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Motor Sport News - - Rally Gb Preview: Meeke -

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. ■

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