The two Speedworks drivers enjoyed two very different seasons this year. Tom Ingram, who’s been with the team since 2014, proved himself a qualifying star, but had difficulty keeping the momentum all the way through the weekend, whilst Matt Simpson, a BTCC rookie, struggled to find points finishes in his debut season.
Ingram started the season by shocking everybody with a pole position, his and Speedwork’s very first BTCC pole position. The race that followed was pretty much perfect for the Speedworks driver, though he was kept under pressure by the more experienced drivers behind him. He took victory, his first in the BTCC. A more perfect start to the season could hardly be imagined.
The rest of the weekend didn’t go quite so well. Despite starting from pole again, Ingram was forced to retire after making contact with Rob Collard. Starting race three from the back of the grid didn’t give him much hope of a second win that weekend, but Ingram was able to move up to seventeenth.
Poles and wins weren’t really what anybody was expecting from rookie Simpson, so the single point he took from his first BTCC weekend was something of an achievement. The point came with a fifteenth position, gained after spending the entire race three battling with the much more experienced Jason Plato.
The following weekend was very much a “learning” weekend for Simpson: learning just how violent the BTCC could be. After a badly timed red flag in qualifying, Simpson qualified towards the back of the grid. In the race, as he was trying to move forwards, the rookie misjudged a gap and ended up spinning the car ahead of him and retiring. Race two, after the mechanics finished repairing the bumped Honda, Simpson retired again after a collision with Fletcher. The stewards weren’t happy with Simpson for that, and sent him to the back of the grid for the final race of the weekend.
Ingram had a better start to the weekend, taking a third place in the opening race, before once again moving backwards over the following two races.
Thruxton was by far Simpson’s best race of the season, whilst Ingram broke records on his way to another podium finish.
Qualifying saw Ingram take a second pole position, setting the fastest time on the track as he beat then points leader Matt Neal to the front of the grid. The race didn’t work in quite the same way, as Ingram was passed by multiple drivers in a chaotic race that saw him drop down to fifth. He would be the second car to see the chequered flag, though, when a huge collision at the end of the race took multiple drivers out of the race. That made it three podiums in three meetings for the young driver.
A penalty for a jump start took Ingram out of the battle for the lead of the race in race two, before an alternator belt failure took him out of the final race of the weekend.
Meanwhile, Simpson was having a smashing weekend. The rookie made up ten places in the opening race to finish a career best of thirteenth, then maintained the place in the second race. Race three didn’t go quite to plan. Simpson was looking to move forward when contact and an unusual line at the chicane ruined his wheel. The Speedworks driver was forced to pit and change the wheel before heading back out, only to suffer another mechanical problem which bought a permanent end to his race.
The next four weekends brought solid results for Ingram. Though nothing spectacular – the only podium to note a third place at Croft – it kept Ingram in the mix at the top of the field. Simpson had more trouble, unable to find points and retiring from four of the next twelve races. Knockhill was particularly bad for the rookie, who was involved in a collision that brought him in front of the stewards once again. Between the Knockhill collision and his earlier incident at Donington Park, Simpson had a six point penalty, dropping him down to a single point despite the three points finishes.
After a disappointing Rockingham round, when Ingram only finished one of the races and was unable to take any points, Speedworks were keen for another podium. Ingram was aiming for pole for the opening race, but missed out on the perfect position by three thousandths of a second. Ingram spent the opening race battling hard with the two MG drivers. Both would get the better of him, meaning Ingram would cross the line third. A technical infringement led to the MG duo’s exclusion from the results, promoting Ingram to the race win, the second of his career.
Ingram was shuffled backwards on the soft tyre in the second race, and was forced to retire from race three with a head gasket failure.
It was another challenging weekend from Simpson, who failed to take points once again. The rookie finished two of the three races, but twentieth was the best he could achieve.
The final weekend of the season was nothing spectacular for either driver. Ingram managed to take points from all three races and even managed another pole in qualifying before being excluded from the results for a technical infringements. After being demoted to the back of the grid, Ingram put up a strong fight to finish inside the points in all three races and, though he couldn’t get close to the podium – sixth his best finish – he was able to secure tenth in the championship. Once again, it was another pointless finish for Simpson, eighteenth the best he could achieve.
After a fantastic weekend for Ingram, the High Wycombe driver has already confirmed he’ll be staying at the team for a fourth year, but Simpson’s future is still unconfirmed. The rookie may not have been a star of the season, but he managed to take third in the rookie championship with a handful of wins.
Image Credit: Caroline Rhea