Friday | 12 Nov 2021

Ingrassia opens up on Citroën shock

Retiring co-driving world champion Julien Ingrassia has revealed how his WRC career very nearly ended before it began.

Speaking to WRC+ All Live’s Becs Williams in the latest WRC Backstories podcast, Ingrassia explained how more than a decade ago he was shunned by Citroën bosses and almost lost his seat with driver Sébastien Ogier. 

Days after sealing the 2008 FIA Junior WRC title at the Tour de Corse, spirits were high and things looked good for the future as the pair prepared to test the new Citroën C2 R2 Max in southern France. 

One phone call turned Ingrassia’s world upside down. 

“I received a phone call from the management,” explained the Frenchman. “They said ‘next year Seb will go in the WRC with the C4, but he needs someone else on his side. You will not be part of the adventure’.

“I was in my overalls, it was seven in the morning and I was ready for testing the car. Four days before, we had won the championship. I could barely breathe. 

“I said, ‘OK, I have to go to the test now. I finish testing tonight or tomorrow morning, and tomorrow evening I will be in Paris in your office and I will be at your desk’.  

“I take the first train, go there and face with the management. They said ‘we can not put so much money on the table. You are a young crew, you did some good things together but now we are on a very high level with big cost and big pressure and big targets. We want Seb to have an experienced co-driver’.

“Wow.” Ingrassia exhaled. “I didn’t expect that.” 

“I more or less stood up on my chair in front of them and put my two hands on the table and said ‘OK, you feel that I am not able to do this job and you have some people that say so. I will find 10 times more people that will tell you that I am able to do that and I will prove you [wrong].”

Ingrassia and Ogier have formed a formidable partnership

With his co-driving career crumbling before his eyes, Ingrassia spoke to a handful of his peers before turning to the only man who could resolve the situation - Ogier himself. 

“I had many calls with plenty of co-drivers around me to know the situation,” he continued. “Many of them had this kind of experience that when you reach this level you have a baptism of fire. 

“Finally, I met Seb and we had some discussions together. We decided to go forward and continue this experience together. Of course, we were not perfect and we were doing some mistakes, but we were learning also. 

“There were some long days and weeks, but on the next season in 2009, I had my ass in the C4 WRC seat.”

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The formidable duo made their top-tier debut the same year at Wales Rally GB, where they set the fastest time on the opening Sweet Lamb test before rolling on the second day. 

Now, 13 years later, Ingrassia is readying himself for retirement. But not before bidding for an eighth world title at FORUM8 ACI Rally Monza next week (18 - 21 November).  

Who knew things could have turned out so differently?

This story forms part one of a two-part feature on Julien Ingrassia. Tomorrow, we look to the future and Ingrassia's plans after retirement.

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