Chris Ingram has landed his ‘last chance’ to move his rally career to the next level after clinching the ERC Junior U27 title at Rally Liepaja on Sunday.
This is the 23-year-old’s fourth straight season in the European Rally Championship and Ingram admitted ahead of the event that failing to lift the €100,000 (£89,000) prize fund could have signalled the end of his professional career. And on Saturday night, the Manchester driver feared his chance was slipping away.
He told Motorsport News: “When I went to bed on Saturday night, I thought: ‘It’s happening again, I’m going to lose it!’ I did have some more pace to give on Sunday, but when I heard that [Jari] Huttunen had gone off, I was really shocked.”
Ingram ended day one 25.4 seconds behind his Opel team-mate, but a mistake from the Finn on Sunday’s opener put Ingram ahead and he stayed there until the finish.
“I’ve been consistent all the way through my time in the ERC,” said Ingram. “It’s always been a case of knowing that if I crash it, then it could be the last chance. I could have gone harder on Sunday, but I knew there was more risk there. In the end, I didn’t have to. This result really hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I’m just so, so happy that I can finally take the next step and move into an R5 car.”
The prize fund has to be used to drive a Skoda Fabia R5 on selected ERC rounds. Ingram has immediately identified two rallies where he’s enjoyed success in the past: the Canaries and Azores Rallies.
“I have good experience from those events and experience really counts there,” he said. “I feel I need to go and win those rallies to show people what I’m capable of and that I’m ready to step up from the ERC.
“What I’m aiming at is tailoring a programme towards the Rally GB and Rally Spain next year, to compete in WRC2. But I’ve got to get a lot of experience of the R5 car before I think about doing that.”