What does a rally victory mean? The culmination of a lifetime’s work and ambition? A statement to those that doubted you? Or just some more championship points on the board?
For Chris Ingram, it was perhaps a mix of two of those emotions. He’s been doubted before – criticized for winning his European Rally Championship title without winning any rallies. And of course, notching up 25 championship points is hardly a bad thing.
But it was more than that. Had Ingram not won the WRC2 Junior class on last weekend’s Ypres Rally Belgium, his World Rally Championship season would’ve been over.
“If I didn’t win here then I wouldn’t have carried on this season, even though we’ve had a great season,” Ingram told DirtFish.
“So there’s a lot of pressure on me all the time. But I’ve managed to keep it together while still getting faster.”
It was a win that had huge significance for his championship campaign (more on that later), claimed on a rally where Ingram knew he really had to get the job done.
Unlike most of the rallies on rallying’s global tour, Ypres is a rally Ingram knows well, having done it five times in the past.
But the most recent outing was five years ago – and actually ended in his last crash out of an event to date. He’d never done it in a four-wheel-drive car, and prior to Rally van Staden a week before Ypres, hadn’t competed since Rally Italy in early June.
So to have set the quickest time in a field of 37 Rally2 cars was an impressive way to begin the rally, to say the least.
Ingram slipped back on the next stage with a spin and was one of the drivers to have been stung by the sudden rain that battered SS4 when running on hard tires.
That gave Grégoire Munster the lead in WRC2 Junior, but when Munster punctured on Sunday morning Ingram spied his chance and soared past to take the win and ninth place overall.
“It’s been an amazing rally,” said Ingram.
“The last time I was in Ypres was my last crash, five years ago. For [Kalle] Rovanperä and [Thierry] Neuville to crash just shows what a hell of a tricky rally this is.
“Now to get this result, first time with the Rally2 car here is an epic result.
“We really showed our pace against Stéphane [Lefebvre] and Andreas [Mikkelsen], who are obviously world-class former WRC1 drivers.
“We’ve shown [we’re] faster and faster every rally. In Greece coming up, I know that rally from last year.
“We went well last year. It’s going so well and I’m really proud.”
And so he should be, as Ingram’s name is back to the top of the WRC2 Junior standings, following victory in Portugal, third places in Croatia and Italy and fourth on the Monte Carlo Rally.
But Toksport Škoda team-mate Emil Lindholm has done one fewer rally than Ingram, with a competitor’s best six scores from seven to count. And he’s won thrice, to Ingram’s twice.
WRC2 Junior standings after Ypres Rally:
Next month’s Acropolis Rally Greece could therefore be key. If Lindholm beats Ingram to first, it could be lights out for Ingram’s title bid.
But perhaps the key strength Ingram has is his ability to go fast without making rally-ending mistakes. We’re yet to see the same level of consistency from Lindholm. Could that ultimately make the difference?
Who knows. But thankfully, due to Ingram’s success last week, we have the chance to find out.