Nine years ago, a young Tom Ingram took the Ginetta Junior crown by more than 50 points. Just a year earlier, he’d had to miss three rounds of the championship due to funding issues.
Now, Ingram is battling for the British Touring Car Championship, finishing second in last year’s title race.
Many drivers who have progressed up the motorsport ladder have spoken about the car control and wheel-to-wheel experience that they learned in Ginetta Juniors but, for Ingram, his years in the championship were as much about learning off-track skills as on-track.
“I had a lot of struggles in terms of getting there from a financial point of view,” he told Ginetta Junior Update. “It’s really difficult for me. I’ve been funded through sponsorship my entire career and at that stage it was incredibly difficult.
“But it teaches you a hell of a lot in those early years, teaches you a hell of a lot about hwo to conduct yourself professionally and of course all of the driving stuff that you need to know as well.
“It was a really important step for everyone’s career and, for me, it holds a lot of memories and lot of people I have to be very thankful for when looking back. It was some good years.”
Every year, a number of drivers are restricted by financial issues. This season, In2Racing’s Charlie McLeod has had to miss the last two rounds, while budget restraints meant Ethan Brooks was absent from the Thruxton meeting.
Beyond Ginetta Juniors, things can get even more difficult, as many talented drivers have struggled to progress.
So should championships like Ginetta do more to help drivers develop the skills needed to attract sponsors?
“I think it’s like anything,” Ingram said. “If you work hard at it, it will come towards you. There’s not a lot that can be done.
“Drivers can be educated but, ultimately, it’s incredibly hard and you’ve just got to work hard at it. And if you want something hard enough, you’ll fight tooth and nail to make it happen and that’s exactly how I went about it, and exactly how I’ve done it. I would like to think, if I can do it, anybody can.”
Ingram is one of the most successful Ginetta Junior champions to date. After winning the title in 2010, he progressed to the Ginetta Supercup. There, he took the class championship in 2011 and caught the attention of BTCC teams when he took the overall title in 2013.
In 2014, he made his BTCC debut with Speedworks Motorsport and has so far taken 10 victories in the fiercely competitive series.
What advice would he give to any current Ginetta Junior driver hoping to follow in his footsteps?
“The biggest thing is to just not be disheartened by negativity,” he said. “That’s the hardest part.
“At a young age, you get very het up and you focus on the negatives all the time. Really, you’ve got to always look at the positive of any situation and always remember there’s always someone watching. Keep a smile on your face and keep positive.”
Image Credit: Caroline Rhea
PR available: Ginetta Junior Update writer Bethonie Waring is available to supply PR and communications services to Ginetta Junior drivers and racers in other selected series. Visit the PR Opportunities tab for more details