Jon Armstrong will start his 50th rally next week as he embarks on another season in the World Rally Championship. After finishing second in Junior WRC last year, Armstrong is hoping to go one better in 2022.
Rally Sweden kicks off the five-round campaign and Armstrong will run #50 on his door in M-Sport Poland’s 50th Rally3 Fiesta on his 50th event.
Satisfying statistics won’t fill the 27-year-old’s mind for too long, however. Sweden’s snow-covered forest stages will demand every ounce of the Northern Irishman’s attention.
With several Nordic and Baltic drivers returning to the series, Armstrong and his compatriot William Creighton will start the season opener as early underdogs.
Returning champion, Sami Pajari, and fellow Finn Lauri Joona are Junior WRC favourites for Rally Sweden success.
Armstrong, who won two Junior WRC events in 2021, reckons a podium in Sweden is a fair aim.
“I think Sweden is going to be a tough task as I won’t be doing a test beforehand,” said Armstrong. “That is what I am working on now – to get some budget to test before events. I think that will be really important for this season.
“Sweden is obviously going to be a big task but the main thing is to enjoy it, get into a good rhythm from the start, make sure I am happy with my pacenotes, and start committing to those as the event goes on.
“I think if I can get a podium in Sweden then that would be a great result.
“It’s four-wheel-drive this year which is new for me, last year was front-wheel-drive.
“It is going to be a bit different and it is unclear who will be the fastest but I think I am ready to give it my all.”
WRC crews will tackle over 300 competitive kilometres on Rally Sweden which runs for the first time in two years. Armstrong’s run on that event came to a bruising end but he is very much in a different headspace this time around.
2020’s Rally Sweden lacked the snow element of a winter rally and has subsequently moved around 500 kilometres north for its return. The rally’s 19 stages will now take place around the city of Umea which sits on Sweden’s eastern coast straddling the Gulf of Bohemia.
Another new element for Armstrong in 2022 will be his co-driver, Brian Hoy. Despite residing from his home county of Fermanagh, Hoy hasn’t navigated for Armstrong before.
Hoy has plenty of international experience, though, alongside Callum Devine in both the World and European Rally Championship.
“It will be really good having Brian onboard this year,” commented Armstrong. “It is something nice for everybody back home to be supporting us.
“I think Brian has got more than enough experience to be able to do the job properly. I am sure we will get on really well, even coming from the same part of the world should help.
“There will be lots of things we can learn from each other. There will be things that Brian does differently that I can feed off and things that I have learned over the past year that I can share with him. I think it will work really well and I am looking forward to it.”
Rally Sweden starts with a shakedown on 24 February with the timed stages starting early the following morning.
Rally Sweden WRC 3 Junior entry list
48 Sami Pajari – Enni Malkonen (FIN/FIN)
49 Lauri Joona – Mikael Korhonen (FIN/FIN)
50 Jon Armstrong – Brian Hoy (GBR/IRL)
51 Robert Virves – Aleks Lesk (EST/EST)
52 William Creighton – Liam Regan (IRL/IRL)
53 Jean-Baptiste Franceschi – Anthony Gorguilo (FRA/FRA)
54 Kimathi McRae – Kioni Mwangi (KEN/KEN)
55 Panagiotis Roustemis – Bakloris Christos (GRC/GRC)
Photos courtesy of Junior WRC