Eight-time World Rally champion Julien Ingrassia has announced his first motorsport program since retiring from the WRC at the end of 2021, teaming up with Mika Pisano to compete in next year’s Dakar Rally.
While Sébastien Ogier has kept his foot in the WRC with a part program in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, he has done so with Benjamin Veillas as Ingrassia elected to end his world rally journey at the end of Ogier’s last full season.
Since then Ingrassia hasn’t been in competition, but he’s raring to get stuck into his new challenge – following in the footsteps of several other WRC co-drivers in making the transition into rally raid.
“This is a completely different discipline than WRC, I’ll not compare both, but it’s a great opportunity to discover and develop new skills, new challenges,” Ingrassia told DirtFish.
“Of course Dakar remains one of the most iconic races in motorsport but as I had very busy seasons in WRC until now, I never really thought about it. Those last months outside from pure competition gave me time to think about it.
“I’m curious to understand and experimente how rough it can be inside the car with the impacts, length of the stages and the heat. So for sure I’ll need a strong preparation program. We are going to work on it with my coach Stephane Orsier.”
Ingrassia’s first event alongside Pisano – who has recently switched from a bike to a car for off-road events – is expected to be the Andalucia Rally on June 7-12, the fourth round of this year’s World Rally Raid Championship.
But Ingrassia hopes testing will begin “as soon as possible, probably some in April and for sure some days in May”.
Asked what he expects his toughest challenge to be, Ingrassia cited the electronic roadbook used in rally raid events as one of the key areas to learn, but he equally has lofty ambitions of what he and Pisano can achieve.
“Of course the type of car we will drive with Mika, will be determinant, but I want to learn as quickly and as well as possible,” Ingrassia said.
“For that Mika will be a great help with this experience as a motorbike driver, and we’ll aim for the podium.
“With Mika we will set strategies in place, and we will never forget that keeping self control will be the best way to get out from a tricky situation.”