Tom Ingram left Donington Park earlier this week feeling quietly confident heading into the new season after underlining Speedworks Motorsport’s winter of hard work.
Aiming to build on what was a breakthrough 2016 campaign for both himself and the team after sweeping to a brace of victories, Ingram laid down a marker to his rivals by topping the timesheets in the official pre-season test.
Sporting a heavily revised facelifted Toyota Avensis for the new season, the 23-year-old sat at the summit of the times for a majority of the four-hour session and his 1:09.995 wasn’t to be beaten.
Whilst it is hard to read into the times given the different strategies being used, the Bucks ace was encouraged with how the afternoon panned out on Thursday (16th March).
“Donington was a bit of a leap into the unknown for us,” Ingram explained. “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.
Storming to pole position at the 2016 curtain-raiser, the former Ginetta champion is optimistic of what can be achieved at the Kent venue next month, but understands that consistency will be key in a championship that is as competitive as ever.
“I think we can be confident going to Brands Hatch,” he said. “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!”
PHOTO CREDIT: Jakob Ebrey Photography