The reigning champion qualified on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s opening race, alongside Sutton, having been just two tenths slower on Saturday despite encountering traffic on his lap.
But in both of the day’s opening pair of races, Ingram could never get quite close enough to Sutton to challenge the three-time champion, with a hybrid motor failure in the opening race denying him his permitted two laps of additional power.
Drawn to start from 11th on the grid for race three after the maximum number of cars were reversed, Ingram gained a place at the start and then held tenth for much of the race.
He then pounced when Jake Hill made a slight mistake whilst trying to get ahead of Dan Cammish on the penultimate tour, going around the outside to take ninth and finish ahead of Sutton to keep the points deficit at a manageable 14 leaving Hampshire.
Although Ingram still only has one win in 2023 to Sutton’s six, he has finished on the podium seven times to continue to keep the series-leading Motorbase driver honest in the title race.
“Thruxton is a circuit I always enjoy going to, and it was another very good weekend overall,” said Ingram. “I was pleased with qualifying; you only properly get one lap with the tyres at their peak round there, so you need everything to really flow and slot into place.
“There are so many variables, and – classic racing driver’s excuse, I know – I got held up on my fastest lap and was mindful of track limits with a lot of penalties being handed out.
“It didn’t feel like we hooked everything up or got the maximum we could out of the session, but the front row was obviously a good building block going into Sunday.
“The car felt great in race one and second was a good result, but I then got some contact from behind on the first lap of race two, which tipped me into a big slide at the Complex.
“That allowed Ash to escape down the road slightly, and to try to nibble away is so difficult when the margins are so tight, because it takes a lot out of the tyres and Thruxton isn’t the kind of place where you want to push too hard…
“I could see he was making a few mistakes in the closing stages, but he’s world-class – he knows what to do – so it was a case of just managing everything to the end and banking some more good points.”
Whilst Ingram admitted that he has spent a lot of time looking at Sutton’s rear bumper this year, he knows that being only 14 points adrift means he is still very much in the fight to defend his drivers’ championship title.
“It feels like we’re simply following Ash around every weekend at the moment and just about hanging onto his coat-tails, so we’ve clearly got some work to do to catch up – I might need to do an ‘Inspector Seb’ and have a sneaky look to find out what it is his team is doing to be so quick!
“That said, we clawed back a bit of ground in the last race at Thruxton, which as a circuit wasn’t fantastic for us last year, so it was good to have made some improvements since we were last there.
“I think fundamentally we’ve got a fast car, and that it’s a question of refining it. At the end of the day, Ash has won six of the last eight races and we’re still only 14 points behind him, so we must be doing something right…”