JWRC - Armstrong and Hoy Win Junior WRC Opener in Sweden | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

JWRC - Armstrong and Hoy Win Junior WRC Opener in Sweden

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  • Jon Armstrong and Brian Hoy soared to the top of the FIA Junior WRC Championship after winning Rally Sweden while scoring five Wolf Stage Win Points along the way. 
  • Sami Pajari appeared to be the initial pace setter, despite a fuel pump issue preventing an overall result, he scored the most Wolf Stage Win Points in Junior WRC.
  • Irishmen William Creighton and Liam Regan score their maiden Junior WRC podium with the pair also claiming a Wolf Stage Win Point on Friday too. Kenya’s McRae Kimathi and
  • Mwangi Kioni managed to finish in fourth on the Junior WRC debut, having never driven on snow and ice before in their lives. 

Robert Virves kicked off Rally Sweden in strong form, taking the opening Wolf Stage Win Point of Junior WRC’s new four-wheel-drive era but his speed soon became his undoing. The Estonian crashed on stage two, retiring for the day. He focussed on picking up stage wins on Saturday, despite not picking up a single stage win, he was on the pace all day, underlining his talent and skill. Sunday was a relatively uneventful day for the speedy Estonian, he challenged for stage wins but ended the rally sixth, with just a single Wolf Stage Win Point to his name.
Reigning champion Sami Pajari claimed his first Wolf Stage Win Point on the second stage of the rally, seizing the rally lead which was to be short-lived, with Pajari retiring for the day after having a fuel pump issue. He returned on Saturday as a man on a mission to maximise every opportunity to score Wolf Stage Win Points. Pajari did just that, taking five stage wins in a row but was denied a clean sweep of stages by Armstrong on the final stage of the day. Sunday saw Pajari make a sluggish start, struggling to match the pace of Armstrong and Joona until the final stage of the rally which he won by one-tenth of a second. 
McRae Kimathi prioritised finishing over performing on Rally Sweden to build his experience. Kimathi emerged fourth overall by the conclusion of Friday and maintained his
position throughout the rally, making it to the finish on Sunday without issue while steadily improving his pace and confidence.
William Creighton put himself forward as a well-rounded driver on Rally Sweden after proving himself handy on Tarmac in 2021. The Irishman claimed his maiden 2022 Wolf Stage Win Point on Friday evening and ended the day in third, setting him on course for his first ever Junior WRC podium. Creighton held his position throughout the rally, though he slipped away from the leading pack he did occasionally challenge for stage wins.
Armstrong exceeded everybody’s expectations on Rally Sweden with the 2021 runner-up hitting the ground running on Friday, claiming two Wolf Stage Win Points, and ending the day second. Lauri Joona held the overnight lead in Junior WRC on Friday night, 7.7 seconds ahead of Armstrong after claiming a pair of Wolf Stage Win Points along the way. 
Saturday saw a true dogfight breakout between Joona and Armstrong as the lead changed three times throughout the day. Armstrong jumped into the lead following Saturday’s opening stage, but Joona responded on the following stage to jump back in front. Joona held Armstrong off until the last stage on Saturday which saw Armstrong take the stage win and lead Joona in the classification by 3.5 seconds.
Joona hit back on Sunday morning with a stage win, leapfrogging Armstrong in the classification to lead by just half a second. Armstrong hammered in a fastest time on the following stage to go exactly one second faster than Joona, putting himself exactly half a second ahead and then extended his lead on the penultimate stage of the rally to three seconds.
By the final stage, Armstrong gave little time away on the Wolf Power Stage, losing just three tenths of a second to Joona, claiming the opening victory of the season and arguably his most convincing victory in Junior WRC to date. 
Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager, said: “We have had one of the most epic battles in Junior WRC history. It has been three years since we had a battle like we saw between Lauri and Jon today, on four separate occasions this weekend the lead has been less than a second and it never went over ten seconds! I think this speaks volumes for what we can expect for the rest of the season. It’s a brilliant victory for Jon but also a great show of talent from Lauri who is showing he is in the fight for the championship this year. William Creighton is a great example of how much you can learn in Junior WRC, he started as a rookie last year and by the end of the year was challenging for stage wins. Now in 2022 he has scored his first podium on a surface he has no experience on. Sami Pajari stole the show when it came to Wolf Stage Win Points and delivered a great performance when you consider his chances of victory quickly disappeared. I also want to Point out that, although he only picked up one stage win, Robert’s performance has been exceptional in terms of pace. Finally after a very challenging week, McRae Kimathi has become the first Kenyan to finish Rally Sweden which is a huge achievement, one which he should be very proud of. Not only did he finish every stage of the rally but he managed to claim fourth overall which is an outstanding result!”
Jon Armstrong, Rally Sweden winner, said: “I'm a bit surprised. First of all, I did not think I would be starting the season as it all came together very late, so I was just happy to start. But the feeling was good at Shakedown and on Friday we made more progress. The fight against Lauri was very intense, I don’t think I have had such a tough fight against anyone before. I can’t believe it, to come here and win is crazy, I thought a podium would be good, to take the win is something else. Me and Brian worked really hard, got on really well and the notes have been really good, it’s been easy to commit to the notes as they were really consistent. What a start to the championship.”