Thu 10 Nov 2022

Hungary 2019: The ERC's most nail-biting final stage?

Three years to this day, Rally Hungary provided one of the most thrilling final stages the ERC has ever seen.

The title fight went down to the wire as Britain’s Chris Ingram, who’d crowdfunded part of his campaign, arrived to the final round 19 points clear of second-placed Łukasz Habaj. Alexey Lukyanuk - reigning champion at the time - was another nine points behind. 

With the best six results out of eight counting towards the championship, Ingram was set to lose 12 points from his end-of-season total, with Habaj and Lukyanuk potentially dropping four and three respectively.

Habaj’s retirement after an opening day crash left just Lukyanuk and Ingram in the running. Heading into the final 27.48km stage, Ingram’s third overall was going to be enough to seal the crown - despite Lukyanuk leading the rally. 

But it wasn’t as simple as that. In a dramatic late twist, Fabia star Ingram arrived to the stop line having driven 11km on a front right puncture. Dropping back to fourth, he thought the dream was over.

The championship was Lukyanuk’s for the taking, but, unbelievably, he too suffered a tyre deflation - stopping mid-stage to change the wheel and slipping from first to second. 

Tense moments followed as the points were checked, double-checked and checked again. Alas, it was confirmed: the 2019 title went to Ingram - making him the first Briton to clinch the ERC crown since Vic Elford in 1967.

"It was just the most unforgettable moment," Ingram reflects three years on. "The whole rally was really difficult and there was a lot of gravel on the roads with Tarmac tyres.

"All I had to do was finish on the podium and I was consistently on the podium, but on the last stage the puncture dropped us to fourth. I thought I'd lost everything. 

"But then Lukyanuk had the same problem in the same spot and he dropped to second. It was just an unbelievable half hour waiting at the end of the stage while the FIA calculated the points and everything."

Ingram stepped up to the FIA World Rally Championship following his triumph and has achieved a streak of impressive results on his debut season in WRC2. Next year he hopes to challenge for the series victory. 

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