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Sat 19 Aug 2023

Widłak on course for comeback ERC3 win following Armstrong crash

Igor Widłak marked his return to the FIA European Rally Championship 12 months on from winning the ERC3 title by leading the category on Barum Czech Rally Zlín following leg one.

The Polish driver moved into first place after 2023 champion and runaway leader Jon Armstrong crashed heavily on stage six.


Although Armstrong’s M-Sport Poland-run Ford Fiesta Rally3 was badly damaged, both he and co-driver Cameron Fair were able to get out of the car unaided before they were taken to hospital for precautionary medical checks, as is the usual procedure.


The incident highlighted the strength of the Fiesta Rally3 built by M-Sport Poland and the extensive safety measures stipulated in the design and build of FIA category rally cars.


A statement from M-Sport Poland read: “Jon and Cameron rolled their Fiesta Rally3. The pair got out of the car uninjured but have been taken to hospital for precautionary checks. We would like to thank the organisers, marshals, FIA and ERC for the quick thinking and help.”


Prior to the accident, which ended Armstrong’s unbroken run of ERC3 category victories, the 28-year-old from Northern Ireland had set the pace on the first five stages to lead Widłak by 4min 26.9sec.


“Very good and super-enjoyable,” was Armstrong’s summary of the Saturday morning loop. “I was probably a bit too careful on the first stage this morning and we had too soft a car on the front so we had to go a bit stiffer. From there the car was much better and the times have been the record for the car so we’re very, very happy. These stages suit me down to the ground, it’s my sort of territory and I’m really enjoying it, it’s very good."


Widłak said it had been a “very difficult day”, adding: “I was happy until the moment when Jon crashed. I have contact with Jon, he is in hospital and I hope everything is okay with him. I lost all the happiness from today, concentration and everything. I hope he comes back soon. For me everything has been okay today, I don’t drive for one year and it’s hard to come back. I must build my confidence and everything.”


Jakub Matulka’s bid for more ERC3 points ended when he was forced to retire his Fiesta with a steering issue on SS2.


In the FIA ERC4 category, Timo Schulz is on course for victory in his Opel Corsa Rally4, although local Czech star Jaromír Tarabus remains in touching distance, 14.3sec behind after seven stages. Of the non-Junior ERC drivers contesting the ERC4 category, Norman Kreuter holds 11th, Cristiana Oprea is 13th having succeeded in her aim of upping her pace on this afternoon’s repeated stages. Ghjuvanni Rossi was ninth heading into the final stage of the day but has slipped to 14th due to wheel damage.


Barum Czech Rally Zlín concludes tomorrow (Sunday) with three repeated stages over a competitive distance of 92.40 kilometres.