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Junior WRC - Jon Armstrong claims second victory in Belgium


Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall have laid down the gauntlet for their Junior WRC championship challenge, taking their second victory of the season following a flawless performance on Ypres Rally Belgium.

Armstrong was supreme throughout the entire all-out asphalt affair on Ypres’s iconic roads, taking seven stage wins and leading from start to finish. 
Sami Pajari and co-driver Marko Salminen claimed second position after fighting back from fourth and picking up two Wolf Stage Win points along the way. 
Robert Virves scored his second podium of the season to claim third, narrowly missing out on stage wins throughout the rally.
Lauri Joona was engaged in a fight for the podium, ultimately settling for fourth after initially running second on Friday. 
Martins Sesks had a disastrous event, only two Wolf Stage Win Points on the entire rally, crashing during shakedown and retiring for the day on Saturday after becoming stranded in a ditch. He restarted on Sunday to claim sixth.
William Creighton and Liam Regan hit the ground running on Ypres Rally with competitive times from shakedown, they went on to take a total of seven Wolf Stage Win Points, drawing level best with Armstrong and Hall for most stage wins on Ypres Rally. 
Creighton firmly established himself as a class act and contender for future wins and podiums in Junior WRC following his performance Ypres Rally. A technical issue lost him two minutes on the third stage of the rally but from there the Irishman went from strength to strength, refusing to give up while pushing hard for stage wins. His first stage win came on stage seven on Friday evening but he came into his own on Saturday, pulling another three stage wins. Creighton won three out of the four competitive stages on Sunday eventually finishing fifth, scoring a healthy haul of points.
Robert Virves came to Ypres following a disappointing result on his home rally in Estonia. He surprised many with a very competitive pace on Ypres’s tarmac roads, occasionally challenging for stage wins and ending Friday in second. Saturday saw the Estonian drop to third and ahead of fourth placed Lauri Joona by 30 seconds, an advantage he maintained to the end of the rally, claiming his second Junior WRC podium of 2021.
Pajari initially struggled with confidence and commitment on Ypres Rally, he found some time on the second loop of Friday to begin closing in on a podium position but ended the day without a stage win. On Saturday he struggled again for pace on the opening loop, returning with confidence during the afternoon’s stages to deliver two stage wins and end the day in second. Sunday saw the Finn maintain his position and bring home another very important result to aid his championship campaign.
Armstrong was the man of the moment on Ypres Rally, he topped the timesheets on shakedown and didn’t look back from there. Friday was a particularly effective day for the Northern Irishman, pulling out five stage wins from seven competitive stages to amass a 50-second lead to end the day. Armstrong bagged another two Wolf Stage Win Points on Saturday to further cement his lead which had eclipsed the minute mark after Saturday’s stages. On Sunday Armstrong admitted to be driving with full focus on collecting the result, holding back from pursuing more stage wins and crossed the finish at the Spa Francorchamps circuit to take his second ever FIA Junior WRC event win.
Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager, said: “Huge congratulations to Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall who have both performed exceptionally on Ypres Rally. The pair made no mistakes at all and were supreme throughout, this is an incredible victory for them, and it has rocketed them up the championship standings. Bearing in mind Junior WRC drops a driver’s worst classification score, Jon is in prime position for the championship heading to Rally Spain. Sami Pajari had quite a fight on his hands with this rally, but he dug deep after struggling on Friday morning, putting in a mature drive and claimed a well earned second place. In a similar position, Robert Virves has come back from Rally Estonia and really impressed me with his tarmac speed, especially for an Estonian driver, his preparation really paid off for this one. William Creighton and Liam Regan really impressed me too on Ypres, despite their difficulties, they delivered some really good times, William’s attitude and determination was very admirable. We are now heading to our final round of the championship with double classification points on offer and the chance to win a brand-new Fiesta Rally2, 200 Pirelli tyres and the opportunity of a lifetime! It’s going to be an incredible battle and I really cannot wait!”
1. Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall 02:51:55.4
“It’s been a really good weekend all round we didn’t know what it was going to be like this weekend because the rally is new for the majority of driver in Junior WRC. Thankfully we were really fast out of the blocks we pulled a big lead on day one. Then the rest of the rally we have been trying to manage that. It’s just been very difficult today especially. When you start to try and go slow it’s hard to keep a rhythm and concentrate but it’s fantastic to win and good for the championship.”
2. Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen +01:00.6
“For sure it was a big challenge and for me it was an even bigger challenge. I think Jon really deserved the win, but I think he was more familiar with the stages. I’m really happy for my second place so it wasn’t too bad after so I should be happy with myself.”
3. Robert Virves / Aleks Lesk +01:21.7
“The feeling was good, and I was just driving in the comfortable rhythm main goal was to finish and gain the kilometres to get as much as experience as possible, it’s a unique rally that’s far from easy. I was doing it as preparation for the future. The times weren’t so bad either it was nice to be on the podium again after some quite big issues.”
4. Lauri Joona / Mikael Korhonen +01:47.8
“It was very challenging race and for Finnish guys it’s quite tough, but also I like it. Stages were really narrow especially with the cuts.”
5. William Creighton / Liam Regan +03:31.9
“Good rally, with impressive pace especially on today’s stages as it was new for everyone today. It’s a shame about the issue on Friday but it was outside of our control, we were really happy to show our pace with seven stage wins and well done to Jon.”
6. Martins Sesks / Renars Francis +71:29.7
“I think it is the most disappointing rally that I have learned the most from, which is the hardest part of the rally.”