Wednesday | 19 May 2021

Armstrong tops talented Junior entry in Portugal

Just weeks after a gripping opening round in Croatia, the FIA Junior WRC action switches to gravel at this week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (20 - 23 May).

Heading up the field of identical M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally4 cars is Croatia Rally victor Jon Armstrong.

The Ulsterman has previous experience of Portugal, having finished fourth in class in 2016, but admits the challenge ahead will be ‘tough’. 

“It’s a very demanding event that takes both speed and a little bit of care for the car and tyres. It’s a nice challenge,” explained the 26-year-old. 

“To be going into a rally leading the championship is really cool for me personally, now we just need to keep performing at our best and see where we are at the end of the rally,” he added.

Martin Koči starts the Matoshinos-based event with plenty of experience behind him. The Slovakian star already has four Portugal starts to his name and hopes that extra knowledge will play to his advantage. 

VIDEO: BEST OF JUNIOR WRC IN PORTUGAL

Koči established himself as an early season favourite after leading the Croatia Rally battle for almost two days before a puncture dashed all hopes of a victory. 

“I have been here a few times. The last time was 2016 - we finished second after losing the lead and breaking a damper on the last section. It was still a great rally which I really enjoyed. 

"It is also going to be tricky with the first day being a very long day with no service. The second day is a big portion of mileage, so we will see," he said.

Croatia runner-up Mārtiņš Sesks will be aiming to bring home a maximum points haul, whilst Sami Pajari could also be one to watch. The Finnish hotshot rolled during the opening day at round one, but still went on to take nine fastest stage times. 

Pajari’s fellow countryman Lauri Joona believes the rally will be one of the toughest on the calendar and has vowed to take a ‘tactical’ approach in a bid to look after the car and tyres, whilst championship rookie William Creighton plans to stay out of trouble. 

Raul Badiu and Robert Virves round out the entry. Both drivers arrive in Portugal with scores to settle after off-road excursions at the opening round dropped them down the standings. 

  • Full coverage from Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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