Brian Hoy achieved a lifetime dream as he won the Junior World Rally Championship Co-Driver title after a second-placed finish on Acropolis Rally Greece.

While the runners-up spot spelt frustration for his driver, Jon Armstrong, who had to settle for second in the drivers’ championship, Brian benefitted from winner Robert Virves’ mid-season co-driver change to claim the top award.

“I never thought I would be a World Champion!” admitted Brian.

“I might have dreamed about it, but I never thought it would have actually come true. It wasn’t all my doing. There were plenty of people who helped me along the way, but of all the good battles I have been in, in Ireland and across Europe, this definitely tops it all.”

The Enniskillen navigator started his rallying career in 2010 when he called the pace notes for Darren McGrath in a Peugeot 205 on Enniskillen Motor Club’s Clubman Stages Rally, based at Lough Navar, and Hoy admits that his first rallying experience was a far cry from his success this weekend.

“The stage was run four times the normal way around Lough Navar and four times the wrong way,” he recalled.

“The first four times, Darren knew it like the back of his hand and I thought I was a great fella and he never questioned my notes.

“On the first run the wrong way round it, I was lost on the notes by the second corner!”

From that inauspicious beginning Brian quickly made a name for himself in the passenger seat, and a dozen rallies later he was navigating for rising star Callum Devine on the Galway International Rally.

That event ended in disappointment with an early retirement, but it was the beginning of a pairing that was starting to catch the eye with a string of impressive results that would eventually see them compete at Rally Finland and contest the European Rally Championship.

Brian was also a regular co-driver for Cathan McCourt before making the switch to navigate for Jon Armstrong at the start of 2022, and he was quick to praise his former drivers for their part in his development.

‘Great friends’

“Callum and Cathan were some of the first people to text me after the finish, and they are great friends. Every one of those boys was good to me over the years,” he said.

“I had a good seat with Cathan but then I had a chance to go and sit with Callum, who was doing the European Championship.

“I took that opportunity, and then last year I couldn’t commit to the full campaign with Callum due to work commitments, and I went back to Cathan, and we had another great year.

“Then this year I was to do the Irish Tarmac Championship with Callum, but Jon rang and asked me to do Sweden and that rally didn’t clash with any of Callum’s. Then we went and won Sweden, so I couldn’t walk away then!”

After that win in Sweden, and their undoubted speed in the following rounds in Croatia and Portugal, the pair looked as though they would both fulfil a dream double by taking top spots in the drivers and co-drivers championships, but the victory on the last rally eluded them by the smallest of margins.

“It is bittersweet,” conceded Brian. “It is not really what we came for because we wanted to bring home the two trophies, but I said to myself if I was getting on the plane after the rally and I had done everything I could, then I would be happy enough.

“I asked Jon would he do anything different if he were going tonight to do it again, and he said he would do nothing different.

“We tried our best and we did everything we tried to do, and a puncture let us down at the end of the day. We gave it our best shot.”