Bucks racer Tom Ingram was left to rue a missed podium opportunity at the end of round five of the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Croft.
The Bucks-born sensation briefly held the lead for the first time in his young BTCC career during Sunday’s final race.
Heading to one of his favourite venues on the calendar, Ingram assumed his now customary top 10 position in practice around the North Yorkshire circuit amongst the 31 BTCC contenders.
However, the 20-year-old qualified in his lowest starting spot to-date, 14th position in his Toyota Avensis.
An early incident in race one saw Ingram forced wide through the gravel, knocking his tracking askew.
As his tyres and pace dropped off dramatically, the blu and Hansford Sensors-supported KX Akademy graduate was left lapping more than a second slower than those around him and fighting a defensive battle against a growing queue of quicker rivals, but Ingram held on to claim 15th place and a solitary championship point.
With the issue rectified and as one of only two competitors to opt for the softer Dunlop tyres in race two, Ingram scythed incisively through the order to take the chequered flag an excellent ninth – which subsequently became eighth following an exclusion ahead.
To underline his raw pace, he even lapped faster than defending champion Andrew Jordan along the way.
Lining up third on the reversed grid for race three, Ingram got away superbly when the starting lights went out to immediately slot into second position ahead of multiple European touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi.
He then fleetingly snatched the lead before finding himself unexpectedly sideswiped by the Italian, which broke his steering and cruelly dashed what had been a golden opportunity for a maiden podium finish.
A frustrated Ingram said afterwards: “I’ve always enjoyed Croft and I always look forward to going there.
“Its technical nature makes it very difficult to get the set-up right, which is a challenge I relish.
“After the step forward we had taken at Oulton Park, I was confident we could have a good weekend – but it wasn’t to be a happy hunting-ground this year, sadly. In qualifying, the lap time just wasn’t there, which was really quite concerning as the car felt mega – we couldn’t put our finger on what was wrong.
“In the first race, I received a tap from behind as all manner of chaos let loose in Turn One; that kicked me sideways and sent me through the gravel, costing me quite a bit of ground. I made my way up into 12th, but then the damage I’d sustained on the opening lap gradually began to take its toll and my tyres fell off a cliff. From that point on, I was only ever going to go backwards.
“We knew race two would be during the hottest part of the day, so we bolted the soft tyres on to give us a bit of a performance advantage. It was a gamble that paid off, because we had strong pace and I was able to fight my way through really well.
“That left me on the harder, more durable rubber for race three – unlike most of the others – and from third, I definitely had the podium in my sights. I nailed the start and out-dragged Giovanardi into Turn One. The leader then got slightly out-of-shape, which opened the door and allowed me to stick my nose up the inside.
“We had a little bit of contact through the long right-hander before the chicane, which delayed us both and gave Giovanardi a run – and the next thing I knew was when I received a hefty whack that sent me completely broadside through the chicane and skating off the track with broken steering. I’m not quite sure how I kept it out of the wall, to be honest. I was absolutely gutted, especially after the speed we had shown in race two. Unfortunately, Lady Luck was not smiling on us.
“There’s a long break now and we have a lot of hard work planned for the summer so we can come back fighting at Snetterton at the beginning of August. It was fantastic to lead a BTCC race for the first time at Croft – even if it was all-too-brief. Next time, hopefully I’ll be able to hang onto it a bit longer.”