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Armstrong Rewarded Pirelli Star Drive Nomination on Ulster

(August 27, 2013)

Photo: SG Rally Pics

Karl Atkinson

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Young Fermanagh Teenager Jon Armstrong had the drive of his short rally career on the 2013 Todd’s leap Ulster Rally last weekend. The event which was named the best in 2012 was based in beautiful Fermanagh for the first time ever, covering some of the most demanding stages in the championship this year. With so many Irish competitors in this year’s MSA British Rally Championship, it could be argued that round four is a home event for the series. The new location would see two days of rallying over fifteen stages which all offered something different for the drivers and spectators.

Eighteen year old Kesh driver, Jon Armstrong started the event with hopes of a good result. The flying Ford Fiesta R2 driver has been quick throughout the season but has suffered from a shocking number of punctures – at least one in each event – but he still leads the British Rally Championship newcomers’ standings and is third in the R2 championship. With a new co-driver onboard, Armstrong was hoping to gel quickly from the start with Karl Atkinson, who recently competed in the Donegal      National Rally with Craig Breen.

Despite the event taking place near to him, Jon was unfamiliar with the stages which added its own pressures as people would expect him to be quick assuming he had local knowledge. Jon stated before the event “It’s probably better I don’t know the roads as it means I will be fully committed to the pace notes rather than trying to drive from memory”.

Torrential Rain welcomed the drivers as they took the start ramp outside the Town City Hall, Jon quickly mastered the tricky conditions on stage one, setting the third fastest time overall in the BRC, only 10 seconds behind early leader Tom Cave. What came next was to stun onlookers as he took fastest BRC time on stage two which would leap frog him into second overall and just four seconds off the lead. A second fastest time on stage 3 would round of a perfect loop for Armstrong and meant he held second going into the first service halt.

With drying stages, it was going to be a tall order for Jon to keep up with the higher powered Ds3 R3’s on the second loop of the Friday evening stages. However Jon set a fourth, fifth and third fastest time overall in the repeat loop. This meant that he held an excellent third place over night, just 9 seconds off the lead and was comfortably leading the R2 category by just under a minute.

 With an early start on Saturday morning, and the talk of the rally over night, Jon was hoping to maintain his good form through to the finish. Stage eight saw Jon lose some time to the Ds3’s in Front on the dry conditions. The stage however was to be cancelled as the car running behind blocked the road, meaning the competitors got Jon’s stage time. Unfortunately the next test was to be Jon and Karl’s last of the rally as the pair got caught out on slippery conditions which resulted in a light roll.

Despite crashing out of the event he was prevented from heading home by a phone call from the BRC team, informing him of his Pirelli Star Driver nomination. The nomination was well received by many fellow competitors and his local supporters too for his performance on day one. Jon commented after “It’s great to get the Pirelli Star Driver Nomination as it’s what we wanted all year and to do it so close to home is even more special. All the hard work by our family run team has paid off and Karl was fantastic on the notes all weekend! Really looking forward to the final now, would be a dream come true”.

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