Jon Armstrong, the excitingly speedy teenager from Kesh Co Fermanagh, began his 2013 motorsport season in earnest on the Pirelli RBF Rally in Carlisle, last weekend along with the fastest and most competitive fellow drivers in the British Rally Championship (BRC).
Driving his family-prepared Ford Fiesta R2 he took on the challenge of other crews in identical cars from the UK and Ireland and also Scandinavia. A tall order for Armstrong in what was his debut at this the sports highest British level. However, such novice status did not deter Armstrong and he took to the stages with confidence and speed which led to a second fastest time amongst the Fiesta drivers on the opening test. It was a positive indication of his ability behind the wheel and gave him and Martin Brady, his Galway-based co-driver, the confidence to continue to try improve the pace as the miles passed.
Then cruel luck intervened when half way through the next test the car made the most fleeting of glances against the edge of a bridge and ricocheted the car up onto two wheels. Snapping the car back into control Armstrong minimised the peril of the moment, but no such contact can go unpunished at that speed and the pair were to now find themselves hampered with a bent rear axle which would leave the car steering somewhat erratically in high speed sections for the remainder of the event’s eight forest stages.
Then to prove the old adage of bad things come in threes, the next problem was two punctures which each cost over a minute of lost time and also an injured hand for co-driver Brady as he made contact with a hot brake disc in the rush to change one of the punctures. It seemed at this point that bad luck was their only luck, but a second fastest time on SS4 just one tenth of a second off fastest Fiesta was a positive to an otherwise character-building day.
Overnight, the team discovered a fault with the fuel pump on the rally car and sporting help from a rival Daniel McKenna ensured the Armstrong crew could repair the fault and start Day Two with a renewed purpose.
Third fastest Fiesta time on the opening test was a just reward for the hard work by the mechanics overnight and this benchmark was improved with second fastest on the next test. However, the final act of the weekend was to prove the most difficult. Cutting a corner in a high speed section saw a heavy bang to a front wheel which bent the front steering to add mechanical insult to the already rear axle injury from the previous day. Try as he might to push on, Armstrong could not be fast and remain on the road when carrying such suspension injuries and a high speed spin was the warning sign that it was time to opt for discretion as the better plan and to just get the car to the end of the rally. That is what the teenager did and still the result was fourth in the Fiesta series and 11th finisher in the overall field and first in the all-important newcomer’s class.
A credible end to his debut in the competitive arena of the British Rally Championship and with that result secure, the team are now concentrating on the next round of the season the Jim Clark Rally in Kelso Scotland on 31st May. This will be a new challenge as it is on tarmac roads, but it is sure to be exciting and will see Jon in at the deep end again in experience terms but still more than eager to take on the challenge.
Armstrong is joined and supported in his championship efforts by a number of partners and sponsors, including Monaghan Bros Ford Garage of Lisnaskea, Tyrone Truck & Trailer LTD, Jennings Fuel & Lubricants, Lakeland Tyres, Loane Transport Kesh and Battery Energy Drink. Find Jon Armstrong Rallying on facebook or visit http://www.jonarmstrong.co.uk for up to date results and stories.