Chris Ingram has got his Rally Hungary challenge off to the perfect start by outpacing defending champion Alexey Lukyanuk on the Qualifying Stage this morning, completing the 3.90-kilometre test in 2m13.048s.

With Łukasz Habaj non-starting following his free practice crash earlier, the battle for supremacy among the three title contenders turned into a straight fight between Ingram and Lukyanuk, with Ingram earning the right to select his starting position before his Russian rival at the selection ceremony in Nyíregyháza this afternoon.

“It’s going to be an incredible challenge, treacherous conditions but I think it will suit us and we can’t wait,” said Toksport WRT-run Ingram, who used an intermediate Michelin tyre on his ŠKODA Fabia R5 Evo. “It was an incredibly slippery bit of road but good fun.”

Lukyanuk, who was 0.919s slower than Ingram, opted for a ‘racing’ tyre for his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5. “It was not the optimum tyre, the conditions were different to everything we’ve seen before. We expected it to be much less slippery but it’s more muddy and we didn’t expect that.”

Czech federation-supported Filip Mareš, on his first of two prize drives for winning the ERC1 Junior title, was third fastest and more than satisfied with his performance. “It’s good to be two-tenths behind Lucas [Lukyanuk], not bad for us. The stage was not so comparable but good to try how slippery it will be on the rally.”

Home hero and four-time national title winner Norbert Herczig was the top Hungarian in fourth with recently-crowned Hungarian champion Ferenc Vincze fifth. American Sean Johnston impressed on his first competitive outing on his step up to R5 level with the sixth fastest time. “It was slippery in there and we managed to go a bit quicker, which wasn’t our intention because we were already happy with the pace and this weekend is all about learning.”

Motorsport Ireland-backed Callum Devine was seventh quickest on his ERC return at the wheel of a Hyundai Motorsport N-entered i20 R5. András Hadik, who won in Nyíregyháza 12 months ago, was eighth followed by double ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr and Frigyes Turán.

Andrea Nucita was fastest in ERC2 and quickest of the two Abarth Rally Cup title chasers, 2.8s quicker than rival Dariusz Poloński. Erik Cais beat Marijan Griebel to the fastest time in ERC3.

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