2022 BTCC Champion Tom Ingram on his iconic career and racing at Silverstone19 October 2023
Tom Ingram, the reigning BTCC Champion, was first introduced to motorsport at a young age through his dad, who used to race motocross and quad bikes until he was involved in a big shunt, which left him with a broken pelvis. After a year out, Tom’s dad took motorsport up again - this time in the form of go karts. It wasn’t long until Tom sat in a kart for the first time before heading down to his local kart circuit to give it a try behind the wheel for himself.
Having climbed the ranks over the years, from Ginetta Juniors to Ginetta Supercup, Tom joined BTCC with Speedworks Motorsport in 2014, and has remained on the grid since. He moved to his current team, EXCELR8, in 2021, and last year, Tom won his first ever BTCC Championship.
Tom returned to the grid for the 2023 season with the hope of retaining his title, and with BTCC visiting Silverstone for the penultimate round of the season, he shared his hopes for the event, whilst looking back at his career over the years.
It was Tom’s dad’s experience in karting which influenced him to give it a try. He would sit in his dad’s kart and pretend to drive, until he was lucky enough to receive his own from Santa Claus. Then, with his family, he headed down to his local kart circuit and properly gave karting a go.
“It was always just mum, dad and me,” Tom remembers. “It was just the three of us that would travel around the country in our little van and go karting".
“Those first years of racing are always quite special anyway, but particularly when you’re a close unit like we were.”
Tom’s dad was also the driving force in his love for Touring Cars. Together, they attended the Autosport show, and his dad bought him the VHS of the 1999 British Touring Cars season.
“I used to watch it over and over, I almost became fanatical about it,” Tom says. “I would watch it so intently and pick up on the little details from the gloves that somebody was wearing to the helmet they had.
“That’s where my fascination with the championship started, so my love for motorsport and my love for the BTCC both collided at the same time.”
In 2008, a few years into Tom’s karting career, his dad was made redundant. With the money he received from his redundancy, he decided to go and buy a Ginetta, so Tom could join the Ginetta Juniors grid.
For many families, motorsport is a difficult sport to finance, and Tom’s struggled to afford paying for a full Ginetta season. So, Tom did two test days and competed in five rounds before they ran out of money and couldn’t continue.
However, he was very lucky in that over the winter period, Ginetta changed the car for the following year and Lawrence Tomlinson, the Chairman of LNT and Ginetta, got Tom on the grid. Lawrence put Tom with a team - Hillspeed - and he won the championship in his first full season on the Ginetta Juniors grid.
“People say you make your own luck along the way, which I agree with to a certain extent, but I was just very, very lucky to meet Lawrence and Richard Dean who massively helped me out,” Tom says. “Lawrence then helped me get onto the grid for the G50 series and I won that.”
After competing in the G50 class, Tom progressed to the Ginetta GT Supercup, which he won in 2013, before moving to the British Touring Car Championship grid for his rookie season in 2014.
BTCC has always been Tom’s goal. He never considered any other motorsport avenue; BTCC was always where he wanted to end up.
He joined the grid when he was 20 and drove for Speedworks Motorsport, and now, having just turned 30, Tom has spent 10 years in the BTCC paddock. His current team is the Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 outfit.
Tom has not only grown and changed as a racing driver throughout the decade he’s spent on the BTCC grid, but he has grown as a person, too. Not only that, but he’s been lucky enough to watch the people he has worked closely with during that time grow and succeed in the series.
“We’ve achieved so much together and that’s special in itself, to watch that grow and improve, to watch us do better,” Tom says. “To watch as we achieve better things, like being on a podium each weekend or winning a race a few times a year, but along with that you achieve the things on your list… we’re ticking off these little milestones along the way.
“I still remember my first podium which was a bonkers experience and there are so many moments like that, that you look back on and they are really special times, and we’ve done it as a close group.”
2022 was Tom’s second season with EXCELR8, and he entered the season feeling the most confident he ever had done and was confident that he could win the title. As a sportsperson, feeling confident about achieving the absolute peak of your sport is something Tom believes you should always have.
“We’d learnt quite a lot and I felt in really good shape,” he says. “I was really excited about it; we had good funding in place and the car was looking good, we’d had a good winter development programme and testing had gone very well, so everything sort of led to this.”
And Tom’s 2022 season was far from plain sailing. Like any driver, he had good weekends and bad weekends in the car, but the people surrounding him - his team - all shared the same win together lose together mentality. So, when a race weekend didn’t necessarily go to plan, they had one another’s support to bring it back for the next one.
“I like being part of a close team,” Tom says. “I like working with good people so you can find problems but also celebrate together.
“Going into 2022, I felt more confident than ever and everything was working well, everything had linked together very well; you don’t get many moments like that in your career so you just have to take it and charge with it.”
Come the end of the 2022 season at Brands Hatch, the title fight was as close as ever. Now, almost one year on, Tom still struggles to put the emotions he felt that day into words.
“I had the feeling of joy, the feeling of satisfaction that you’ve done it, the feeling of immense pride that you’ve done it with all these people,” he says. “Honestly, there are so many different emotions and I think anyone who can tell you what that emotion is will lie to you because I don’t think there is one."
“If you could bottle the feeling, you’d be a quadrillionaire overnight.”
One of the most powerful things about Tom winning the championship, and as part of the beauty of live sport, is that everyone can share that one moment together but in a different way. When Tom became Champion, he wasn’t the only one experiencing all those emotions; he shared it with the people standing in the garage, his family, sponsors and team, the people watching the race at the track and the people watching at home on television.
"We all got to share that exact same moment at the exact same time, and we all got to share that feeling,” he says. “I think that’s a very beautiful thing.
“It’s special to be part of, but everyone has their own story and their own emotion of that moment in time.”
At the penultimate round of this year’s BTCC campaign at Silverstone, Tom was trying to play catch up against this year’s championship leader, Ash Sutton.
Having won the title last year, of course Tom would like to retain that, and it’s made both him and the people around him work harder than they ever have done before to make up the deficit to Sutton.
“Winning the championship has taught us that just because you were the best at something once, it doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again,” he says. “It teaches you to always keep working hard and that there’s no substitute for that.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that you never give up until it’s over because anything can happen.”
Having been victorious at Silverstone multiple times in the past, Tom’s excitement to return to the Home of British Motorsport grew over the weeks leading up to the event. As well as holding some other memories - like being the first circuit he visited to watch a BTCC race - Silverstone is a circuit Tom has always enjoyed, and a circuit there’s always a great turn out at.
“I’m looking forward to going back to a circuit that was good for me in the past,” he says. “We can look forward to it instead of having a weekend that fills you with a bit of dread.
“We’re going to go in on maximum attack and if it’s enough, it’s enough.”