Sat 17 Jun 2023

Advantage Armstrong in ERC3 Yamamoto leads ERC4

While Mārtiṇš Sesks has been on dominant form at the head of the Tet Rally Liepāja pack, Jon Armstrong has been similarly impressive in the FIA ERC3 category for Rally3 cars.

Armed with a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 Evo from M-Sport Poland, the Northern Irishman has clocked an unbroken run of gravel stage bests alongside his Scottish co-driver Cameron Fair to lead the category by 1min 20.2sec at the completion of Saturday’s fast-paced action.

The ERC3 winner on the opening three rounds of the season, Armstrong made his intentions in Latvia known from the outset by going quickest on the first two stages of today (Saturday) by 12.6sec and 12.7sec respectively.

But he saved his best for stage four, setting the pace through the 26.02km Īvande test by 30.5sec. That gave him a lead of 1min 06.0sec, which he grew to 1min 20.0sec by winning stage five. Although Piotr Parys denied him a fifth stage win out of five by 0.1sec on the rain-hit Liepāja City Stage, it was a highly impressive first leg effort nevertheless.

“The car set-up wasn’t quite what we needed on the first stage, but we made a lot of changes to the set-up to go back to what we had in Poland [and make it more stable] and straight away it was much better on the third stage,” Armstrong explained. “We had a top 10 overall time, which was really good. We’re happy with the car and happy with the day and trying to push hard. It’s been really positive and we’re enjoying it.”

Polish Fiesta Rally3 drivers Jakub Matulka and Parys are second and third respectively, just 2.2sec apart, with Paulo Soria fourth, the Argentine losing ground in his Renault Clio Rally3 with an overshoot on stage four. But with his experience aboard the all-new Clio still in short supply, Soria’s performance is worthy of praise. “We are missing grip and when you arrive in the corner it’s really hard to drive, but the rest of the car is so good,” he said. “We just need more kilometres to understand better the car.”

Sixteen-year-old Jaspar Vaher had been the driver to beat in the FIA ERC4 category after he demoted Toyota Gazoo Racing development driver Yuki Yamamoto for first position on SS5. But when Vaher’s Ford Fiesta Rally4 was found to be under the permitted weight limit following technical checks, his exclusion handed the overnight lead to Yamamoto.

The Japanese driver is 38.3sec ahead of his team-mate Nao Otake with FIA Junior ERC pacesetter Max McRae next up followed by Ola Nore, who is 1.0sec behind McRae. Hikaru Kogure is fifth, while championship leader Roberto Daprà is ninth heading into Sunday’s four-stage deciding leg.

More ERC
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM