Jon Armstrong : Rising Star in BRC : Powered by Battery Energy Drink
Jon is an 18 year old student from Northern Ireland and has one year’s stage rallying under his belt.
In 2012 he completed his first ever rally (OMC Spring Rally) and finished 13th overall, first in class and first front wheel drive car. For the remainder of the 2012 season he competed in the BRC Challenge and on his first event (Bulldog) retired whilst leading by around 13s. On the Jim Clark he retired also with car trouble but finished 2nd on the Ulster challenge rally which was great. Jon and Martin also picked up the Castrol Young charger award for winning every stage of the Ulster fiesta challenge.
Just recently Jon upgraded from the Fiesta St to a Ford Fiesta R2 spec car and has had a really good result in only his second event in the car where he finished 6th overall and first in class finishing only 4seconds of the DS3 R3 of Desi Henry who was a top contender in last year’s British Rally Championship and has a superior car.
As a youngster, Jon drove his off-road go-kart till the sun went down and then once he learnt to drive at the age of 8 he got his first car which he raced about fields near his home. At the age of 13 he competed in rally sprints in a Vauxhall Nova 1.2 and won the junior class 3 times. He then upgraded to a Fiat Stilo Abarth which he used to claim second in the class four rallysprint championship. After this he upgraded to The Ford Fiesta ST and won the class four rallysprint championship in 2010 at the age of 15, he also won a rallysprint overall in the little ST, beating four-wheel drive machinery.
In 2013 Jon will compete in the British Rally Championship in my Fiesta R2. The car may not be a match for the DS3 R3’s which dominate the front of the championship but they will give it their best to be close if not as fast as them. The team has great expectations to be one of the quickest in the R2 class which has its own championship.
‘If we were to have good results we might get rewarded with a Pirelli star drive jersey which gives us a chance of winning a fully funded drive in 2014 with a Pirelli backed DS3 R3. With the help and support of Edinc we will be fully charged with Battery Energy Drink for an all and out fight this season.’
Armstrong Rewarded Pirelli Star Driver Nomination on Ulster
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 fgot 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”.
Armstrong’s Scot no Luck in Dumfries
Fermanagh Teenager Jon Armstrong started Round 3 of the 2013 British Rally Championship in high hopes of improving upon his recent misfortune. The one day event, which is based in Dumfries saw the BRC competitors tackle 9 gravel stages in the Galloway forest complex.
The event would however be no walk in the park as Jon welcomed a new face to the Co-driver’s seat. Eighteen year-old Jack Morton from Newcastle which meant that Jon and Jack entered as the youngest crew in the rally, in fact only two days separated the pair.
It was to be Jon’s second event making his own pace notes, an art that takes a lot of skill and experience to get right. This combined with a new Co-Driver may have been of concern to others but Jon took it all in his stride.
The crew made their notes on Friday during the BRC Recce and went into Saturday morning’s stages a little anxious but optimistic. The rally started with a loop through Windy Hill, AE West and the Heathhall spectator stage before returning to service. This tested the relationship between Jon and Jack, and the pair came into the first service halt 3rd in R2 with some competitive times. Jon however admitted it had been a cautious start “We are only really getting use to each other, at the moment I am being careful because the stages are really rough and I need to gain experience”.
Holding third place would have put Jon in the line for being awarded the Pirelli Star Driver award on this round, as the two drivers in front had already been nominated. The partnership between driver and co-driver was getting stronger with each stage mile and every corner. This was shown on the second pass of Windy hill as they set 2nd fastest R2 time, taking some time out of the two drivers in front. Lady Luck then rose its ugly head about 4 miles into the second pass of the 13 mile stage AE West as a sharp stone pierced through the front left tyre. With no other choice but to stop and change, the time loss exceeded 5 minutes when one of the wheel nuts wouldn’t come loose. At the stage end Jon commented on the incident “We hit a stone with the front left tyre, it was a corner on a crest and the sharp stone was just sitting on the line. I tried to avoid it but it sliced a hole in the side wall and we had to stop and change”.
