PEUGEOT UK’s rising young rally star Chris Ingram celebrated his 21st birthday on Tuesday (7 July), but he’s put the party on hold in the hopes of making it a double celebration with victory in his Peugeot 208 ‘R2’ on next week’s Auto24 Rally Estonia (17-19 July). Out of the 27 drivers registered for the 2015 FIA European Junior Rally Championship, Ingram is currently flying high in second place, just 26 points behind Sweden’s Emil Bergkvist. With the four best scores from six rounds to count, the points gap is almost halved once you take the two lowest scores into account, meaning the title fight is extremely close and well within Ingram’s grasp.
Even though he has never rallied in Estonia before, Ingram heads to the event on top form and full of confidence. His PEUGEOT UK, PEUGEOT Financial Services and TOTAL Lubricants supported 208 ‘R2’ has already won on gravel, beating the opposition in convincing style on the loose surface of Rally Azores. The ultra-fast and flowing forest roads of southern Estonia are completely different to the twisty and narrow gravel roads of the mid-Atlantic island, but Ingram and co-driver Gabin Moreau are looking forward to the challenge and head east with only ERC Junior victory in mind.
This year’s Rally Estonia is based in Otepää, the winter sports capital of the country and contains 16 incredibly fast gravel stages covering 126 miles. A short ‘Qualifying Stage’ gets the action underway on Friday 17 July, before the ceremonial start and a City Stage in Tartu (the second largest city in Estonia, behind Tallinn) later the same day. Last year, this City Stage attracted 30,000 spectators. Leg one continues the following day, with nine stages totalling 85 miles. It includes two runs over the monster Ristimäe stage which, at 21.7 miles, is not only the longest stage of the rally, but the second longest in the entire 2015 ERC. Leg two on Sunday (19 July) contains a further six stages, totalling 40 miles, before the finish ceremony in Tartu at 16.00 (local time).
Speaking ahead of Rally Estonia, Chris commented: “Rally Estonia is the only round of the ERC Junior championship that I have never done – but I’m not too worried because on the stages which have been new to me on the other events this year, I’ve been very quick and often set fastest time. Rally Estonia is so fast, you don’t really need previous experience like you do in the Azores or in Ypres, where the stages are technical and have unique characteristics. We won in the Azores, which was also a gravel rally, so we head to Estonia feeling confident, with a really good set-up on the PEUGEOT 208 ‘R2’. We’ll try to have a good test on a road that is as similar to the actual rally as we can possibly find, just to fine-tune the 208 for the fast flowing roads and high-speed jumps. The priority is to be one hundred per cent happy with the car’s set-up, which is what we’ll work at before Estonia. The fight for the ERC Junior title is wide open. There is no need for me to work out what points we need, because the only thing I am focused on is beating Emil [Bergkvist] on the remaining two rounds. In Estonia, it’s just going to be a flat-out sprint from start to finish.
Chris Ingram’s key achievements to date