Ingram Takes First Victory in 2017 as big names Tangle

It was a sense of deja-vu with Tom Ingram winning the opening race of the season at Brands in the same fashion as 2016. The recently improved Toyota Avensis was able to pass Jeff Smith’s Honda early on and then pulled a rare gap at the front as battles commenced behind.

Jeff Smith’s fairytale pole position lap yesterday was unfortunately where the luck ended for the Eurotech driver. He was beaten off the line by Tom Ingram, but two likely looking race winners behind were out in 2017 before they’d driven 20 meters. As the lights were still fading out to start the race, Colin Turkington and Matt Neal both went for the same gap at the start and collided with one another, both out of the race with what looked liked suspension damage. It makes race two even tougher for the two touring car champions, who will start from the back.

Once the safety car went back into the pits on lap 4, Tom Ingram executed the restart perfectly and didn’t give the chasing Jeff Smith a sniff. Gordon Shedden had a better opening race in the other Honda Yuasa and was in a comfortable position, hunting Jeff Smith for P2. After Smith showed Shedden his hand by weaving to warm his soft compound tyres heading into lap five, the Scottish driver took the hint, and switched up the inside of the cool-rubbered Eurotech exiting druids. This put Smith off-line, allowing Adam Morgan’s Mercedes to follow Shedden through for 3rd.

If one Eurotech was struggling on the softs, the other of Jack Goff was looking racy, and shows some promise for the Eurotech team who are looking competitive early on. Goff hassled Rob Austin for fifth, at one point looking to out brake into druids and looking in good shape to fight further up the order than the high position he found himself in after a smooth start.

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By lap 11, the gap that Ingram had built up over Gordon Shedden was an impressive 2.6s, a rare lead gap in the BTCC around a 48s lap showed that the Speedworks Avensis is looking more than handy around here. If Ingram can get a clean start in race two, he might go one better than last year at this round and win a second race of the weekend.

A moment later and further back, Mike Epps surprised Rob Collard by outbraking the BMW works driver in the Team HARD Volkswagen. On lap 14, Jeff Smith’s fantastic defence of fourth was finally broken with an issue on one of his front tyres, he limped out of copse corner and was overtaken by the chasing Rob Austin and his teammate Jack Goff.

The problem for Smith proved critical, he retired on lap 15 from a solid  points scoring position, his weekend looks a lot tougher now. The good news for Eurotech was that Jack Goff was still well and truly in the fight, and managed to overtake Rob Austin for p4 on lap 20.

Ingram

Up ahead, Tom Ingram still lead the race comfortably, with Shedden more concerned with the closing Ciceley Mercedes of Adam Morgan in his rear-mirrors, who was steadily knocking off three-tenths a lap in the closing stages.

Late in the race on lap 24, Rob Collard was able to get revenge on Mike Epps, reclaiming 8th from the Volkswagen with Tom Chilton hoping to barge his way through too, unfortunately the returnee to the BTCC was forced wide onto the dirt, and just about held onto 9th.

Collard then managed to close in on Mat Jackson on lap 25, giving the yellow Motorbase Ford a helpful bump wide to take 7th.

Tom Ingram was able to win comfortably, with three-seconds to spare ahead of the consistent Gordon Shedden in 2nd. Adam Morgan has set the tone for his 2017 season early on, he wanted another year of top results and podiums, it’s looking good at this stage, the way he reigned in Shedden sets up an interesting battle for race two.

The disappointment for Jeff Smith should be salvaged by a great 4th place by his teammate Jack Goff, and Rob Austin’s weekend continues to improve with a 5th place. Andrew Jordan beat Collard to 6th by a fraction over a tenth of a second, the bragging rights at WSR are well and truly up for grabs for the next race too.

Mat Jackson Was able to keep ahead of Michael Epps for 8th, and Tom Chilton rounded out the top ten in his Vauxhall Astra.

 

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