Dropping to 5th place in R2 meant that the pair had nothing to lose, so they went on a big push on the last 3 stages. On the 8 miles of stage 7, Jon recorded a time 3.6s slower than fastest R2 which was impressive as they had picked up a slow puncture about 1.5 mile from the finish. A remote service followed which gave the service crew a chance to check the car over before heading back into the Galloway forest for the last two stages. A delay was however to cause stage 8 being cancelled which meant that one final sprint through the 13.4 miles of Clatteringshaws would bring an end to the rally.
The final stage saw Jon and Jack get their first fastest R2 stage time by 31s, which was a fantastic way to end the rally. It left them to wonder what could have been if they had not picked up that puncture on stage 5. The pair ended the rally 5th R2 and 14th overall which promotes Jon to 3rd in the R2 Championship and he continues to lead the BRC newcomers standings.
The next event, The Ulster Rally, takes place on the 23rd and 24th of August. It is based in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh which is Jon’s home event. Stay tuned for a full preview!
Jon is partnered by: Monaghan Brothers, Jennings Fuels & Lubricants, Tyrone Truck & Trailer, Battery Energy Drink, Loane Transport Ltd, Lakeland Tyres, McKenna Farm Supplies and Drumhoney Holiday Park.
Jim Clark Lessons as Armstrong chases Tarmac Experience
Jon Armstrong, the 18 year old rally talent form Fermanagh Northern Ireland tackled his second British Rally Championship event of the season and also his second ever tarmac event over the June 1st weekend. It was expected to be a challenge for the youngster as the Jim Clark Rally is one to be respected given its prestigious history and previous winners not to mention the visible holes in hedges that show where it has caught out people on previous attempts. As the only closed road tarmac rally on the UK mainland it is a revered and celebrated event with a special atmosphere right from the town centre start in Duns.
This was to be the first stage of the rally with a short blast around the narrow town streets and Jon in his Ford Fiesta took to it cautiously to end the stage 22 nd overall. The plan at this point was just to settle into his Fiesta R2 now in tarmac trim for the first time and also gain confidence in the pace notes which Jon had prepared himself for the first time ever in his short rally career to date.
The confidence in the car was good heading to the second stage which was the famous 16 mile Abbey St Bathans stage, a relentless attack over farm land hills, as it sinews its way over cattle grids and steep fast sections that wait to punish the unwary over exuberant driver. This was surely to be the test of Armstrong and how comfortable he was with both his car and pace notes which in no uncertain terms were untried for him on this surface and type of tarmac test. However Jon did not disappoint and took tenth fastest and second in class behind local driver Gary Pearson who was in an identical Ford Fiesta. This left Jon in 14 th overall on the leader board but second in the Fiesta battle slightly ahead of Irishman Daniel McKenna. Armstrong was to hold this position over the next two stages including the repeat of the town stage in front of the many fans now out to enjoy the rally.
However the return to the Abbey St Bathans hills was where it all began to unravel for Jon and codriver Martin Brady, a fast start to the stage was going well and the rhythm over the crests, humps and cattle grids was all under animated control when a small sliver of an exposed rock at the edge of the road made contact with a rear wheel with a telling clink of metal meeting a solid object. The Pirelli tyre predictably could not withstand such a hard blow and in less than a mile the tyre was off the rim and there was no option but to stop and change the wheel with about 10 miles of stage left to go. The puncture change was exemplary and Jon and Martin were out of the car with wheel replaced and back on the move again in just under 2 minutes, making the best of a bad situation by minimising that time loss with the quick wheel change. Regrettably fate had not finished with Armstrong & Brady and as the stage climbed to its foggy summit in the fading daylight another puncture was to lie in wait for the crew. With the front left wheel now deflating and stopping on a steep downhill section before a cattle grid junction the car spun sideways towards the fence lined field. Codriver Martin freely admitting “as the car approached the junction in completely the wrong direction I was packing my bag and waiting for the bang that would signal the end of our rally but somehow Jon didn’t surrender so easily and he managed to pitch the car backwards and we travelled into the field backwards to a thankfully soft stop with only a minor dent on the boot lid from a fence post, knowing we had used about 9 lives getting away with that moment we sombrely made our way over the final 1.9 miles of the stage to resume puncture changing duties again at the finish of the stage”. Yet despite getting away almost scot free with such a moment there was still a time loss of over 4 minutes compared to the previous time over the stage for Armstrong, bitterly disappointing for the crew but a not unexpected consequence of two punctures one a roadside repair and the other pre-empting a trip into a field. The car still handled like new and there was no mechanical damage. A flapping boot lid from bent catches was the only issue that hampered the Fiesta over the final stage of the night, as it trailed behind the car on the last stage like a parachute the bottom line was Jon & Martin had dropped down out of the top 20 drivers and day two and its eight stages would now be a fight back up the order.
