Julien Ingrassia has spent the last decades at the top of the sport, winning eight world titles as co-driver for Sébastien Ogier, and now he’s on the other side of the camera, interviewing and sharing his experiences with young people. In Nyíregyháza, he interviewed world fencing champion Máté Koch, among others, and revealed that he also did fencing as a child.
Welcome to Rally Hungary. How do you like it?
“I am very happy to discover your beautiful country” smiled Ingrassia.
Have you ever tasted Tokaji?
A few years ago, yes, but not this week. And although it’s quite different from what we drink at home, as an aperitif it’s very tasty, so I’ll definitely take a bottle home. It’s very interesting to see the vineyards, and of course there are other things for me to discover, for example, I don’t know the ERC itself very well, and I haven’t met the competitors here. On Wednesday evening, they organised a small talk with the juniors, during which I tried to convey some messages to them.
Be focused, consistent, curious, and always ready for battle. I can’t wait to get the competition underway and see what they can transfer from these messages onto the stages.
Do you miss it?
The racing? No. I’ve turned a page, and I’m fine with it. I’m happy to pass on my experience to young people, happy to discover a new world on the other side of the camera.
How lonely is the life of a co-driver?
The co-driver is alone when he works on the pacenotes, locks himself in his hotel room and does his job. At the same time, he is in contact with a lot of people during the race: the organisers, the marshals, the spectators. What I regret a bit is that co-drivers don’t talk to each other more, that we don’t know how each other works or we do not speak on each other’s salary, for example, but together we could be stronger. Even though I have eight world titles, I am sure I could learn from the youngsters, as some of them use very specific techniques. But somehow it hasn’t developed between us.
What do you think the three main characteristics of a good co-driver are?
Organised, dedicated, curious.
What do you think about the future of motorsport, and rallying in particular?
We are at a crossroad, there is no question about it, and not just for rallying, but for motorsport as a whole and for other sports. We have to find answers to important questions such as what energy to use, how to reduce our ecological footprint, how to manage the organisation of the race. In my opinion, we need to make our voices heard and say loudly that yes, we rally! That yes, it can sometimes be dangerous, just as other sports have dangers that need to be controlled. However, I can safely say that whoever I invited to any of our races, I could be sure that those three or four days were the best three or four days of the year for them and that they left with a big smile on their face. Because you’re close to the action, because you can go up to the teams, you can take selfies with the drivers – there’s a pile of pictures out there of me with different kids in my hands between stages.
Back to the future…
Yeah, right! So, you have to set directions and follow where the world is going. We have to pay attention to sustainability, start to introduce fan buses instead of everyone driving a separate car… At the same time, as far as cars are concerned… how can I put it into words? When I go to a concert, I want the music to be loud, and when I go to a race, I want to hear the cars!