Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock's fourth-place finish in a ŠKODA Fabia R5 on Rally Hungary at the weekend was enough for them to claim the 2019 FIA European Rally Championship.

It’s the first time in 52 years that a British driver has won the ERC.

Chris’ success completes his transition from rookie to overall champion in a space of six seasons. He began his ERC adventure in a Renault Twingo, earning the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy on the Circuit of Ireland, only his second appearance, which ended in a huge crash. A chance with Peugeot UK followed before he was recruited by the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. After losing out on the 2016 ERC3 Junior title on a final-round decider to team-mate Marijan Griebel in Liepāja, Chris bounced back to take the crown the following season, this time ahead of team-mate Jari Huttunen.

That result helped Chris secure a step up to ERC1 Junior for 2018 and he narrowly lost out on championship glory to Nikolay Gryazin at the end of his first campaign at R5 level. Despite limited finances – which had to be bolstered by a crowd-funding campaign launched by his mother plus the support of his Toksport WRT team – he took the title battle to the final round, only to miss out on first place to Filip Mareš by 0.3s. But that defeat on Barum Czech Rally Zlín, which he completed leading the overall standings, served as a catalyst to a, at times, unlikely title push.

This is what the 25-year old Manchester champion had to say at the post-Rally Hungary press conference.

How does it feel to be the FIA European Rally champion for 2019?
“At the time, that was the most emotional, tense moment, we’ll never have another moment like that in our lives. We didn’t know we’d won it for like, twenty minutes or so, trying to calculate. We got a puncture, we thought we’d lost it all, then Alexey, we found out he’d got a puncture…oh my, it just the most ridiculous, mental finish of a rally wasn’t it? And to have won it is incredibly emotional how much it means to the team, who have helped me, I would never have even done a rally without these guys. And all the 350 people who have sponsored me, my family, there’s been so many people behind me and I’m just so grateful and hopefully I’ve given everyone something to smile about.”

Can you believe you’ve done it?
“No, it’s not sunk in, I’m shocked. I feel unbelievably relieved, because I thought it was going to be another time missing out, the final stage, just like in Barum. So it was very painful for the first few minutes when we thought we’d lost it I can tell you that!”

Does this make up for missing out on the ERC1 Junior title by 0.3s?
“Oh yeah, I don’t care about that, this has been a life’s ambition to win this. You know, Alexey Lukyanuk is one of the fastest guys in the world, no-one can doubt that, he is mental quick. I just can’t believe we’ve done it, I’m just so, so happy and thankful to everyone who has helped us do it.”

It’s been 52 years since the last British champion. What does that mean to you?
“Yeah, I got a message from Vic [Elford] saying that he doesn’t drink but he’s going to open a bottle of Champagne for us tonight. It’s overwhelming, it’s just an unbelievable, it’s just…I just can’t get my head round it.”

What’s the next step then?
“No idea. Absolutely no idea! Hopefully, it’ll be a big help for my career and helps us get some funding to carry on.”

What were the key moments to your title success?
“Probably the last three rallies. I felt like the first half of the season was a bit like a nightmare, probably the worst…I was driving, I was putting so much pressure on myself, I was driving too fast and slower. And it wasn’t until Barum where I was on the back foot and nearly lost everything that my pace came back and I sort of turned a corner and realised I’d just been putting way too much pressure on myself. So, when I relaxed, it sort of came back and we were lucky to get second in Cyprus. I think the last three rallies really turned things around. I’m just so, so pleased I’ve done it.”

Are there any lows?
“No, no. It’s just payback for everyone who has supported me.”

Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock wear Stilo WRC DES 8860 helmets.

Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock, FIA European Rally Championship, Hungary, Skoda, Motorsport, motor sport, rallying, Stilo, ERC