Jon Armstrong reflects on Junior WRC title near-miss
Motorsport UK Academy athlete Jon Armstrong came within a whisker last weekend [11-12 September] of winning the Junior World Rally Championship title in Greece for the second season in succession.
The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland arrived in Greece ready to duke it out in a thrilling four-way scrap for the Junior WRC honours, his competition namely Estonia’s Robert Virves and Finnish duo Sami Pajari and Lauri Joona.
But a retirement during Friday’s action for Pajari and damaged rear suspension, which hampered Joona’s progress, brought it down to a straight fight between Armstrong and Virves for the coveted crown over the final stages of the season.
Virves was able to establish a one-minute lead after a puncture delayed Armstrong and co-driver Brian Hoy, but their response was emphatic, trimming the margin down to an eventual 17.5 seconds.
Ultimately, the pair ran out of stages to re-coup the gap, and Armstrong finished runner-up to eventual champion Virves by a 15-point margin. As Virves switched co-drivers midway through the campaign, Armstrong’s partner Hoy did still celebrate winning the co-Drivers’ title, some consolation for the team.
“After giving our all over the past couple of weeks and putting in one of our best performances, it is difficult to only come home with second in the championship,” Armstrong explained on his Twitter account.
“We knew it was going to be tough, as Rally Greece was a winner-takes-all scenario for the Junior WRC title. As expected, the conditions were really rough and challenging on the car and tyres.
“Unfortunately, the last of our three punctures on Friday came early in a stage, so we had to stop and replace the wheel. That left us two minutes behind with nine stages remaining.
“In the end, we ran out of rally miles to claw back the lost time to Robert and Julia. Congratulations to Robert on his title – he has been really fast this year and he drove a great rally in Greece, managing the lead over the past two days.
Armstrong also took the time to pay tribute to co-driver Hoy, and thank his sponsors and fans for their efforts in keeping him out competing.
“I am chuffed that Brian has done enough to seal the Junior WRC co-drivers’ championship,” he continued. “He has been instrumental in our year and more than deserves that title.
“I am really thankful for all the support we have had from sponsors throughout the year and everyone involved in the fundraiser last month. We are really grateful for everything.”