History will be made this weekend if Chris Ingram clinches the European Rally Championship. Only one British driver has achieved the feat since its foundation in 1953 and that was Vic Elford way back in 1967. Ingram, 25, heads to Rally Hungary with a 19-point advantage in his Skoda Fabia – and the man they called ‘Quick Vic’ will be right behind him.
Elford is one of motorsport’s great all-rounders, forever enshrined in lore for winning the 1968 Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911 S, then nine days later claiming the marque’s first (of many) 24-hour sports car wins, at Daytona. Fast in everything he drove, including Formula 1, Elford was – and is – made of pure granite. Among his many big wins was the Marathon de la Route: 84 hours around the Nürburgring (yes, you read that right), in which he inspired his co-drivers by logging four seven-and-a-half-hour stints. Mostly in the dark.
Today, he’s 84 and hasn’t been too well of late, but that didn’t stop him sending warm words of encouragement to Ingram from his home in Florida.
“There are two things that have amazed me over the past 50-plus years,” wrote Vic. “One, that no Brit has yet won the ERC title again. And two, no other Brit has yet won the Monte Carlo Rally. I wish all the success in the world for Chris to achieve the first one in Hungary. Get that done and then he can start seriously thinking about the second.”
Elford, master of the Nürburgring and conqueror of the Targa Florio, will forever be associated with Porsche thanks to his heroics in everything from 917s to helping create rallycross in a 911. But rallying was always his first love.
“Over the years, Chris, I drove some awesome cars and the best were usually those where I had a direct input on their set-up,” he wrote. “But no matter what, whether it was rally or race, whenever I was asked before an event ‘How do you think you will do?’, my reply was always the same: ‘I am going to win, of course!’ And on more than one occasion, even though I was driving an outclassed car, I was able to force it beyond what it was capable of – and win – because I had already persuaded myself that I would. You do that for me in Hungary and I will be very proud of you!”
If that doesn’t inspire Ingram this weekend, nothing ever will.