Engine failure stops Jon Armstrong's promising Portugal performance

By Adam Hall

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 7:29 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 7:32 am
Jon Armstrong was flying before his engine failure (Images M-Sport/ Junior WRC)

Jon Armstrong endured mechanical heartbreak on the second round of Junior WRC - Rally Portugal. The first gravel event of this year’s World Rally Championship claimed its fair share of casualties as the rocky terrain took its toll on driveshafts, wheels, and suspension components.

However, it was engine failure that ended Armstrong’s podium challenge in Portugal at the start of Saturday’s penultimate stage, Amarante.

The Codemasters DiRT Rally Team had been leading the Junior WRC section of Rally Portugal on Friday. Armstrong and co-driver Phil Hall went fastest on four of the opening five stages to build a sizable 36-second advantage. But their lead was wiped out when a Stage 6 puncture cost them four minutes.

Portugal's rough terrain took its toll on the front-wheel-drive Ford Fiestas (Images M-Sport/ Junior WRC)

The British crew bounced back with two more stage wins helping them return to a podium position. Armstrong had been quickest through the first pass of the 38-kilometre Amarante test on Saturday morning and had hoped to claim another stage-winning point on its repeated run.

Unfortunately, their challenge came to an abrupt end when their Ford Fiesta Rally4 voiced its engine-related problems. Armstrong and Hall tried to find a stage-side fix but were advised to let their M-Sport Poland mechanics cure the stricken car overnight.

With five stages left on Sunday Armstrong remained confident of recovering a decent haul of championship points. However, Junior WRC engineers quickly realised that their engine damage was terminal, forcing them to retire the car.

Armstrong’s Rally Portugal retirement cost him 15 championship points and his lead in the Junior WRC standings. His six stage-winning points could prove crucial in his title challenge as he can drop his worst classification score at the end of Junior WRC season while keeping his stage-win bonus points.

The Codemasters DiRT Rally Team remains right in the Junior WRC fight, sitting third in the standings. Dropped scores would currently put them back at the top so it is all to play for as the young drivers prepare for the next round in July - Rally Estonia.

“It is good to still be sitting third in the standings after a DNF,” explained Armstrong. “That is thanks to our stage-win points.

“I’m obviously disappointed not to finish the rally and get more points but we have to be happy with our performance pace-wise.

“Estonia will be another tough challenge but we will be ready for it.

“Thanks to our partners and everyone behind the scenes for all their hard work, it’s good to be rewarding them with speed and a strong start to the year.”

Final Junior WRC Rally Portugal results:

1 Sesks 4:15:52.7s

2 Pajari +3:11.8s

3 Virves +12:08.1

4 Koci +38:44.8

5 Creighton +40:44.9

6 Joona +1:11:09.1

7 Armstrong / Hall DNF

8 Badiu DNF

Junior WRC standings after Round 2:

1 Sesks 46 pts

2 Pajari 37

3 Armstrong 33

4 Koci 31

5 Koci 28

6 Creighton 21

7 Badiu 20

8 Virves 7