Co-driven by Gabin Moreau, the talented 20-year-old Manchester-based driver knew that the 17 twisty and narrow gravel stages on the mid-Atlantic island of São Miguel, plus the rivalry of the fastest up and coming young drivers from around Europe, would pose a big challenge, but Ingram didn’t expect a stomach bug would also be a threat to his attempt at victory.
Ingram started round three of the ERC Junior championship well, initially holding third position in the Peugeot UK, Peugeot Financial Services and TOTAL Lubricants supported 208, before taking the lead on the last stage of day one (SS3). He was never to lose that lead, although it was far from a simple run to the finish. Day two contained the event’s signature stage, Sete Cidades – one of rallying’s most spectacular tests of speed and distance, as part of it runs around the rim of an extinct volcano. Ingram survived a high speed brush with the scenery, which bent the steering of his 208, but such was his pace that he still set second best time over the famous stage and even extended his lead! By the end of day two, Ingram led ERC Juniors by a healthy 22.4 seconds.
Ingram feared he might not be well enough to start the third and final day of the rally, after sickness and stomach cramps had kept him awake all night. Not only did he start, but a pale and fatigued Ingram even extended his lead on the day’s opening stage with another fastest time (his third in a row) – despite the additional problems of having to drive through dense fog and with a slow puncture.
In the hot and humid conditions, the final afternoon loop of three stages were a true test of Ingram’s physical and mental strength and, despite struggling to stay awake at times, he held on to win the hotly-contested ERC Junior category for the first time by 30.4 seconds – having set a total of five fastest stage times. For his extraordinary efforts, he was also awarded with the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy, which was presented to him by the former Sporting Director of Peugeot, and now ERC Sporting Manager, Jean-Pierre Nicolas.
Peugeot 208 ‘R2′ rally cars locked out the ERC Junior, and ERC3 (Two wheel drive cars) podium in the Azores, with Portugal’s Diogo Gago finishing second and Norway’s Steve Røkland finishing third. Not only that, Irishman Craig Breen scored his third ERC overall win-in-a-row in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16, to extend his lead in the Drivers’ series.
Speaking at the finish of Rally Azores in Ponta Delgada, Chris commented: “This year’s Rally Azores was such a tough event, a lot more difficult than I’d ever imagined it would be. There were six or seven drivers who were really quick, setting top times and with a serious chance of winning, so it was a really good fight. It just goes to show how competitive the ERC Junior championship is when you have so many drivers fighting for victory.”
“We came here to win, and I’m delighted with not only our result, but our overall performance throughout the three days of competition. Even when we had a massive ‘off’ on the Sete Cidades stage, as soon as we knew we didn’t have a puncture, we were flat out again. I really had a lot of confidence in myself and the car, to push hard on every stage, yet without taking unnecessary risks.”
“The night before the final day of competition was awful, as I was up all night feeling unwell. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to start the next morning, because I felt so weak. But I kept on pushing. We increased our lead to 43.7 seconds, but then the final afternoon loop of stages was a real struggle, and the heat and fatigue were starting to get to me. I felt so ill, that I almost fell asleep queuing for the start of SS15, and Steve Røkland took over 22 seconds off me in seven and a half miles, so I knew that I just had to pull myself together and use energy I didn’t think I had if I was going to hold on and win.”
“I’m absolutely delighted to have won in the Azores, and I want to thank my dad for getting me this far and for Peugeot UK for having belief in me. This victory is for them. This win is the start of a new beginning!”
Chris is currently sitting in second place of the FIA European Rally Championship- Juniors with 74 points, hot on the heels of Emil Berkvist (Sweden) who takes the lead with 98 points in the overall standings.
Press Release by Peugeot UK – http://www.peugeot.co.uk/news/chris-ingram-scores-magnificent-maiden-fia-european-rally-championship-victory-on-rally-azores-in-208-r2/