Day two began with an intention to reset from the maladies of the first night and to begin to rebuild the confidence after the field trip of the Abbey St Bathans stage. Jon had to be cognisant that he was still learning both the car and his pace notes so that approach was the mindset the crew began day 2 with. Gary Pearson was still the benchmark in the Fiesta class and he was being chased hard by Daniel McKenna, this meant Jon’s target was to stay as close as possible to the times of these guys without taking un necessary chances trying in vain to recover a 4 minute time loss. Pearson was soon to leave the fight parked stuck in a ditch on a slippy corner at the end of greasy straight, and such was the conditions Jon also overshot the very next corner after Pearson’s departure and had to reverse back from a gravel driveway to recover from the overshoot, Jon describing the braking surface for the corner as “like a bottle”. The following Daniel McKenna admitted he found the surface there lethal and only he escaped incident as he braked early catching sight in the distance of Armstrong pulling away from the overshoot with the stage marker tape streaming behind as a reminder.
Confidence was returning in the Armstrong Fiesta and as the stages dried out Jon was literally getting to grips with everything from pace notes to the Fiesta’s performances and the timesheets confirmed this as Jon set two fastest Fiesta times ahead of both McKenna and the round 1 victor, Steve Rokland. By the end of the final stage Jon had pulled back to 14th overall and 5th Fiesta and in a last stage battle just managed to pip David Carney by 9.4 seconds to once more claim the top place in the BRC Ravenol Newcomers Trophy. A silver lining in a weekend and a rally that started positive, became gloomy after the Abbey St Bathans bit a large chunk of time away from the Fiesta to then return to a positive by the end of the event.
Jon had this to say at the finish “I am happy with what we learned this weekend and the car worked really well and we got good experience of our notes and the car on tarmac this weekend. It was a tough rally and the punctures were a big disappointment but that’s rallying and to get close to Daniel McKenna’s times here was a really good thing today as I know he goes so well on tarmac and he is definitely the benchmark”
Martin Brady codriver commented “once again this rally Jon drove with a maturity and a solid temperament that makes you forget he is only 18 years of age and four rallies under his belt in this car, I was hugely impressed especially when he saved us from certain disaster on Abbey St Bathans, we had a great rally together in the car and even changed the puncture in perfect unison, I am really looking forward to the rest of the rallies and the season because I know we can keep improving”
The next rally is less than a month away and the BRC series will return to gravel and return to Scotland for the Scottish in Dumfries. As unpredictable as rallying is, there is a guarantee that for this rally Armstrong will be right up there on the pace and if luck can stay with him then hopes are high for a good result on the next step of the BRC championship.
Jon 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 www.jonarmstrong.co.uk for up to date results and stories.
BRC Bridge Bouncing as Armstrong battles season opener
Jon Armstrong, the excitingly speedy teenager from Kesh Co Fermanagh, began his motorsport season in earnest on the Pirelli Richard Burns Foundation Rally in Carlisle last weekend, along with the fastest and most competitive fellow drivers in the MSA British Rally Championship.
Driving his family prepared Ford Fiesta, he took on the challenge of other crews in identical cars from the UK & Ireland and also Scandinavia. A tall order for Jon in what was his debut at this the sports highest British level. However such novice status did not deter him as he took to the stages with confidence and speed which led to a second fastest time amongst the Fiesta drivers.
It was a positive indication of his ability behind the wheel and gave Jon 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, Jon minimised the peril of the moment, but no such contact can go unpunished at that speed and Jon and Martin were to now find themselves hampered with a bent rear axle.
This 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 Martin 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 stage four 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 of 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 4th 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.
Jon 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 www.jonarmstrong.co.uk for up to date results and stories.
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