After ending his decorated World Rally Championship co-driving career in 2021, Julien Ingrassia planned to make the switch to rally raid with the goal of competing in the 2023 Dakar Rally. However, those plans have been put on the backburner for now as he explained Wednesday that he does not feel ready at the moment.
Ingrassia was due to run the Dakar Rally in 2023 with Mika Pisano, as part of a programme that would begin with the Andalucía Rally in June followed by the Rallye du Maroc in October. While Andalucía was postponed to October due to wildfires in the region, he spent June testing in Morocco with Pisano and guidance from the Isabelle Patissier Flight School (Ecole de pilotage isabelle patissier), Pisano’s Dakar co-driver Max Delfino, 2021 Dakar Rally-winning navigator Edouard Boulanger, and four-time winner Michel Périn.
However, with the two rallies looming, Ingrassia found himself ill-prepared to compete and elected to drop the plans. The eight-time WRC champion with Sébastien Ogier had been working as an analyst for Canal+’s series coverage in the meantime.
“This is not really natural for someone who has a competitive spirit, and even less so for a co-driver who has in his DNA to plan, calculate and succeed… yet I have to announce that I will not be taking part in the next Dakar Rally,” began a statement by Ingrassia.
“My career at the highest level in the WRC has taught me one thing among many: preparation, practice, and experience is a fundamental basis to build work, ability to improvise and success on ‘D-Day’.
“After having initially drawn up an extensive ‘battle plan’ with the aim of acquiring the most solid skills and experience possible, the fact is that we were unable to realise this plan this year. So, not being able to take part in the major events that are the Rally of Morocco and Andalucía Rally, which will take place in a few days, I acknowledge that my preparation is far from being complete.
“The Dakar is a mythical event. I know my capacity to adapt and understand, but in order to feel comfortable and efficient, the target was for me to arrive there with a first experience of this race format, so as not to discover it on the spot in the most demanding rally raid event, and these conditions are not met. It would never occur to anyone to take the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans without ever having competed on a race track before!
“A sincere thank you to the people who have been part of my approach to rally raid these last few months (Isabelle Patissier and Thierry, Max Delfino, Edouard Boulanger, Michel Perrin, BPS Racing, 100% and many others), and whatever happens in the future I have opened my eyes to a remarkable category and job.
“See you soon, in a cockpit or anywhere else!”
Pisano has competed at the Dakar Rally in both the Moto and SSV categories since 2009. He finished thirteenth in the latter class in the 2022 edition with Delfino as co-driver. He won the Moto division at the 2014 Africa Eco Race.
“In the wake of Dakar 2022 and with a good performance on it, I have set out a plan of action and redoubled work to bring together the best conditions to be at the start of the 2023 edition and to be as good as possible,” said Pisano. “Ambitious in nature, I wanted to challenge Julien Ingrassia, by offering to be at my side in this adventure.
“We both formed a complementary binomial and formed a strong team that worked together speed and efficiency over the many testing sessions throughout the year.
“However, despite the efforts made, it was impossible for us to find an opportunity and a strong team to allow us to do a ‘test’ rally before the mythical race or meet the conditions set by Julien.
“Although frustrated, I understand his decision. Too bad because we could have taken our opponents down to the wire.”