Chris Ingram is keen to showcase his speed as he makes his European Rally Championship return on this weekend’s Barum Rally Zlín.
Ingram’s 2023 season has changed course as he initially intended to vie for WRC2 honors, but after a sixth-placed finish in the older Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo on the Monte Carlo Rally, the 29-year-old realized he needed a younger car to compete but didn’t have the budget to secure one.
Instead, Ingram has taken a step sideways – picking and choosing rallies to show his abilities on, starting with the Ypres Rally in June where Ingram topped the Belgian championship and was second only to M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux.
The next step of Ingram’s plan is a return to the ERC – the championship he won in 2019 – and specifically Barum Rally Zlín; an event Ingram has mixed memories of having lost out on the ERC1 Junior title by just 0.3 seconds the last time he visited.
“Generally I’ve got really good memories because I was always really quick there and it’s just an awesome rally,” Ingram told DirtFish.
“Amazing atmosphere, great stages so yeah generally I’ve got really fond memories of it
“The fact that there’s four former European champions competing, Škoda and [Jan] Kopecký have won it the last 10 times and [Hayden] Paddon’s going to try and clinch the title, in my view it promises to be one of the European rallies of the year.
“It’s just a great opportunity to go in without any expectations.”
Ingram insists he isn’t chasing a result but simply wants to prove his pace aboard his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
“I’d say there’s several guys who could win which is mad,” he said.
“[But] I want to show my speed, mainly. I’m not really saying ‘I need to win or be on the podium’ I’m just focusing on my driving, because I know that if I drive at my best, get the car set up and have a good recce then I can fight for the win like in Ypres.
“In Ypres the only thing that slowed me down was being a bit nervous and anxious. When I was confident and relaxed I was setting fastest times so I’ve just got to keep my self belief up.
“I’m obviously going for the best result I can and to win would be amazing, but my focus is just on my performance. We’re the only Polo against all those Škodas, so we’re the underdogs I think.
“It’s going to be exciting.”
After Barum, Ingram is focused on a return to the World Rally Championship for Central European Rally at the end of October.
“The plan was always Ypres, then a step up back to ERC then a step up back to WRC2,” he explained. “So this is the second part of the plan.
“I think it’s a really good plan, it’s just a mega opportunity to be back out. It’s been such hard work to make it happen.
“Every rally I get to do now I’m really grateful for because I know how hard it’s been to get it together.
“I’m really grateful to have Alex [Kihurani] onboard as well because he’s been not just a co-driver but very supportive in every way.
“He’s been a great team-mate as well as a co-driver.”