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BTCC Donington: Ingram dominates practice

Tom Ingram comfortably topped both free practice sessions at Donington Park for the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship.

Tom Ingram, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 N Fastback

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The 2022 champion was happy to go about his own programme for the majority of both 35-minute periods at a bitterly cold Leicestershire circuit and on each occasion he set the standard as the chequered flag flew.

In FP1, Ingram and his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N smashed the previous best of Dan Cammish – after flashing Jake Hill out of the way as he descended the Craner Curves – to the tune of 0.323 seconds.

A mid-session shower of rain meant it looked unlikely that anyone of the leading contenders would improve in FP2, but it soon dried out and there were three or four hard laps of running at the end for the majority of the field.

Ingram cruised to the top of the times on his penultimate lap, and then moved into the glamour territory of the 1m07s bracket on his final tour to defeat Dan Rowbottom by 0.276s.

“I don’t know whether that second session was fairly circumstantial because of the conditions, but everyone seemed to be pushing on and I’m very pleased so far,” Ingram told Autosport.

PLUS: How Ingram is seeking to reclaim the BTCC crown from Sutton

“We set the ball rolling with a very good pre-season testing [primarily three days at Anglesey] and we’ve continued to improve the car.

“Bits of last year’s were good, and there are bits of this year’s that are better, so we’re looking in good shape.”

Tom Ingram, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 N Fastback

Tom Ingram, Bristol Street Motors with EXCELR8 Hyundai i30 N Fastback

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Rowbottom, who always looks spectacular at Donington, pushed on to good effect to be the second quickest driver across the two sessions in the leading NAPA-liveried Alliance Racing Ford Focus ST.

Team-mate Cammish was next up in FP2, a fraction slower than his FP1 time, for third overall.

A final-lap effort hoisted four-time champion Colin Turkington into fourth place in his West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport, ahead of impressive BTCC sophomore Mikey Doble at the wheel of the leading Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra.

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Fastest from the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla camp was Aiden Moffat – fifth in the morning and sixth overall ahead of the next WSR BMW of Adam Morgan, who sat out much of the second session.

Hill was sixth in FP2 to go eighth overall in his WSR BMW, while the final two drivers in the top 10 – reigning champion Ash Sutton (Alliance Ford) and Aron Taylor-Smith (PMR Vauxhall) – both set their times in FP1.

Any ideas Sutton may have had about stamping in a late flier were scotched by a black flag for track limits, forcing him to sit out the final five minutes – potentially slightly harsh since he was one of only a couple of drivers pushing on when the track was damp.

Rob Huff’s full-time return to the BTCC with Speedworks resulted in an eventful FP1 – first he peeled the left corner of his rear bumper askew on a chicane tyre stack, and then had to park in the pits with driveshaft failure.

But at least he was in better shape than fellow veteran Tom Chilton, who failed to complete a flying lap in either session due to persistent overboost problems on his Excelr8 Hyundai, the team even disconnecting the turbo in FP2 in a bid to discover the root cause – to no avail.

With alternate FP2 positions deciding the groups for the new-for-2024 qualifying format, that means Ingram, Cammish, Doble, Morgan and Moffat will feature in the first group, with Rowbottom up against the might of Turkington, Hill, Huff and Sutton in the second.

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