ERC opportunity for Armstrong in new M-Sport rally car
Jon Armstrong will sample European Rally Championship action as he secures a Rally Poland drive in M-Sport Poland’s brand new Ford Fiesta Rally3.
The highly-rated gravel rally, which takes place on 18-20 June, has a star-studded entry list with Armstrong up against five other Rally3 crews in ERC’s Junior category.
Rally Poland will be Armstrong’s first ERC appearance since the Azores Rally in 2015. This time, however, he’ll battle Europe’s best drivers in four-wheel-drive machinery.
M-Sport Poland’s Rally3 car is based on the same chassis as the Rally4 Fiesta Armstrong has used in the Junior WRC so far this year. The key difference being the step-up from front-wheel-drive in Rally4 to four-wheel-drive in Rally3.
Armstrong’s focus remains on Junior WRC but as he explains, seat-time in Poland will be valuable for Junior WRC’s next round - Rally Estonia.
“It made sense to try to make this opportunity happen,” said Armstrong, “because I could do with some experience on fast, gravel roads before Estonia.
“I’m really grateful to Thrustmaster, Seacon UK, and Veemann; their support along with those behind the scenes have made this experience possible.
“I have really enjoyed Rally Poland in the past - I did the rally in 2016 and I spectated at the event in 2017.
“It’s a nice part of the world so I just tried to take the opportunity with both hands and thankfully we were able to make it happen.”
Rally Poland was part of the World Rally Championship when Armstrong competed on it five years ago. That event brought Armstrong his first win in WRC’s Drive Dmack Cup as he finished fastest of 12 top R2 crews.
There will be less pressure this time around with the fast-paced gravel rally not forming part of Armstrong’s championship plans. Instead, Armstrong is aiming to find a nice feeling with the Rally3 Fiesta early on so he can enjoy the two days of Rally Poland action.
“I have just driven the Rally3 car around a race track so far and I experienced a passenger ride on gravel with Ken Torn who I’ll be up against in Poland. It seems like a really nice package and it has good potential.
“I’ll be keen to see how we get on against Ken, the Group N cars, and how close we can get to the Rally2 cars.
“I’m really looking forward to rallying in a four-wheel-drive car again. I haven’t done that many, this will be my first full gravel rally in four-wheel drive.
“It is a great opportunity for me to develop even more as a driver because I am still quite limited in experience. It made sense for me to get more time making pacenotes and driving at an event of that nature which is quite similar to Rally Estonia.”
Armstrong is seeded 42nd for Rally Poland, one car behind reigning ERC 3 Junior champion Torn.
A 3 km shakedown stage kicks off the rally on Friday afternoon before 14 stages throughout the next two days. Crews face a total of 203 kilometres with Saturday’s Wielicski stage, which runs twice, the longest test of the rally at 28.7 km.
Phil Hall continues as Armstrong’s navigator - the pair have enjoyed a successful start to their partnership together in 2021 and Rally Poland offers another chance to build their in-car relationship.
Rally Poland has also allowed two new partners to team up with Armstrong’s latest rally developments.
“Thrustmaster has backed me since my virtual rally adventures,” explained Armstrong, “and having Veemann and Seacon UK come onboard for Rally Poland was crucial to making my Rally3 drive happen as well.
“It’s great to have three fantastic companies back me to do an extra rally like this and I’d like to thank them all for their support.”