TOM Ingram looked odds-on for a podium finish, if not better, in the final race only for misfortune to strike at Oulton Park in the British Touring Car Championship last weekend.

Oulton is home soil for Northwich, Cheshire-based Speedworks Motorsport, and


headed into qualifying in optimistic mood following two busy and productive free practice sessions.

A couple of grassy excursions restricted him on ninth on the grid amongst the 30 high-calibre contenders, but he did not let that hold him back.

Under a sweltering summer sun, and in front of both a capacity crowd and the live ITV4 television cameras, the 25-year-old Buckinghamshire-born ace went immediately on the attack. He pinched a position from double title-holder Jason Plato on the opening lap of the curtain-raiser, before gaining another spot when Matt Neal went off.

He subsequently had to get his elbows out to fend off Plato and 2017 champion Ash Sutton in a scrap that got physical on occasion on his way to a strong seventh place at the chequered flag.

In race two,


again focussed on moving forward, snatching sixth from Rory Butcher before, headlights ablaze, zeroing in on Sam Tordoff in fifth.

Relentlessly stalking his prey, he had closed right onto the Yorkshireman’s tail when the safety car was summoned with less than a handful of laps left to run.

At the re-start, a big moment at Knickerbrook cost him some ground, sliding spectacularly sideways after pushing a touch too hard and dropping a wheel on the curb.

Eighth position nonetheless secured the reigning two-time Independents’ champion fourth on the partially reversed grid for the day’s finale.

When the lights went out, the leading quintet broke swiftly away from the chasing pack but then, going onto lap three, disaster struck as contact between the top two spat Neal broadside across the track heading down The Avenue towards Cascades.

In the ensuing cloud of tyre smoke, Ingram, like several others, had to jink dramatically left onto the grass in avoidance.

Rejoining in 22nd place and carrying damage, he later locked up on a pool of oil at the hairpin and skidded straight on, ultimately spelling retirement.

Frustratingly, the second-fastest lap of the racewent to show what might have been.

Ingram now goes into the mid-season break sitting ninth in the Drivers’ standings in the premier motor racing series, with the action set to resume at Snetterton in Norfolk on August 3-4.

Ingram said: “Oulton Park and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I love the place, but it really doesn’t seem to like me very much as something has always stopped me from coming away with results.

"We weren’t quite in the window in qualifying, and I probably forced it a bit too much and ended up over-driving – with a new car, you occasionally have to overstretch the boundaries to find the limit.

“In terms of race pace, though, the Corolla was the strongest it has been yet this season. I felt I could really push and attack. That marked the biggest step forward of the year so far, and the car got better and better as the weekend went on.

“We gained ground in race one, before making a big set-up change for race two that really brought the Corolla to life.

"I was very much looking forward to race three after that and, considering the pace we had in just the opening two laps, I’m convinced we would have been on the podium.

"When it all kicked off, Matt crossed the track right in front of me and my only option was to veer left onto the grass, but the wheels dug in and that ripped a load of front downforce off the car.

“We eventually got going again but later hit oil and flat-spotted a tyre, which meant we had to pit and, with the damage we were carrying, we reluctantly had to call it a day.

"That was obviously a disappointing way to finish the weekend, but overall there was plenty of cause for encouragement and we will use that to continue to fuel development of the Corolla to make sure we come back fighting fit at Snetterton after the break.”