An accident and a puncture cost Jon Armstrong any chance of victory in the Drive DMack Fiesta Trophy on Rally Germany, with the Kesh driver finishing third.
Jon regularly topped the stage times in his class, but a brief off-road excursion on day one and a time consuming flat tyre on day two saw him drop close to four minutes as he slipped back in the race for the championship title.
Going into the event Jon harboured hopes of a victory that would propel him to the top spot in the series with just one round remaining. Although he was a newcomer to the German round of the World Rally Championship his proven speed on tarmac roads put him among the favourites for the top spot, but his hopes were hit on the first stage when he fell victim to the treacherous conditions.
“The weather was a bit patchy all week and under the tress was very mucky and slippery and we got caught out,” he admitted. “It was dry and fast coming in to it and then as you were braking for a tight corner it was like ice with all the mud. A couple of other cars went off at the same place. We did a bit of damage there and limped through the rest of the stage and lost about 40 seconds. We were lucky to continue at all the way it happened. We managed to get to service and get it all fixed up again.”
The incident had relegated Jon to fourth but he made a surge through the field and by the end of the day he had climbed to second, and halved the gap to leader Oisin Pryce to just twenty seconds. Any hopes to challenge for the lead were dashed early on Saturday however, when Jon picked up a puncture in his Fiesta. He opted to drive to the end of the stage rather than stop and change the wheel, and the three minute time loss ended any realistic hopes of victory.
With a championship point for a stage win Jon rescued some valuable points on the final day, but admitted he was frustrated with the overall result.”
“If we didn’t have the problems we would have won no bother but that’s the way it goes,” he reflected. “We chipped away and got six fastest times altogether. We won all the stages on Sunday. We had done no testing at all before the event and the tarmac DMack tyres take a bit of getting used to. They are a lot different to anything I had used before, but we were well used to them and had got the set up right by Sunday. I think we lost 3 minutes 40 seconds and we only finished two and a half minutes behind the leader.”
With just Rally Spain remaining Jon knows he will have to rely on the misfortune of others if he is to overhaul Oisin Pryce and Max Vatanen who sit ahead of him in the current standings. “We need a bit of luck to win the championship now,” he acknowledged. “Spain is the final round and I did it last year so I have a bit of experience there, but we are going to need a bit of luck when we get there. There isn’t that many other drivers that can beat Oisin consistently over a whole weekend.”
Marshall Clarke was another local competitor on Rally Germany. The Enniskillen navigator was sitting alongside Qatari driver Khalid Suwaidi but their challenge ended on stage two when their WRC2 Fiesta slid off the road and into a German vineyard.