Jon Armstrong will compete in WRC2 in the World Rally Championship next year after victory in his class on Rally Spain earned him two drives in 2017. The 21 year old also claimed the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy Rookie award and third overall in the championship after adding victory in Spain to his early season win in Poland.
The prize drives will give Jon the opportunity to move up a level and compete in the second tier of the World Rally Championship. “It’s a good prize worth a lot of money, and it’s a chance that I probably wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise,” he said. “Now we have something to look forward to for next year and it’s a big chance to learn and to show what we can do. It will be in a DMACK Fiesta R5 but I’m not 100 percent sure what rallies they will be on yet. I think they might be Poland and Spain. Obviously it will take a bit of seat time too in that sort of car. Two events in the year wouldn’t be a lot so we will try to see if we can hire a car and do something else, maybe an event at home in an R5, either a BRC (British Rally Championship) event or an Irish tarmac one.”
The Spanish event was the last in the Fiesta Championship and Jon’s last chance to salvage something from his season, and he delivered in commanding style. The event was a mixture of loose surface and tarmac roads, with torrential rain making the early stages of the rally treacherous. Jon had impressed on the same event last year, and armed with some local knowledge he raced into the lead on the first stage and never relinquished his advantage.
“We just tried to get a clean run,” he said. “We had done the Friday stages last year so we knew roughly what they were going to be like, and we tried to avoid all the big rocks. I knew how rough it was going to be and I knew where I lost time last year and where I wanted to improve. We stayed out of trouble and some of the other boys had problems, which I knew would happen if you pushed in places. We did really good stage times and won four stages on the Friday and had a minute and ten second lead. It was just a matter then of preserving that lead so we never really pushed too much. We had a couple of really good times on the tarmac on Saturday and Sunday and there was a couple of time we were close to taking stage wins, but we were just managing the lead and not taking any risks. I felt comfortable managing it from the front and always felt quite confident. You have to be smart at times. It’s easy to get sucked in to try to win stages and get too greedy, but with that lead it’s about being smart and getting round. I knew I was in a really good position to get the two prize drives so I just wanted to get to the finish with the lead intact.”
In an event that saw many of the more experienced drivers fall victim to the conditions, Jon had a trouble free run to victory, eventually taking the top spot by just under a minute. The victory was reward for a season where he demonstrated his speed, but often struggled to turn that into points scoring finishes. “The first round in Portugal we had a bit of bad luck in the car and without that could have finished in the top two or three,” he recalled. “In Poland we showed good speed and won that event. Finland cost us the most because we crashed and we weren’t able to finish the rally and we got no points there which hindered us for the overall championship. Then in Germany a puncture stopped us from winning. We probably could have won three or four events, but I was only expecting to learn this year so to be able to race at that level and find a good comfortable pace to win at was obviously very encouraging.”
Jon is not planning to compete again this year, and is now focussed on putting together a budget for 2017 that will give him an opportunity to showcase his talent as he looks to impress on the world stage.