May 14, 2021

Sports Legend

Meet the GB rally star without a car! Champion Chris Ingram must have slept on his parents’ couch

Chris Ingram knows the cost of a puncture – it’s around £ 250, double if the rims are destroyed. He also knows it will be £ 500 if the rear bumper comes off and around £ 250,000 if he smashes the car beyond repair.

He knows all of this because he has to know it, and what he really knows above all else is that if you have no one to pay those bills in the costly and uneven world of rallying, then you are only.

That’s why he has spent most of the past year living and sleeping on the couch at his parents’ house in Manchester.

Rally driver Chris Ingram has spent the last year sleeping on parents’ couch in Manchester

Before the ecstasy of a phone call he received a few weeks ago, the loop of his daily life was a sad rotation of waking up, thinking, sending emails, calling, begging, squeaks, sobs and sleep.

Every day and night was spent on this couch, next to a selection of trophies that suggested it should never have been so difficult.

“I was just lost,” he told Sportsmail. And really, it’s easy to see why.

The point about Ingram is that he made history a short time ago. He was the first British driver in 52 years to win the European Rally Championship when he took his crowd-funded car across the line on a dark night in the Hungarian wilderness in 2019 – quite incredible.

But the two years since that date and a recent phone call have been amazing in their own way. That’s because this 26-year-old didn’t run. Not once. No sponsor, no hope, no house, no bed, no car – for the rally or the shops.

Ingram earned a place as the only British driver in the World Rally Championship-2

Ingram earned a place as the only British driver in the World Rally Championship-2

And now that is changing, finally, as he received support to move up to a World League, with a place as the only British driver in World Rally Championship-2, the second tier of the rally’s elite series. He will be at the start line for the first leg of Rally Croatia on April 22 and that’s almost enough to make him cry again.

“Over the past few years I think I had to approach over 1,000 people to support him,” Ingram told Sportsmail. “Call after call and emails everywhere. Sometimes you get an answer and it’s a no, and sometimes you don’t get an answer at all. Honestly, it was so difficult. Depression, everything. You live for something, no plan B, and it looks like it’s over.

‘Then a few weeks ago I got a call from a Manchester company CarFinance 247 and the CEO said he believed in me and said he was going to do it. He has been supporting me for two years. I have my chance. To be honest I heard what he said and then I was just in tears.

Ingram never had the perks and privileges that come with many drivers at all levels of motorsport. His mother works in a real estate agency, his father has been unemployed for several years for health reasons, and buying his place in a team has never been an option.

“There was a boy in the European Rally Championship, a Russian, who canceled a car every week,” he says. ‘It must have cost his father £ 3million in cars but he still had a new one. You would have drivers backed by their governments, of all kinds. This is what you can face in motorsport.

“The whole 2019 season, when I won the European title, that’s what we were fighting for.

Along with his co-pilot Ross Whittock, they had lost key sponsorship on the eve of this campaign, but aided by donations from a crowdfunding page set up by his mother, they somehow found enough to survive this stage. in step.

“It was begging, borrowing or stealing the whole way,” says Ingram. “We were racing knowing that something worse than a flat tire would probably end our season. We lost a rear bumper and it felt like a disaster.

It is simply remarkable that under these conditions he and Whittock won the championship.

“It was supposed to be the start of something and it wasn’t,” says Ingram. The devastation around what followed was acute.

Ingram can’t wait to get his career back on track after two years in the wild

Covid was the trigger for the problems. As the virus began its sweeping early last year, markets collapsed for businesses large and small, and the wave quickly reached sports sponsorship. With the cost of a campaign in the order of 500,000 euros per year, the impact on Ingram has been enormous.

“I had a collection of funders and it was around March or April of last year, when everything calmed down,” he says. “ The 2020 European season was about to start and I wanted to defend my title, but one after another I got seven or eight calls for support saying they just couldn’t continue.

‘I went from living in a beautiful apartment in Manchester city center when I got home on my parents’ couch. I didn’t even have a road car.

“The season went by without me and my life just turned upside down. I really didn’t know if I would drive a rally car again.

He had pieced together the work of the corporate driving days where he could, but hope was quickly fading before the call came.

“I was so scared it would never happen,” he says. “ You still fight in this sport and I felt like it was getting out of hand and out of my control. I had really low points with this, but I can’t tell you enough how thrilled I am to have my chance.

“It’s my dream to be the world champion and now I can keep working on it. My parents can also get their living room back.