Fri 29 Mar 2024

ERC Take Five with Jon Armstrong

Having taken the FIA ERC3 Championship by storm in 2023 driving an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3, Jon Armstrong steps up to European rallying’s top tier in 2024 when he’ll go for outright honours aboard the Rally2 equivalent – and with the full support of Malcolm Wilson’s famous team.

With the start of the ERC’s 71st season just weeks away, this is what the 29-year-old Armstrong has had to say as he bids for more career success.  

Driving a Ford Fiesta Rally2 on all eight rounds of the ERC with M-Sport’s full support represents a fantastic opportunity for you. How much work went into getting everything over the line?
“It’s something that’s been working in the background for a while. Most of my rallying has been through M-Sport and I’ve worked quite closely with Maciej [Woda] from M-Sport Poland on the Rally3 programme. After a successful year last year Maciej was pushing Malcolm [Wilson] and Rich [Millener] to try to put something together and that’s where it all formalised from. In terms of my other sponsors like Seacon UK, they’ve worked with M-Sport on their logistics for the world championship and I know the owners pretty well, so it’s a really good synergy. And the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is also something that’s been going on in the background and has now come together. But I’m just really appreciative to have the opportunity and for M-Sport to give me a chance is something you always dream of when you are growing up given this history they have in the sport. It’s really cool.”

Have there been moments in your career when you feared this moment might never come – the crash on Barum Czech Rally Zlin last year and on Rally Sweden in 2020, for example?
“It’s always hard to come back from those moments. Financially and mentally it’s tough to get back on the saddle, but as long as you can get back behind the wheel and put it behind you it’s never so bad, especially if you can learn from those sorts of things. But you’re never certain if you’re going to get an opportunity like this. I’ve always just had a drive not to give up. I was reluctant to hang up the boots and forget about it so it’s something I’ve always been pushing for and thankfully it’s come before I ran out of time.”

The Fiesta Rally2 hasn’t been the most dominant car at ERC level in recent years. Is that a concern?
“M-Sport have been putting a lot of effort into the car. With Adrien [Fourmaux] last year there was a lot of development going on in the background with his campaign. Even in Sardinia he was beating everyone [before he crashed on the final stage]. I’m confident the car is capable of it and I’ve got the tools to do it, it’s more a case of me and Eoin [Treacy] getting up to speed with everything and finding the right balance for us. But the main thing is to show the car is capable of setting those times with anyone and you can see that now in the regional championships, the British and the Irish championships. That’s the short-term goal, get up to speed, show the potential and as the season goes on we’ll be looking to get closer to the top step. Obviously there’s goals and expectations but we’re all working together in the one direction.”

You mention Eoin Treacy, your new co-driver for 2024. How is the new partnership working out?
“I’ve changed co-drivers quite a bit actually. It’s never what you set out to do but I’ve done it quite a few times and as long as the co-driver, like Eoin, has the capabilities and they’ve got the hunger and motivation there’s no issues. I just need to support him to get up to speed with how I like things. We’ve already been doing recce practice and spent the day in M-Sport working on the car. We’ve done a short test and he’s obviously part of the MI Rally Academy as well so the synergy is really good, we’re getting support and I’m confident that support in the background gives us the confidence in the long run.”

The competition will again be fierce in the ERC this season. Does that fill you with dread or excitement?
“It’s good to have good competition, you need to benchmark yourself against the best drivers to know where you’re at. It will only improve me as a driver the higher the competition is. So to have Hayden [Paddon] coming back, Mads Østberg, Mārtiņš Sesks, all the other drivers… there’s a good crop of drivers but they’ll be going at a pace that’s the level and then that’s up to me to get to that point. Once you drive with someone who is maybe at a higher level to where you are, you’re naturally going to improve and that’s something that happened to me even when I went to the Junior WRC. Okay there might be a bit of a wake-up call but as long as you’re determined and you put in the work you can get there, that’s always my belief.”  

V-Híd Rally Hungary, based in the city of Veszprém, south of the capital Budapest, opens the 2024 ERC season from 12 - 14 April.

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