Briton leads Opel ERC charge
In a day and age where rally cars are almost exclusively driven by paying drivers at the top level of the sport, Chris Ingram was approached by Opel to spearhead its title defence in 2016.
The first contact between the Brit and the German outfit was in August last year, with the team seemingly knowing that talented Swede and reigning champion Emil Bergkvist would be leaving for pastures new. A brilliant R5 debut in Valais as part of a prize for winning ERC Junior certainly helped.
Although Ingram was works supported last year by Peugeot Sport UK, he wasn’t in a full works team, and that’s a difference the Manchester youngster has already noticed after just one test with Opel.
“It’s massive for my career that they sought me out,” he says. “I still had to manage a lot of the bits and bobs [in the team] with Peugeot. With Opel everything is taken out of my hands. I can just turn up and focus on my rallying, they look after everything. That’s everyone’s dream. I really enjoyed having my own rally car, but when you’re in a proper works team and everything is done for you, you can purely focus on driving and that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited for the year.”
He follows an incredible list of British and Irish talent of Opel fame, including Jimmy Mcrae, Brookes, Billy Coleman and Malcolm Wilson to name a few. However, there hasn’t been an abundance in recent times.
“There haven’t been too many Opel works drivers in recent years,” adds Ingram. “Kris Meeke was in the early 2000s but there haven’t been many others. Even Meeke is becoming a legend with his current driving so hopefully it shows I’m on the right path, following all these guys. I earned [the drive] from showing my pace last year, they approached me. That’s such an honour and hopefully I can deliver for them.”
Ingram will make his Opel ERC debut on the Circuit of Ireland. He’ll face a stern challenge from German team-mate Marijan Griebel, who won the ERC Junior category on the Circuit of Ireland last year. But Ingram is confident now he’s on a level playing field and knows the roads well. There’s one thing for certain, he won’t be short of commitment.