Ingram wins disrupted BRC season opener

Chris Ingram won the North West Stages but stage cancellations made for a tricky season start

Chris Ingram / Alex Kihurani – Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

Whether he would have admitted it or not, Chris Ingram knew there was a fair amount on the line when he signed up for this year’s British Rally Championship. Winning the European Rally Champion brings both a title and a target. On Saturday, everybody was shooting for the Englishman on the North West Stages.

And they all missed. Ingram was in sublime form. In tricky conditions, the Manchester driver demonstrated his pace in a four-year-old Volkswagen Polo R5. He led from the start and spent the afternoon protecting his lead after nearest challenger Osian Pryce (Ford Fiesta Rally2) retired early in the afternoon.

Ingram was happy with his day’s work on the asphalt stages. And very happy with his first ever British Rally Championship win.

“Yeah, that’s nice,” he told DirtFish. “There’s been a fair bit going on today, but we’ve just done what we had to do and driven the car. Some of these roads are mega, it’s great to have these kind of stages up here.

William Creighton / Liam Regan - Ford Fiesta Rally 2

Will Creighton won the BRC Junior title in 2021 and scored a maiden podium on his first rally back in the British series

“This is my home round of the championship, so to win this one is really good – especially against some strong Irish competition. Some of those guys have already run a couple of rounds of the [Irish Tarmac] championships, so they’ve had good seat time.”

The day was complicated by a plethora of issues – including a tractor reported on one stage – which forced the cancellation of stages four and five. Through all of that, through some typically changeable spring weather and once Pryce was gone, Ingram and his American co-driver Alex Kihurani were in control.

Irishman Will Creighton crossed the water on the back of a strong West Cork podium finish and picked up where he left off in his Fiesta Rally2. The 26-year-old Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver rounded out the BRC opener with a brace of stage wins to cement a second place inherited after Pryce’s heart-breaking mechanical issue in SS7. Fastest through the afternoon’s opener, the Welshman had closed the gap to Ingram to just 3.6s when his Ford fell silent.

Meirion Evans put aside a lack of experience aboard his brand-new Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 to score a solid third. James Williams was the top Hyundai i20 N Rally1 runner in fourth with Neil Roskell edging fellow Fiesta driver Keith Cronin for fifth. Four-time British champion Cronin struggled to find an edge in the Lancashire lanes with a puncture and a broken driveshaft in the first loop. That troubled morning gave way to an afternoon tire choice which left him running slicks when the heavens opened.

“It was one of those rallies,” he said. “And we had no handbrake this afternoon, we had to reverse at every hairpin. One of those rallies.”

Ollie Mellors / Ian Windress - Proton Iriz R5

Ollie Mellors' Proton Iriz certainly stood out from the crowd with its art livery

Mull Rally hero Paul MacKinnon made a rare appearance on the British mainland to deliver another Fiesta to seventh with Hugh Brunton upholding Škoda honors in eighth, with Ollie Mellors’s Proton Iriz R5 adding a splash of color to proceedings in ninth. Mellors’ car had been liveried with a stunning motorsport picture from the collection of Anna-Louise Felstead.

Scotsman Euan Thorburn completed the top 10 on what had been a tricky day’s sport all around. Max McRae’s hopes of featuring in that top-10 went south when he suffered a puncture early in the event. The M-Sport driver belied a lack of experience of the car, the roads and the series to post third, fourth and eighth fastest times on afternoon first three stages. Sadly for McRae, his event ended in the penultimate stage when the Fiesta slipped off the road. Undamaged, but unable to return, the 19-year-old took an early bath.