How Ingrassia’s career is evolving post-WRC

It's not only a Dakar debut in 2023 that's the eight-time world champion has been working on since his WRC retirement

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia

Last week we got the news that Julien Ingrassia, eight-time World Rally champion alongside Sébastien Ogier, would be heading into the fearsome world of rally raid later this year.

While his co-driving role will be the same in principle as it was in rallying, there will unquestionably be some new skills for him to master as he heads for the Dakar. But if anyone can adapt it’ll be Ingrassia – one of the most meticulous and best co-drivers in WRC history.

But a seat alongside Mika Pisano isn’t the only thing that will consume Ingrassia’s time in his new post-WRC career.

Before his new competition program was announced, Colin Clark unexpectedly bumped into Ingrassia at the recent Rally of Nations Guanajuato and managed to gain an insight into exactly what Ingrassia’s new life outside of the WRC looks like:

Julien Ingrassia

We didn’t expect to see you here in Mexico. Tell us what you’re doing?

“Actually it was a surprise – maybe not for me, I knew I was coming here but I didn’t want to say it because I’m here just for this rally camp session that has been organized by the rally organizer here. I spoke with them in Monte Carlo, I was there as a TV commentator, and they said do you want to come to Mexico in March and during this Rally of Nations take charge of a group of young students that has been selected via the internet?

“The idea is more or less what we are doing in France for 30 years, this French selection Rallye Jeunes, but in a different spirit and with a different approach. Here, the main TV channel is the main sponsor and they want to make it like a live TV show. And we will show those young guys and it starts from 13 years old, and this is a girl doing some go-karting, ranging to a 20-year-old who has already done six rallies in his life.

“In this group, most of them speak English luckily for me, but I still can understand what they say in Spanish and there is a really nice atmosphere so we have a nice program, but maybe you have some questions?”

We go somewhere, we build all the nice hospitalities, nice show, and then when we leave from there what is remaining? I had that a bit in mind. Ingrassia on his Rally of Nations coaching work

There’s some real passion for rallying here and I guess you’re seeing this in your camp with the youngsters?

“Yes. Everywhere you go in Mexico people are just looking at you and enjoying the show. They probably don’t know who you are but they just want to have a nice moment, and those young guys are just amazed what I can bring to them and the whole team because we are a few instructors, driving, co-driving, nutritionist, so this is quite wide and very fun at the same time because we can go to El Brinco and I can tell them ‘look how the suspension is working here on this jump and the next car compare’, and they take everything they can.”

They are so lucky to have you there, you have a passion and affinity with this country

“I took this opportunity because yes like you said I really… I’m like those birds, you know those pigeons that you throw in the air to send a message and they always come back to the same place, I always come back in March here in Mexico, this is my second house. Yeah, I’m happy to share my experience with those guys. They deserve it actually because they are very demanding and very curious and very easy going and polite, they don’t have any ideas in mind they just take everything and they will go forward.

It’s so important that we don’t just focus on Europe in terms of developing rallying. Rallying really is a global sport and this area, in particular, is one of the main focuses for the FIA to build the base of youngsters interested in rallying.

Sebastien Ogier

“I would say that during all those years [when I was competing], of course we have been showing some great fights and nice championships, but I had the feeling also that we go somewhere, we build all the nice hospitalities, nice show, and then when we leave from there what is remaining? I had that a bit in mind.

“So on the idea of the organizer of Rally of Nations, to bring this rally camp out of there and maybe in the future to have a Mexican flag floating in the air on top of a WRC podium, well, I will be proud to be part of it. Maybe at some point in 10 years, I see some Mexican guys winning a rally, that would be nice. But I think we could recreate that in Africa, in Asia of course and hopefully in North America.”

It’s only 14 years since your debut here in Mexico in that little Citroën. You’ve won so many rallies but you’re still a young man, you’ve still got a future in front of you. Do you see coaching, promoting rallying maybe as what you’re going to spend a bit of your time doing in the coming years?

“Well that’s an option of course, and I will continue to do it even on my own, even without showing it in the media. I’ve had a few co-drivers at my place last year because they wanted me to explain to them some stuff, give them some tips. It could be an idea to create that in a more regular way but I also have some other ideas for the future.”

Julien Ingrassia

Are we going to see you in a rally car again? Did you miss Séb when you saw him on Monte Carlo?

“Well you know it was a really cool story for me to be there in Monte and interview Séb. That was something that I would not expect in my career to do! I wanted to do that, I finished my career with a big smile, in good health, to the top of my sport. I will keep it for life inside of me, and so I can do everything I want now I’m quite free. I will never have any regrets and possibly in the future maybe we will have a word later.”