Images courtesy of Junior WRC
Jon Armstrong returns to World Rally Championship action as the Junior WRC hits its midpoint on Rally Estonia’s high-speed gravel stages. Armstrong and Phil Hall will step back into their DiRT Rally liveried Ford Fiesta Rally4 after sealing a Rally3 debut win on last month’s Rally Poland.
The British crew are third in Junior WRC after enduring mixed fortunes on the series’ first two rounds.
Victory on Croatia Rally marked an incredible return to rallying for Armstrong, who had barely competed in the years prior to April’s asphalt opener. A stunning start gave the pair an early lead on Rally Portugal only for two punctures and engine failure to ruin their weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to the third round of Junior WRC,” said Armstrong. “It has been a strong start to the season for the team, Phil, and I. It has probably been stronger than we had expected.
“But Estonia is probably going to be the biggest challenge for us and a lot of the drivers were there last year and will have done the stages.
“Our plan is to just go there, do the best job possible, and see where we end up at the end of the rally. To be honest that has been our motto this season.
“It helped going to Rally Poland last month to drive a Rally3 car on the fast roads there.
“It was important to get back on the fast, wide roads that you have in places like Poland and Estonia.”
While Armstrong and Hall will benefit from their high-speed success in Poland there are still many unique characteristics of Rally Estonia that make it a big challenge, especially for a UK-based crew.
“The surface in Estonia is quite sandy in places and the roads are wide and fast. There are a lot of crests and man-made jumps so it is just not what we are used to in Ireland and the UK.
“We have stone-based roads at home rather than sand-based so there is a lot more grip from the road itself in the UK.
“Estonia demands a different driving technique, it’s almost a different surface to be honest.”
There are four crews from Estonia, Finland, and Latvia in Junior WRC this year and each one will be most at home on Estonia’s loose surface, high-speed rollercoaster. Armstrong will once again need to be at his very best if he is to upset the odds in the Baltics.
One trick up his sleeve was a pre-event test alongside rising Irish rally driver, Brian Brady. The Motorsport Ireland Academy member is hoping to achieve success in the Junior British Rally Championship this year and like Armstrong competes in a Ford Fiesta Rally4.
The pair completed a gravel test in Brady’s Junior BRC contender two weeks before Rally Estonia.
“It was a great opportunity to do some training with Brian,” explained Armstrong. “It also gave me some extra seat-time in a Rally4 Fiesta because that is something I struggle to get ahead of Junior WRC events.
“Brian is still quite early on in his career and definitely has a lot of talent behind the wheel so it was nice to point him in the right direction as he builds his experience.”
With three rounds remaining, Armstrong sits 13 points behind Junior WRC leader Martins Sesks. As usual, stage-winning points are on offer in Estonia so a total of 49 points are up for grabs on the mammoth 319 km, 24-stage event which takes place between 15-18 July.