Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia shared a fire and water together. In their 15 years together, they have become accustomed to dividing everything into two: victories and failures. That’s the another reason to call them one of the most successful crews in the FIA World Rally Championship. After 2021, the partnership will end and each will go own way, but they will have the best relations for a long time to come. It is a good reason to remember how their story began, how Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia met.
Julien Ingrassia, early 1995.
When the young boy Julien was just starting out, he couldn’t even think of meeting another passionate car enthusiast one day in France and they would join forces for the next 15 years. Indeed, no one could have imagined that his motorsport career would reach the so-called rally tops. From the age of 16 to 20, Ingrassia was a spectator at a rally in the South of France. At home in Aix-en-Provence city, he had also helped his friend with the settings of the Peugeot 205 racing car.
But rally racing is something like that, as soon as you are in it, the color of your life changes, you get a different spirit and move to another level. You can’t even determine how racing becomes a passion in life.
That was the case, and Julien also fell into the trap, or, rather – has found his true mission. In 2002 the young Ingrassia started small races as a rally enthusiast. It’s noteworthy, but Julian had a major job, combining rally racing with working as a sales rep. As he now remembers, these were great adventures he undertook with his friends.
After three years, the rookie level of the co-driver was gone. It becomes clear – the changes are needed. He looked at the youth program of the Rally Jeunes. 26-year-old Julian always had a great feeling among the professionals with his team manager, a motorhome, a team of mechanics and the union in teamwork. That was the time when he came up with the biggest plan – to offer co-driver services to one of the winners. So he went to the finale of the Rally Jeunes in Ales city in 2005.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, 2005 year.
Ingrassia remembers that day very well. The most amazing thing about this story is that Julien was the initiator of the acquaintance. Today, it feels as if Julien tells about it a little shy in front of journalists’ cameras. We believe that he forgives us. In the early morning Julien decided to take a day off from his main job, he spent the whole day in the cold streets of Ales. At that moment, his whole future seemed to be at stake.
He was freezing and trying to catch the best rally drivers. He came to the award ceremony and then to the press conference, but in vain. The plan didn’t work out. There were strangers everywhere, no faces of people he knew.
Julien Ingrassia left the Jeunes Rally with nothing but the one name. “Ogier” – he thought to himself on the way home.
That same evening he sent an e-mail to Peugeot Sport. He introduced himself and explained that he wanted to become co-driver of Sebastien Ogier – the winner of the 2005 Jeunes Rally. At that moment Julien Ingrassia already knew that he only wanted to work with Sebastien and no one else!
Probably the Peugeot Sport understood Julien Ingrassi’s message from the very first word. Emotional, not yet recovered, but very well to understand how important all this is. The bridges to the past were burned. So the very delicate Peugeot Sport were no other option, but they gave Julien Ingrassia Ogier’s number and suggested to speak to him personally.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia: The story begins.
Sebastian suggested to Ingrassia to walk, Julien was wonder. He thought they were going to the French town of Gap to have a drink with some friends. But Sebastien Ogier is Ogier and he rolled out his Renault 11 to cut the snowdrifts on the streets of Soissons city. After an hour they returned home. The next morning they were already sitting in the car at 9am and working with the pace notes.
Although Julien Ingrassia only entered motorsport very late, he only needed two seasons in the WRC class with Sebastien Ogier to start at the highest rallying level. They debuted together for the first time at the Rally Jeunes FFSA 2006 and won the Peugeot 206 Cup. Together they took part in regional and national rallies and then quickly conquered the international rally racing to the Junior WRC World Champion in 2008. With the French FFSA team, they won three of the six rallies of the season and the JWRC title.
High pressure at Citroen before Ogier moves up to the WRC’s first division.
Perhaps because WRC 2021 is the last for Julien Ingrassia as Sebastien Ogier’s co-driver, he decides to reveal the secrets.
It was seven o’clock in the morning when Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia wanted to test the new Citroen C2 R2 Max in the South of France. Julien took the call from the Citroen team management. It was like freezing cold water on his face to hear that because they had won the 2008 FIA Junior WRC title just four days earlier. Citroen management told Ingrassia that Sebastien would be going to the WRC next year with the C4, but he needs someone else, someone better and you will not be part of the adventure.
“I said, ‘OK, I have to go to the test now. I finish testing tonight or tomorrow morning, and tomorrow evening I will be in Paris in your office and I will be at your desk.”Julien Inrassia
He rushed to the team office on the first train. The reason was the money. Citroen Team can’t put so much money on the table. At the same time they wanted Seb to have an experienced co-driver.
“I more or less stood up on my chair in front of them and put my two hands on the table and said ‘OK, you feel that I am not able to do this job and you have some people that say so. I will find 10 times more people that will tell you that I am able to do that and I will prove you [wrong].”Julien Ingrassia
WRC Citroen Junior Team 2009
After the phone calls to rectify the situation, Julien Ingrassia’s seat was like a musical chair. There was no other way but to speak in person with Sebastien Ogier to end the tension. Discussions were long, but they decided to move forward and move on together. There were some long days and weeks, but on the next season in 2009, he already took place in the C4 WRC seat. Many details were overlooked in this story, but one thing is clear: Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were not perfect and made some mistakes, but they also learned.
The successful crew joined the Citroen Junior Team in 2009 and achieved the first podium finish at the Acropolis Rally. Next season in the WRC 2010, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia took the first victory in the Portugal Rally and then the second in Japan.
In 2011, the crew joined to the Citroen team full-time. They won as many rallies as their teammates Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena -5.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia WRC 2021
Today, Sebastien Ogier calls Julien Ingrassia, without exaggeration, the best co-driver out there and a “role model” for others. Next year, Ogier will race with new co-driver Benjamin Veillas during his part-time WRC 2022 program. In his own plans to get into circuit races next year, the same time played a role in the decision-making to break with Ingrassia.
“In my eyes Julien is the best co-driver out there. Like I say from his professionalism and from the way he’s giving me the notes in the stage, always very clear and very nice. “I think he’s anyway a role model for a lot of co-drivers I believe, and now I wish him the best for the rest of his life and we will find out how it works for me with somebody else in the car.”Sebastien Ogier, DirtFish
Julian, the “best co-driver out there,” doesn’t speak directly about what he’s going to do and holds a trump card in front of his chest. He believes that there are many things that can be improved, such as safety, promotion, sporting regulation in rally racing as a sport. That’s what he’ll focus on in the near future. Ingrassia says that he wants to stop as a co-driver with a smile on his face, but “never say never” – that’s the case.. Although their union will break up next year, they will still be the role models of each other, and we believe that this will be the case for a long time to come.