The situation’s the same, but the target just keeps getting higher. And yet, despite his tribulations, he’s still here and ready to shoot for it.
No matter what, Chris Ingram simply won’t quit. Budget constraints have been a bugbear of almost his entire career in a four-wheel-drive car, but his ambition keeps driving him on to achieve bigger and better things.
With a European Rally Championship title pocketed back in 2019, World Rally Championship success is the new aim. And the stakes have been raised this season. Last year Ingram wanted a WRC2 Junior title and narrowly missed out, this year he wants the whole lot – an overall WRC2 trophy.
“Why the f*** not?” Ingram smiles.
“Obviously you never know what can happen but we want to aim high. Last year and over the last few years I’ve been challenging [Emil] Lindholm and up there with him.
“He obviously had a lot of seat time which helped him to go and improve his pace and he ended up winning the championship, so if he can do it I can definitely do it.”
Ingram doesn’t head into 2023 with the same tools as Lindholm though – or several other drivers for that matter. Although they’re both in Toksport Škoda Fabias, the words ‘Rally2 evo’ and not ‘RS Rally2’ against his name on the Monte Carlo Rally entry list are telling.
But driving the old car doesn’t worry Ingram.
I know the guys have had a lot of seat time in the new car but I'd say we've very much still got a chance in the old car stillChris Ingram
“I still think we’ll have a strong chance in the old car,” he assures DirtFish.
“I know the car well, we’re not going to get much testing before the rally – it would’ve been too much to try and learn a new car in just a day or two.
“I know the guys have had a lot of seat time in the new car but I’d say we’ve very much still got a chance in the old car still.”
After all, if things go to plan, the situation could change.
“Hopefully we will be in the new car from Portugal if everything goes to plan,” Ingram explains.
“Some top results on Monte and Croatia [and] I think we’ll be in the new car from Portugal, hopefully.”
That would be just reward for all the effort that’s already been put in. Which brings us neatly onto that elephant – or piggy bank – lingering in the corner of the room. We can’t ignore it for any longer.
Battling to find sponsors and budget to compete in the WRC is a problem most competitors can relate to, but Ingram takes it to the extreme. His entire ERC 2019 title success was done on a shoestring and now the scenario is no different.
Ever since the accident that ended his WRC2 Junior title hopes back in September, Ingram has worked his teeth to the bone to make 2023 happen. He describes this constant working to find backers and build a budget as “relentless”.
“For the last six months I’ve been working on this year, it’s just relentless getting nos from every call and email,” Ingram shares.
“Even though you’re pitching great ideas to people, you start to get a bit disheartened and think maybe it’s not going to happen.”
So much so that he contemplated giving up on his dream. But throwing in the towel isn’t the Ingram way – he wasn’t done yet.
For supporters to help it's actually made me realize the people out there and the support that is out there is amazingChris Ingram
The solution? Crowdfunding.
Controversial to some, but it’s worked well for Ingram in the past.
“So many people reached out and said ‘why don’t you do a crowdfunding again?’ In these tough times for people to want to help… it’s actually really changed my mind.
“When you’re getting nos relentlessly and you don’t feel like you’re getting any backing, but then for supporters to help it’s actually made me realize the people out there and the support that is out there is amazing, if that makes sense.
“The support I’ve received, it’s amazing,” he adds. “I’m now here and ready to start [in Monte Carlo].
“Amazing, I think in total we raised just over nine grand in three days. I was hoping that people would just chip in like a fiver or a tenner – like if all of my mates and the people that have followed me for ages, even if they put a fiver in they’d make it happen.
“People have actually put in big money which is just incredible, but honestly it doesn’t need to be. Any donation is just massively appreciated and goes a long way.”
At the time of writing, Ingram’s campaign has raised just short of £11,000. That money will ease the tension on him this season and allow Ingram to fight freely for the WRC2 title, but he’s keen to give his backers much more than that in return.
“Everyone will get their name on the car from Croatia onwards,” he says.
“For every £5 [donated] that’s one entry into a raffle. I’m going to give away a number of rides with me on a test on a proper stage, tickets to WRC rounds, merchandise, I’m still thinking of more things.”
But for now, Ingram’s mind is on the job at hand. He’s made his way onto the entry list, now he needs to perform on the stages.
And there’s no reason why he can’t.
— Chris Ingram (@ChrisIngramGB) January 7, 2023
Last year felt like a real step forward in Ingram’s career. Taking on a full WRC campaign for the first time, he began to show the speed that had been questioned en route to his ERC title where the risk of a crash ending his entire career prompted a cautious approach and he went the whole season without winning a rally.
In 2021 he put together his first proper program since the title win, but with no experience of the WRC rounds he wasn’t on the same playing field as others.
But last year there were some real standout moments and signs of what Ingram is really capable of, not least in Ypres where he was fastest on the opening stage and claimed the WRC2 Junior win but also on the Monte.
The end result was masked by gearbox trouble on the Thursday evening, but Ingram finished 3m46s down on winner Andreas Mikkelsen and lost 3m52s on the first leg. The pace was there.
“I definitely believe I made a lot of progress [last year],” Ingram reflects.
“I was still new to WRC, I was still getting back up to speed after a few years not really competing or competing at a high level anyway.
“Now I’ve got really good experience in the WRC, I know the car really well, my partnership with Craig [Drew, co-driver] is really strong, we’ve been improving rally by rally. This is the second time I’m going to Monte rather than the first time, and then the third time going to some other rallies.
“Last year I proved to myself with the times that I can do it, I really can do this, and I’ve just got to string it all together for a whole rally.
“It takes time and it takes practice and experience and the progress is there to see isn’t it? I just need to keep going and I definitely think I can fight at the top.”
I'm hungrier than ever to come back and fight for a top result this timeChris Ingram
Which is why, as you’ve perhaps already worked out, Ingram’s being bold with his targets.
“We’ve got to be aiming for the win [on Monte] and just put everything into that positive goal. Obviously a podium would be a great start to the year as well and I’d hope to get more support off the back of that. That’s the plan.
“But like you said then about the time lost last year, at the time nobody really saw it but it’s funny that people have seen that now and have thought ‘Chris can have a go now’.
“We’ll obviously be aiming high but aiming for a clean rally as well – and a consistent rally.
“It was a dream come true to start it last year and I was gutted when we had the problem, so I’m hungrier than ever to come back and fight for a top result this time,” Ingram warns.
“For me it is my all-time favorite rally, it’s just so iconic and the stages are so iconic. It’s a special place and it’s giving me extra determination and motivation.”
Few can doubt Ingram’s determination or motivation given the tenacity he continually shows to keep his rallying dream alive. Every time he gets kicked down, he finds a way to get straight back up again.
He has one final thank you he wants to give.
“I wouldn’t have won the ERC without my supporters’ backing. I wouldn’t have the chance now to win a WRC class title without my supporters’ backing. I’m just unbelievably grateful to everyone who’s supporting me.
“Even if you can’t chip in on the crowdfunding, I massively appreciate everyone who supports me on social media as well.