Tom Ingram had looked set to depart Knockhill having significantly reduced the deficit separating him from the 2012 Ginetta GT Supercup championship lead. As things transpired, he departed the circuit in an air ambulance following a hefty start-line shunt that has left him with two injured legs – but still resolutely determined to fight back and continue his quest for the coveted crown.
Situated north of the border in Fife, Knockhill is an ever-popular fixture on the ITV4 live-televised British Touring Car Championship calendar – for which the Ginetta GT Supercup is the principal support series – and a perennial favourite amongst drivers, Ingram included.
“I’ve always gone well at Knockhill, and I absolutely love the track, so I was very optimistic going into the weekend,” acknowledged the talented young High Wycombe-based speed demon. “We also knew after our problems at Snetterton a fortnight earlier that we need to be taking some serious points away from the championship leader now.
“Knockhill is a circuit that rewards bravery with its blind crests and spectacular and undulating nature, but at the same time, because it is so technical, you need to be really smooth and precise as well. It’s very demanding, and having good confidence in both yourself and your car is key.”
The SKYCIG and Hansford Sensors-backed KX Akademy protégé certainly wasted little time in getting down to business in qualifying in his JHR Developments-run Ginetta G55, and he was on a pole position-challenging lap when he just clipped the kerb on the entry to the final corner, locked up and shot off-piste, fortunately missing the barriers.
“Looking at the data afterwards, I think it’s safe to say it was the most committed lap I’d ever done around Knockhill – overly so, as it turned out,” Ingram reflected of the extremely rare error that restricted him to third on the grid. “I was braking three metres later than I had done all weekend – I was certainly on a mission.”
The heavens opened ahead of race one, soaking the track, but in a stunningly fast display, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star and MSA Academy member fairly revelled in the treacherous conditions as driver skill and car control truly came to the fore.
“I sat behind Nathan Freke for a few laps to begin with, sizing up where I was strong and he was weak,” he recounted. “I tried to get him going into the hairpin but hit a puddle; I hadn’t realised it was so deep – I had thought it was just a bit of surface water. That cost me some momentum and time, but I kept chasing and after I had caught Nathan again, I made a really decisive move to get past.
“By then, there were only four laps left and the leader Carl Breeze was more than four seconds ahead, but the pace we had was tremendous and I could see I was getting closer and closer and closer. The car JHR put underneath me was amazing and I had so much confidence in it and was almost pushing Carl across the finish line. Just another few corners, and it might have been a different outcome…
Ingram’s outstanding late-race charge left him barely half-a-second adrift of his quarry when the chequered flag fell, and he didn’t just set the fastest lap – by more than a third of a second – but in fact set the fastest three laps, with those at the end all to within fractions of a second of each other in a peerless display of consistency.
If the following encounter was rather more ‘processional’ – “Carl and I were lapping at such a similar speed that it was nigh-on impossible to overtake,” the KENNETT brand ambassador recalls – it nonetheless yielded a second consecutive runner-up trophy. Having finished ahead of the championship leader on both occasions, the 19-year-old’s pre-weekend objective remained well on-target as he closed the points gap from 72 to 55. Until race three…
“I pulled up to my grid position, the five-second board appeared, the red lights came on and I picked the revs up, but then when the lights went out and I released the clutch there was this almighty bang, and although the engine was still running, the car didn’t go anywhere,” Ingram related.
“I was sat there with nothing to do but look in my mirrors, brace myself and wait for the inevitable ‘thud’. That pushed me to the left of the track, where I was hit again. The car was a real mess and I was lucky it didn’t catch fire, because it squashed the fuel tank, too. I tried to climb out, but my legs couldn’t support my weight and I fell over.”
An estimated 95mph impact, the former Ginetta G50 Champion, Ginetta Junior Champion and British Karting Champion was swiftly airlifted to nearby Dundee Hospital, from where he was later discharged with two badly bruised and swollen legs, perforated ligaments and damaged tendons, a pair of crutches and strict instructions to rest.
Thanking the nursing staff and all those who offered him their support and sent well wishes, Ingram is already letting the healing process begin. Beyond that, the clear intention is to return at Rockingham in four weeks’ time on top form – and ready to re-ignite his title bid.