Jon Armstrong's Junior World Rally Championship title dream ends in Spanish fog

“We come home as runners-up and we can still be proud of that”

Jon Armstrong (right) and Phil Hall, Junior WRC's 2021 runners-up on podium

Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall narrowly missed out on winning the Junior World Rally Championship in last weekend’s Rally Spain decider, writes Adam Hall.

The game designer, who works at Codemasters in Southam, had to settle for second place after an incident on Saturday dropped him from first to fourth on the asphalt rally.

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Fourth in Spain, combined with an incredible seven stage-winning bonus points, meant the pair completed the J WRC – for drivers under the age of 30 – with 119 points.

Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall finished as Junior WRC's 2021 runners-up on podium

Sami Pajari’s win in the double-points finale helped the Finn claim the top spot with 137 points while Martins Sesks finished the season in third with 85.

“We came to Spain knowing that the championship was achievable and we leave here disappointed not to win it,” said Armstrong, 26, who was 2018 world champion in the virtual WRC eSports Championship.

“We knew Sami and Martins were going to give it their all and Sami did a great rally to win and get the Junior WRC title.

“A simple mistake on Saturday morning cost us the rally. I got caught out in the tricky conditions and ultimately it cost us the championship.

Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall won seven stages in Spain, proving their pace again

“We come home as runners-up and we can still be proud of that.”

A perfect opening day performance gave the Northern Irish driver, who lives in Warwick, an early 15.9-second lead over Pajari.

Unfortunately fog on Saturday morning’s first stage led to Armstrong missing his braking point for a fast corner. Unable to slow his Ford Fiesta Rally4 down in time, Armstrong slid wide into a verge. It took the British crew five minutes to get the car back onto the road.

“We gave it our best this year,” Armstrong continued. “We were getting better and better with every rally. We gave it our best and we have to be happy with that.

“Given the pace we showed over the weekend I think we could have held onto the win but this is how things go.

“A big thanks must go to Codemasters (EA), Thrustmaster, RAF – and all our other supporters – for making this year happen. They let Phil and I show what we are capable of, that is something I’ll always be grateful for.”

The DiRT Rally crew recorded two Junior WRC event wins in Croatia and Belgium in 2021 as well as a surprise second-place finish on Rally Estonia’s gravel stages.

Armstrong’s winning return to the series on Croatia Rally was an early indication of what the 26-year-old is capable of.

An engine failure on Rally Portugal put Armstrong and Hall on the back foot before taking an unexpected podium in Estonia. A return to the top was achieved on Ypres Rally Belgium with an exemplary start-to-finish victory.

Rally Spain’s fourth-place result marked a tough end to the year but the DiRT Rally team clearly showed again they had the speed to achieve another rally win.