The 27-year-old set out to build his gravel experience in the four-wheel drive machine with a view to strengthening his FIA Junior WRC title bid. He wasn’t competing for a result, but the pace was evident from the get-go.
A technical issue inflicted by a water splash sidelined Armstrong on Saturday morning, but he restarted the next day to claim victory in ERC3 despite the brakes only working on three corners of the car.
Battling amongst more powerful Rally2 machinery, he placed the Fiesta inside the top ten on six of the speed tests. Discounting day one, his times would have been good enough for seventh in the overall standings.
“The last day went really well,” reflected Armstrong. “Okay, we still had some issues, but I think that it’s been a positive weekend even if we didn’t get the overall position that we wanted.
“We hit a rock and broke the brake disc on the second pass of Sete Cidades, so we had to make some running repairs,” he continued. “We took the disc and caliper off, then we had to close the brake line so that fluid wasn’t coming to that corner of the car.
“On the last stage we had three brakes and the wheel was about to fall off. We didn’t know if we were going to make it to the finish, but thankfully we did.”
The Fiesta Rally3 puts out around 235 brake horsepower compared with the average Rally2 vehicle, which typically has around 280 brake horsepower.
Armstrong believes the characteristics of Azores’ undulating and twisty road suited the car well.
"The Rally3 car is really good, but of course, it doesn't have as much power as the Rally2 cars,” said the Ulsterman. “It's all about just trying to keep your momentum up.
Azores Rallye 2022: Event Recap
“One of the big benefits is that it's got a narrower track [width], so in the tight and twisty stuff, there's probably a good chance that we're able to get through that a bit quicker and also on the downhill we can carry quite a bit of speed.
"Some stages probably suited the car better than others, and anything that was pretty flat or hard downhill was good.”
M-Sport Poland managing director Maciej Woda praised Armstrong, co-driver Brian Hoy and the car - which was put together by his team in Kraków.
He added: “We knew the potential of the Rally3 category in the early stages of development and have seen some similar performances on various national rallies. What Jon and Brian did this weekend was show that top talents really can make themselves known at a much lower cost.
"When I was reading through social media, it seemed a lot of people were loving the David and Goliath performances. I think Rally3 is in a great place right now, it’s fast enough for top ten times but still just the right amount of time away from troubling the top-flight Rally2 crews."