Newly-crowned European champion Chris Ingram believes it could be now or never as targets a step-up into the FIA World Rally Championship next season.
The 25-year-old became the first Briton to win the European title since 1967, despite severe budget struggles which prompted him to launch a crowd funding project to secure sufficient funds to complete the campaign.
Now Ingram feels the title could help unlock additional sponsorship to allow him and co-driver Ross Whittock to challenge for WRC 3 honours next year with the German-based Toksport team.
“Now is the time that we really need to step into WRC. It’s the definite next step we need to take,” Ingram told wrc.com.
“That title has given us a great platform to finally take the step into WRC. It has always been quite difficult to find an opportunity without proper funding but now I’m working really hard and the whole team is really to try to make it happen.
“Now we have won this we have had some incredible coverage and so much interest from potential sponsors and backers. We’re just trying to maximise that and this is the best chance I’ll ever get to take that step up.”
Ingram lifted the ERC Junior Under 27 title in 2017 and is young enough to tackle the Junior WRC in 2020. But having driven a four-wheel drive Skoda Fabia R5 for the last two seasons, he is reluctant to return to two-wheel drive competition.
“We’ve considered all the options but to stay in the R5 car would definitely be the preferred way and to stay with Toksport, which has supported me so much. I think we would have a really strong chance in WRC 3 next year and stepping back into a two-wheel drive car could be a bit of a risk now.”
Ingram’s best WRC outing came in Turkey in 2018 when he finished third in WRC 2 on his category debut. He is all too aware his lack of WRC experience could work against him but believes it is something he can overcome.
“I would like to compete in Germany and potentially some long-haul rounds, maybe Japan. That’s where we will be on a level playing field compared to the guys who have done the European rounds countless times,” he explained.
“Fingers crossed it will all come together. We’ve done it before in terms of raising money, so this is the time to push and make it all happen. I believe we can do it and make the jump.”