Jon Armstrong is itching to get back behind the wheel of a rally car after suffering a massive accident on the third stage of Rally Sweden. The Northern Irish driver lost control of his Ford Fiesta R2T at over 100 mph before hitting a telegraph pole at 95 mph and finally coming to an abrupt stop against a bank further down the road.
Fortunately for Armstrong and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan the pair were able to walk away from the accident largely unscathed, only suffering from muscle pains and bruising. Armstrong remains focused on maximising his performance on the next Junior World Rally Championship round in June – Rally Italy.
“It’s funny how you just want to get back out and work on the things that went wrong,” admitted Armstrong. “Not thinking about the consequences if you do go off again.
“I think that’s just the way you have to be mentally as a driver. You know what the consequences can be when you choose to get into motorsport, so you accept it from the word go.
“Hopefully we can get back in the car soon, go to Sardinia and get a better result there. Thankfully it’s a lower speed rally which should suit me a bit better with my experience.”
After taking the opening two stages to adjust to his new front-wheel-drive Fiesta, Armstrong was bang on the pace of JWRC leaders through the opening sections of Nyckelvattnet. These tighter sections then changed to a wider and faster road more accustomed to Scandanavian rallying. Armstrong admitted it was this change in road style and an incorrectly calculated pacenote that led to his crash.
“A couple of kilometres after the style of road changed we were caught out on a high-speed section. We came into the corner at over 100 miles per hour.
“It’s just one of those places we didn’t pay enough attention to in the recce. You go down into a dip and then up over a crest, but it is very gradual.
“There was a bit of a bump on the inside which probably put the car out of line a little bit too, but I don’t think that was a massive factor.
“The entry speed was too high. If you watch the onboard, you can see the point where I say, ‘Shit I’ve got too much speed.’
“But at that point you just have to put on more steering lock and try to make it through. The rear came around and we slid down into the ditch and hit the telegraph pole.
“From the data, this seemed to happen at about 95 miles per hour which is a very high speed to go off. I compared it to what I’d say was my worst crash in Finland, and there’s just no comparison to the g-forces and impacts in Sweden.
“They’re fast little cars, sometimes you don’t realise how fast you’re going.
“The telegraph pole doesn’t look too substantial, but it was, and we karate chopped it in two.
“That did a serious amount of damage to my side. It bent the cage beside my head and lower down, behind the seat. Thankfully it wasn’t a more solid object, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
After hitting the telegraph pole the car spun 360 degrees in the air as it was launched out of the roadside ditch. The spin was brought to a sudden stop as the Fiesta hit a bank once again on Armstrong’s side of the car.
“We were shaken up but thankfully we’re here.
“Whenever that happens, you’re just holding on, hoping you’re going to be okay and waiting for it to stop.
“It’s testament to how strong the cars are but it definitely opens your eyes to ways it could be improved.”
Last year’s Down Rally winner made it clear that his crash wasn’t linked to his increased pace earlier on that stage.
“It was maybe a lack of knowledge with pacenotes. I should’ve had something in there to let me know that I was coming into that grade of corner at a higher speed than normal.
“These things happen, I just need to try to prevent it in the future. I need to figure out why it happened and try to spot those areas in the recce again, getting the details precise.
“I was changing a lot of things between the opening stages, damper clicks and things like that, working out how to get the most out of the car.
“I think we were starting to go in the right direction and showed that we had the pace for that level of competition.
“Looking back I should’ve got seat-time in one of the cars on gravel. It’s not something I want to do again, going to a rally and having to figure things out on the stages.
“I expect a high level from myself and want to get the best result I can for all of the people who have supported me. I was trying to be smart in my approach, but I know it probably doesn’t look that way from the outside.”
Putting his crash to the side Armstrong was happy to be back in the WRC service park and is already plotting how to prepare for his return in Rally Italy. Learning from his experience in Sweden Armstrong is hoping to complete a test or rally ahead of the second JWRC round, although this is something he still needs to piece together.
“When you put your own effort and money into something and it bites you in the ass like that, it makes you wonder why you do it.
“But if you want it bad enough you just have to carry on and make things happen. I will probably look back on it and think of it as a good thing because I got away with it.
“I think everyone watches the Junior WRC and follows the times, so it’s a good place for me to achieve what I want in rallying.”