Chris Ingram and Elliott Edmondson took victory at the first round of the FIA European Rally Championship U27 Junior championship at the Azores Rally.
The Young Brits win their class by over 14 minutes, and finish 11th overall in amongst 18 four-wheel drive R5 category finishers.
Opel works rally driver Ingram takes maximum points in the ERC Under 27 championship and puts Opel in the lead of the overall ERC Team’s championship.
Since the first qualifying stage of the legendary Rally Azores, reigning ERC3 European Champion Chris Ingram (22, Manchester / England) and Opel team-mate Jari Huttunen (23, Finland) delivered the passionate Azores locals and rally fans with an exhilarating fight for victory.
On Friday the young Opel works drivers battled it out on the brutal volcano stage ‘Sete Cidades’ which is renowned as one of the World’s best rally stages, 26 kilometres running along the dormant volcano ridge with 500 metre drops either side.
At the end of the first leg on Friday evening, Chris Ingram and Elliott Edmondson and their Finnish team-mates Huttunen & Linnaketo were only separated by 4.7 seconds, with the Opel Team leading the junior category by already several minutes in the factory ADAM R2’s.
Their battle and category dominance also continued on the closing day, which took place under extremely difficult conditions typical of the Azores islands – thick fog and rain. Ingram and Huttunen continued to fight for every tenth of a second on each of the 16 challenging stages.
Chris and his co-driver Elliott Edmondson (22, Milton Keynes) added up a lead of 7 seconds to flying Finns Huttunen & Linnaketo after stage 12, which felt ‘comfortable’. But after fuel pressure problems and the car cutting out on the spectatator stage 13, he lost 6.8 seconds to Huttunen. Fortunately for the young Brits, the problem occurred on one of the shortest stages of the rally and immediately before a service, where the experienced crew of the Opel Rallye Junior Team changed the fuel pump and tank, so that Chris and Elliott could continue to the last three stages.
On the final stage of the event, Jari Huttunen broke a drive shaft shortly before the finish-line which meant Chris and Elliott won by over 14 minutes to the next best finisher in R2 & ERC Junior U27.
The 22 year old Brits celebrated the important first round victory. “We are delighted to have won but sorry that Jari didn’t get to the finish” confessed the winner. “It was a fantastic battle with him but I believe we deserve this victory. Up to this small technical problem in Stage 13 the ADAM R2 ran faultlessly, and we were leading since the first proper stage. I would like to thank the team who were incredible as always and made sure our ADAM R2 could be driven flat-out all weekend. Now I’m happy about my second win in the Azores and we can’t wait to go to Gran Canaria in May!”
“We would like to thank everyone back home in the UK for the amazing support, especially our sponsors Andrews Heat for Hire, Express Solicitors, 11 Degrees and Opel Motorsport for the first of hopefully many victories in 2017!”
In the overall ranking of the FIA ERC Junior (Under-27), Ingram now leads the way with a maximum score of 39 points ahead of Peugeot driver Aleks Zawada (29 pts). Team-mate Tamara Molinaro is fourth with 17 points who alongside Chris helped Opel clinch the lead in the overall ERC Teams’ championship.