Sun 27 Feb 2022

Armstrong holds on for hard-fought junior win

Jon Armstrong’s FIA Junior WRC campaign started strongly as he fended off Lauri Joona to take victory at Rally Sweden on Sunday.

The chase for glory at the championship opener quickly became a two-horse race when early leaders Sami Pajari and Robert Virves retired on Friday. 

Joona picked up the mantle to lead the M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 field after the opening day, but Armstrong swooped ahead at Saturday’s Brattby speed test. The pair traded positions three times throughout day two, but it was Armstrong who held a 3.5sec advantage heading into the final leg. 

An early morning charge brought Joona back into the top spot, but he was relegated once more on the penultimate blast.

A stage win at Sarsjöliden confirmed Armstrong’s victory by just 2.7sec at the end of one of the closest battles in Junior WRC history. 

"I can't believe it," said last year’s championship runner-up. "I didn't think I was even going to be here two months ago, so to come and win with no pre-event test is crazy. 

"I thought a podium would have been a good result, but this is really something else," he added.

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy star William Creighton ended 2min 19.8sec behind Joona to clinch his first ever Junior WRC podium, whilst East African hotshot Mcrae Kimathi finished fourth. 

After Friday’s disappointment, defending champion Pajari scored several stage wins to finish 49min 28.4sec back from the winner, whilst Virves completed the leaderboard another 11min 05.9sec behind.

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