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Fermanagh's Armstrong and Hoy lead Junior WRC despite ill-luck in Portugal

Fermanagh duo Jon Armstrong and Brian Hoy recorded eight stage wins in Portugal.
Jack Keenaghan

FERMANAGH duo Jon Armstrong and Brian Hoy moved into the lead of Junior WRC despite enduring mechanical failures and punctures on Rally Portugal's tyre piercing gravel stages.

They finished fourth on the gruelling event but eight stage wins ultimately gave them the overall championship lead after three rounds.

The Erne county crew put themselves in a strong position on Friday's opening tests. Their skilled start gave them a one-minute lead over World Rally Championship rivals Sami Pajari and Enni Malkonen after six Rally Portugal stages.

Unfortunately a broken rear suspension arm stopped Armstrong's Ford Fiesta Rally3 in its tracks on the penultimate full-length stage on Friday. A bitter pill to swallow as they didn't hit the car; the damage was simply down to the rough terrain the Fiesta had faced during the day.

"It was a shame to retire from the rally lead with a mechanical issue on Friday," Armstrong reflected. "We had been managing quite a big lead and we were specifically trying to look after the car.

"Our approach all day was cautious, avoiding rocks, and staying out of trouble. These things just happen in rallying sometimes and it was important for us not to dwell on it for too long."

Armstrong's early end to Friday's running dropped him from first to fourth in Junior WRC. Ten minutes behind third-placed Robert Virves, his only hope of gaining more points was by winning as many of the remaining stages as possible.

"Recovering stage win points on Saturday and Sunday was crucial. We were fastest on seven of the remaining 12 stages despite having two punctures and a broken anti-roll bar along the way.

"We didn't give up and we just put our heads down to make the most of things in our control.

"Our tally of points gives us a one-point lead in the championship with two rounds to go. We definitely didn't think that was going to be possible on Friday evening.

"It's nice to end the rally on a positive note and now we can look forward to Rally Estonia."

The 27-year-old will jump straight into preparations for the high-speed gravel event that takes place at the start of July.­

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Final Rally Portugal Junior WRC results:

1 Pajari 4:13:33.2s

2 Joona +4:30.2s

3 Virves +23:37.7

4 ARMSTRONG/HOY +30:51.5

5 Kimathi +1:56:38.9

­

­Junior WRC after Round 3 of 5:

1 ARMSTRONG/HOY - 67 points

2 Joona - 66 pts

3 Pajari - 56

4 Virves - 49

5 Creighton - 28

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