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Fermanagh duo Armstrong and Hoy aim to fly at Canary Islands Rally

Fermanagh's Jon Armstrong is heading to the Canary Islands Rally in the European Rally Championship this weekend.
Jack Keenaghan

FERMANAGH driver Jon Armstrong and his navigator Brian Hoy will compete on this weekend’s Canary Islands Rally ahead of their next Junior WRC round in Portugal the following week.

Rally Portugal marks the mid-point in the World Rally Championship’s junior series with the Northern Irish crew currently joint leaders.

They’re returning to the European Rally Championship first, however, as they take on the tricky asphalt roads of Gran Canaria in a front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta Rally4.

“The opportunity to do Canaries cropped up,” explained Armstrong, “and we are keen to get more seat-time.

“It's a good looking rally with very abrasive, twisty tarmac. It has some really fast sections that have angled corners.

“It will be a good experience and we'll be doing our best to get a good result for the team.”

Armstrong drove for M-Sport Poland’s Rally4 ERC team in Hungary last year and has seized the chance to showcase his potential in the series again.

He’ll swap the Rally4 Fiesta for Rally3 once again when he arrives in Portugal next Monday. The Fermanagh-born crew have been Junior WRC’s pacesetters this year but know they will have to tread carefully on Portugal’s rocky roads.

“It is going to be a difficult rally in terms of managing the speed and looking after the car.

“I know I have got good pace on the rally but it is trying to keep that going across the whole event. There are different characteristics of roads and different types of gravel.

“It's all about figuring out the set-up and the best way to drive those stages because they are so different to each other.”

A solid Rally Portugal result would strengthen Armstrong and Hoy’s position at the top of the Junior WRC standings. Armstrong led the rally last year before having to change a punctured wheel and eventually retiring with engine damage.

That was his first event on gravel for several years and with Junior WRC utilising four-wheel-drive machinery in 2022, Armstrong is hopeful of a decent points return.

“My Portugal preparation has been good,” continued the Rally Sweden winner. “We did Rally Azores in March which was a good warm-up for gravel driving in the Rally3 car.

“The event is quite similar to last year's Rally Portugal so I have been working a bit on the pacenotes.

“I feel quite content that I know the rally and the different terrain.

“The plan of attack is to see how we are doing, stay out of trouble, and pick up some good points for the championship.”

The Canary Islands Rally starts with a super-special tomorrow night before 12 further stages on Friday and Saturday.

Rally Portugal starts exactly seven days later with another Thursday night super-special. WRC crews will tackle another 20 stages from Friday to Sunday. The iconic Fafe stage concludes Junior WRC’s third round early on the Sunday afternoon.

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