Jon Armstrong bounced back from his Rally Spain World Rally Championship despair in perfect fashion by helping M-Sport Poland achieve a 1-2 on Rally Hungary’s ERC 3 category.
Junior WRC runners-up, Armstrong and Phil Hall, finished second in the European Rally Championship’s Rally4 class behind M-Sport team-mate Sami Pajari. Their pace was enough to claim 13th overall on the event filled with star Rally2 names.
“It was nice to go and focus on something else straightaway,” said Armstrong when asked about the back-to-back rallies. “I knew whatever happened in Spain, I was going to be doing a rally soon after again.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be the end, it wasn’t going to be a solid stop to my rallying.
“Okay, we knew what we had to go and do in Hungary, but still, there was no big pressure on us either.”
Five stage wins was another sign of Armstrong’s pace this year. His focus on Rally Spain hindered pre-event preparations but it didn’t seem to affect the end result as along with Hall they improved their pacenotes through the two-day rally.
The impressive turn of speed was enough for some M-Sport customers to ask what upgrades the Polish squad was running on the Ford Fiesta Rally4. There was, of course, no such upgrade.
“We don’t know what our plans are for next year so it was good to get a bit more of a flavour of the European championship just in case that’s what we go for next year.
“Working with M-Sport Poland, we have a good relationship with them and we were able to go and do this rally with them.
“The aim was to go as fast and safe as we could, without taking too many risks. We tried to show the pace of the car against the other manufacturers, that was the main aim.
“We obviously achieved that as Sami and I got a 1-2 for M-Sport Poland. That was a great result and it shows the pace that we were on in Junior WRC as well.
“In the European championship there are some really quick drivers and it was nice to see where I was at with them. A challenging event like Hungary was probably a leveler to be honest.
“It showed who the good drivers were and who could deal with the conditions. We had a pretty trouble free event, stayed out of trouble, and pushed when it felt comfortable to do so.”
Rally Hungary was Armstrong’s fourth new event of the year and as he explains, experiencing the unique asphalt rally will do his development no harm at all.
“There was one stage we did twice, and won twice. It’s basically a v-shaped road that runs through a vineyard. It was quite unique, every corner you have extreme positive camber to lean against but also the inside of the corner is chucking the car up.
“Each stage has different gravel sections, wide roads, dry, and in the forest is under the blanket of the trees. It was quite a big challenge, I don’t think I’ve done a rally like that before.
“It was the first time I had done a rally with gravel sections while in full tarmac trim.
“It was actually a good learning curve for me over the weekend. I know people think that I should know it all by now but there is still a lot of stuff that is quite new to me.”
While Armstrong’s season may not be over just yet… his second ERC event of 2021 was a nice chance to reflect on how his career has progressed, especially over the past six months.
“It has been nice to go back to the European championship and get some good results.
“Obviously when I left the British Rally Championship in 2013, I dipped my toes into some ERC events. We were doing that through a family run team. We had some good speed but never got the results.
“But actually it’s nice knowing the speed we did show back then, whenever we shouldn’t really have been showing it. It was quite nice to reflect on what I’ve done in the past and how far I’ve come.”
Photos by European Rally Championship