Armstrong Prepares To Make Giant Leap

Art McCarrick
By Art McCarrick
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In 1169 there was an invasion from Wales into Ireland which changed the history of this island forevermore. A little over 800 years later though, the tables are about to be turned somewhat as Irish drivers invade Wales for the first round of the British Rally Championship. It's a championship that has served men from this side of the Irish sea very well in recent years, with Cork driver Keith Cronin winning 3 of the last 4 championships. This year there will be well over half a dozen drivers from north and south of the border looking to challenge for honours, with one of the youngest being 18 year old Jon Armstrong for Kesh in Co. Fermanagh.



The young hotshot from the Lakeland County has attracted a lot of attention since bursting onto the scene last year in a Ford Fiesta ST. Some promising outings on local events led to the purchase of a newer, more powerful Fiesta for this season and it is in this car that Jon plans to contest the BRC. "We don't really know what to expect in terms of pace against the other guys" said Jon speaking from his Fermanagh base ahead of the season opening round in Wales on the 6th/7th of April. "It is all about getting experience this year, if we are on the pace against the others then it will be a bonus." A good way for a young driver in Armstrong's position to keep focused on the task at hand is to pair up with an experienced co driver and Armstrong will be partnered this year by Galway based Meathman, Martin Brady. Brady is one of the top co drivers in the country and it will be his job to keep Jon between the ditches for the forthcoming year. "Having an experienced co driver alongside can be very helpful to a young driver like Jon" said Brady yesterday. Having sat with 72 different drivers on 255 rallies Brady is well qualified to give an opinion on his young pilot and he rates him highly. "Having sat alongside a lot of drivers, Jon is right up there in terms of raw talent. Coupled with that, he takes advice on board and is never petulant which is a good sign in a young driver. I have to remind myself sometimes that I'm almost twice his age but the age gap doesn't cause tension in or out of the car. I'm probably on the phone to Jon more often than any other driver!"




Rallying can be a prohibitively expensive sport and Jon and his team have been busy knocking on doors ahead of this season looking for sponsorship to help him realise his ambitions in the sport and Jon received a recent boost in the form of sponsorship from Battery Energy Drink. In addition to the deal with Battery, Jon has launched his innovative "roofie scheme" where a £10 donation will see you to get your name on the roof of his rally car for this season and enter you a draw to get a high speed passenger ride with the Fermanagh flier. Jon commented on the scheme, "It's something different and the initial response has been great, it's hard to get sponsors at the moment but little ideas like this help get your name out there." You can find out more about the scheme on Jon's website and you can follow the teams progress on Twitter this season @JonArmstrong84 and @MartinBrady44. And if you are in any doubt of how fast Jon is, watch this fantastic bit of on board footage from earlier this year. He definitely has a future in the sport.






Armstrong will face strong competition in Wales from Monaghan man Daniel McKenna. McKenna won the prestigious Billy Coleman Award last year which brings with it a €50,000 windfall and he also posseses an uncanny talent behind the wheel of a rally car. The money has allowed McKenna to tackle the BRC and he will do so in an identical car to Armstrong. Other men taking the ferry to compete in Wales are, Mark Donnelly, Desi Henry, Dean Raftery, Alastair Fisher, David Carney, Tim Cathcart and Brendan Cumiskey. In other news Mayo co driver Killian Duffy (who I spoke to in my last column) finished 3rd on the Kuwait round of the Middle East Rally Championship and the Irish pair of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle finished in the runner up spot on the Rally Islas Canarias last weekend. Breen drove a mature rally in his Peugeot 207 and the result places him 2nd in the points race for the European Rally Championship.



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