ERC1 Junior: Ingram heads Toksport 1-2
Chris Ingram kicked off his FIA ERC1 Junior Championship title bid in style with a class victory on the Azores Rallye, leading home a Toksport WRT 1-2.
Ingram started leg two in second place, nearly half a minute behind Team OSCARO-backed driver Pierre-Louis Loubet. But his fellow ŠKODA Fabia R5-driving rival hit trouble almost immediately, his car suffering a water pump failure at the end of Graminhais that forced him to retire.
From there Ingram was unchallenged and headed a 1-2 finish for his Toksport team, with Cypriot Alexandros Tsouloftas finishing in second place on his Azores debut.
“That was the most difficult weekend ever. It’s been the most difficult Azores I’ve ever done,” said Ingram.
“There were so many mistakes from me. I should have been more relaxed, I shouldn’t have been chasing it.”
With ERC1 Junior in the bag, Ingram’s next target was his first outright Azores podium – one he eventually got when Alexey Lukyanuk rolled out on the final stage – despite taking hard tyres in the hope it would be drier than expected.
“We’ve been on a hard tyre which in these conditions isn’t the best idea, but I’m really happy to have won ERC1 Junior.”
“We were fifth overnight and we don’t want to be fifth, so we knew everyone else would be on the soft tyre so we took hards as a gamble.”
It was also a great start to 2019 for Tsouloftas, who began his ERC1 Junior campaign with second place.
“Wow, what a rally! I never thought about it being this difficult,” he said. “I’m really happy being second on the podium and those points for the ERC1 Junior, I’m really happy.”
Miguel Correia completed the ERC1 Junior podium for ARC Sport, although he suffered a near miss by damaging his Ford Fiesta R5 on the final stage, to the point the door handle fell off the passenger-side door on his second start in an R5 car.
Sweden National Team’s Mattias Adielsson had lost 10 minutes through retiring with an electrical issue on Thursday but came back to finish fourth, though like Correia, suffered last minute drama.
He clipped a bank on Tronqueira, the final stage of the rally, squashing his exhaust to the point his car was not able to drive.
Adielsson used the wheel-jack in the boot of his Saintéloc Racing-prepared Citroën C3 R5 to try and open it up, but eventually resorted to punching a hole through the exhaust with a screwdriver.
The Swede eventually finished the stage eight minutes down on Ingram but successfully collected points for fourth place.
Pedro Almeida also returned under Rally2 on Saturday but retired on Vila Franca-São Bras, his ŠKODA Fabia R5 making contact with a solid object and breaking the rear suspension.