How the ERC title was won*. By Chris Ingram
Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock became the latest in a long line of illustrious winners of the FIA European Rally Championship* following a dramatic final-stage showdown with Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov on Rally Hungary last month in their Toksport WRT ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Relying on vital budget generated through a crowdfunding campaign launched by his mother Jo to complete the season, 25-year-old Ingram revealed how he bounced back from ERC1 Junior title disappointment in August to become the first Briton since Vic Elford in 1967 to claim the coveted regional crown, despite not winning a round outright, a fact he’s quick to play down.
“We had some opportunities where we could have won but the ERC1 Junior title was our focus for the first six rounds and it was always in the back of my mind that I can’t crash the car because we had no money and that would have been the end of it if I had done,” Ingram says. “I just tried to be as consistent as possible, get solid results all year and it paid off. I don’t care if we didn’t win a rally outright, we’ve won the title and no one can take that away from us. I always believed I had the speed and consistency to win it.”
From Twingo to tango
“It’s crazy to think but five years ago I was driving a Renault Twingo R2 with my father helping me prepare the car on rallies,” remembers Ingram. “Five years later I was in a ŠKODA Fabia R5, a top-spec car with Toksport, a top team, fighting drivers like Alexey Lukyanuk that I’ve looked up to for a long time, one of the fastest drivers around. It’s been a dream and I’m so proud the hard work has paid off. But I never thought it would happen, it’s been a difficult journey with lots of highs and lows.”
Lifetime ambition achieved
“It was always a dream to be European champion and the fact it had been more than 50 years since a Brit last won it makes it even more special for me,” says Ingram. “It’s one of the biggest things I can achieve in my life. To do it so soon, I’m 25 years old, I’m very proud. I’m already thinking what can I do now, what’s the next thing? But this is a lifetime ambition of mine and a dream come true.”
The turning point
“I would say the Barum Rally was the turning point,” Ingram explains. “The first five rallies were incredibly difficult and I was putting so much pressure on myself and therefore driving slower. Then in Barum I just tried to relax as much as possible. My speed and my normal driving came back and it became easy again and we carried that through for the last three rallies. They were our strongest performances of the season.”
A special guiding light
“This is all thanks to the team, Toksport, but so many people have supported us and especially Ross who has guided me perfectly on every corner of every stage. He’s done an incredible job, so reliable, so focused. We have a fantastic team so I’m just very proud.”
Visit FIAERC.com soon to read Chris Ingram’s rally-by-rally reflections
*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA