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BTCC Donington: Ingram takes first pole of 2024

Tom Ingram earned initial bragging rights for the British Touring Car Championship season by claiming pole position for the opening round at Donington Park.

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

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

After a 2023 season of domination by the Alliance-run NAPA Racing Fords, Ingram and his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N significantly emerged on top of the only qualifying session of the season where everyone is on equal boost, for his first pole since his 2022 title-clinching weekend at Brands Hatch.

Reigning champion Ash Sutton, seeking a record-breaking fifth title, was the main rival to Ingram, and fell just 0.051 seconds short at the wheel of his Focus ST.

“I may have played it a bit safe, because it was important to get a lap here – then I had a cooldown and then the rain came,” explained Sutton.

Ingram was predictably delighted with his pole.

“It’s a winter of hard work to try and improve the car,” he said. “We’ve come out absolutely fighting to start as we mean to go on.

“I felt good about the weekend, and it’s gone perfectly to plan.”

This was the debut of the BTCC’s new-for-2024 three-phase qualifying format, modelled on the IndyCar system.

Rain threw a massive curveball into this, with Ingram having to switch to wet-weather Goodyears in his initial group to go fastest, and then Sutton just squeaking into the top-six cutoff on the final lap of his group, where it dried out and Colin Turkington went fastest on slicks.

Colin Turkington, Team BMW

Colin Turkington, Team BMW

Photo by: JEP

The track stayed largely dry from then on, with Sutton topping Q2 by 0.079s from Ingram, after a late red-flag stoppage following a shunt at the Old Hairpin for Sutton’s team-mate Sam Osborne.

Turkington and Jake Hill, his team-mate in the West Surrey Racing BMW 330e M Sport squad, were third and fourth in Q2, and repeated the trick in the final top-six shootout.

The supporting cast to the BTCC’s class quartet of recent seasons was played by Ingram’s team-mate Ronan Pearson and the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla of Andrew Watson, who both did a fine job to make the final six, with Pearson beating Watson to fifth.

Aron Taylor-Smith missed the cut to make it through from Q2 by just 0.003s in his Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra, so the Irishman will line up seventh ahead of Josh Cook’s Speedworks Toyota.

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One of the stars of qualifying was Daryl DeLeon, who with as good as no testing mileage made it through to ninth with the Cupra Leon of Unlimited Motorsport, with Mikey Doble (PMR Vauxhall) joining him on the fifth row.

Osborne and Chris Smiley (Restart Racing Cupra) were the others to make it to Q2.

Among the high-profile scalps claimed in Q1 were Alliance Ford pair Dan Cammish and Dan Rowbottom, neither of whom got out on the right tyres at the right time, the WSR BMW of Adam Morgan, and Rob Huff with his Speedworks Toyota.

Huff was blocked in pitlane by the imposing figure of BTCC tech supremo Sam Riches because the team did not have the car on its pit apron at the start of the session, after repairing damage sustained in FP2.

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