Jon Armstrong is ready for one last charge as his Junior WRC campaign goes down to the wire on its Rally Spain finale, writes Adam Hall.
A slender 14 points separate Junior WRC’s top three crews heading to Spain which acts as a double-points round.
Armstrong and his navigator, Phil Hall, hold second position sandwiched between Finnish driver Sami Pajari and Latvian ace Martins Sesks.
Another unique aspect of the World Rally Championship’s junior series is that crews drop their lowest score of the season. If this is taken into account, Armstrong would actually be leading Junior WRC.
In short, it is all to play for. And with Junior WRC’s prize package consisting of a Ford Fiesta Rally2 car, 200 Pirelli tyres, and free WRC 3 and event registration; there will be nothing left wanting among the title contenders.
“We're ready for Spain,” said an assured Armstrong, “we've been treating it like any other rally.
“We're doing our usual preparation and we're feeling pretty good about it all.
“We can take confidence from our last rally in Ypres but at the same time we need to keep focused on our prep. It seems to have worked so far this season.”
Junior WRC’s last round, Ypres Rally Belgium, was undoubtedly the British crew’s strongest showing so far this season. Their one-minute victory margin was the result of both raw speed and a professionally managed drive throughout the three-day event.
Ypres was Armstrong’s second asphalt success this year and he’ll be hoping to record his third in Spain.
“We need to find a good pace and we'll see how things are at the end of day one [Friday].
“We've been looking at the onboards which for this round has been good for me because I have some previous knowledge of them. I'm using the organiser's videos to look through the new sections.
“Just because we have done some of the stages before doesn't mean we will perform well on them so we still need to work really hard on recce. I'll still be making new pacenotes during the recce so it is hard to say if it's much of an advantage having been there before.
“I've been out running and trying to keep fit. Phil and I have lost some weight since Ypres so that should give us a bit of a boost. I'd say that is something we were maybe giving away to our rivals earlier this season.”
Armstrong and Hall’s detailed preparation has been a hallmark of their so far successful debut season together. It has been especially critical for Armstrong who lacked consistent on-stage action for the years prior to his Junior WRC return.
A lack of pre-event testing still inhibits the Northern Irish native but he is glad to at least have some experience of Catalunya’s smooth asphalt stages from earlier in his rally career.
“I've done Rally Spain three times and have some good memories from there. We were winners in the Drive DMACK Trophy there in 2016. The other two years probably didn't go as well to be honest so I have got that in my mind.
“I have won my class there once but overall maybe I haven't done my best while I've been out there. I need to do what I've been doing all year and just bring that across to Spain now.”
The 26-year-old has thrived in his latest opportunity to showcase his international rally driving ability. For now, he’s focused on doing everything he can to secure the biggest prize package rallying has to offer.
“The whole Junior WRC experience has been brilliant this year, I've really enjoyed it. This is the most professional I've felt in my rally career.
“We're going to treat the last rally like any other and try to find the best performance that we can.”
The Junior WRC showdown kicks off with a shakedown on Thursday 14 October before 17 competitive stages over the following three days.
Junior WRC standings after Round 4 of 5:
1 Pajari - 91 points
2 ARMSTRONG - 88 pts
3 Sesks - 77
4 Joona - 52
5 Creighton - 45
6 Virves - 42
PICTURES: JON ARMSTRONG RALLY AND JUNIOR WRC