wap Dungannon for Manchester, Waterford for Killarney. All eyes may be up front on where Citroen teammates Kris Meeke and Craig Breen finish on Wales Rally GB, but there’s another UK versus Ireland battle going on further down the order between two of the most talented drivers from their respected regions.
On Wales Rally GB, European two-wheel-drive champion and Cheshire-based Chris Ingram will take on British Junior champion Rob Duggan. Both will drive identical Vauxhall Adam R2s run by Vauxhall Junior Rally Team in association with Network Q.
Vauxhall team boss Simon Mauger reckons we’re in for a titanic battle as the two youngsters face-off.
“They’re both brilliant drivers, I think it’s going to be interesting to see who comes out on top,” says Mauger. “They’re two of the best young drivers in the UK at the moment. Hopefully we can give the car another class win. I don’t think you can put money on either of them, they’re both very good drivers and it will be really close.”
As you can imagine, both drivers are bullish. MN asked both if they planned to play any mind games.
Duggan responded: “I don’t play mind games. I let my stage times do the talking outside of the car. I don’t need to worry about anybody else’s mind, just my own.”
An assured response from the man who won five of the seven BRC Junior rounds this year. But what of Ingram?
“I haven’t really thought about that,” he says. “He seems like a nice lad and I think it will be a good battle. It’s a really tough rally.”
Both have had whirlwind years. Duggan has proved he can dominate on gravel as well as asphalt after being new to the loose stuff. Ingram ( below) has gone toe-to-toe with a formidable team-mate in Marijan Griebel, who’s campaigned his car for three years. Ingram was in his debut ERC term with the Adam.
Both competed on Wales Rally GB last year. Duggan had won a prize drive in a Citroen DS 3 R3T on the event while Ingram also made the step up after an impressive year in his Peugeot 208 R2. But the Brit struggled after a massive crash on the Barum Rally not long before shook his confidence. It was a terrifying roll through the Czech scenery.
“Last year I’d just come off the back of a massive crash,” he explains, “and I didn’t get on too well with that car. It was a bit of a write-off to be honest.” The car then flooded on a road section, ruling him out.
Duggan had already gone out at this point. He wasn’t registered for WRC3 or JWRC so wasn’t on the official timing screens with Ingram, but he was ahead of the Brit overall before engine problems put him out. It was a strong debut, writing notes on gravel for the first time.
Now the Irishman has the chance to prove himself against one of Europe’s best R2 drivers, before he decides what is the next step. Drive DMACK Trophy is his favoured end point after winning a subsidised entry through the BRC. But all that is on hold with the chance to impress on GB.
“I suppose after we did the British championship, the European or World championship is the next step up,” says Duggan. “It’ll be nice to get a rough idea and see if we can go up against him in the same car, same everything.
“He’s a really quick driver and has a lot of experience of the event. We’ll go out and have a go and try and beat him.”
Ingram wants a finish. He’s won his class on every GB he’s done barring last year. He’s won the R2 class that he’ll contest this year twice before, in both 2013 and ‘14.
“It’s not as simple as just going flat-out to try and beat him, there’s a lot more to it,” says Ingram. “To get a front-wheel-drive car around that event is tough. It’s a walk in the park for the R5 cars but it’s not ideal for the R2.
“Finishing. That’s what it’s about. It’s easy to get caught up and go out because it’s so long. The most important thing is the finish this weekend and that’s what we want first.”
So, with the cars both similar, run by the same team and on the same DMACK tyres, the variables are almost out of the window. On GB, you’re about to see two of Britain and Ireland’s finest drivers going at it, no holds barred. If that’s not enough to get you excited, you’re probably reading about the wrong sport. ■