Following their second victory of 2021 at Ypres in the Junior World Rally Championship, Jon Armstrong (26, Kesh, Co Fermanagh, N.I.) and Phil Hall (33, Nottingham) will be going to the finale in WRC Spain (Oct 14-17) in a three way fight for the world title, but before then they are throwing themselves into the deep end by competing in their first ever classic car rally!
JWRC will meet Classic car rallying in a clash of disciplines, WRC is flat out over special stages whilst HERO-ERA regularity rallying is about average speeds and hitting hidden controls on the exact time. Once on private land for speed tests, Jon and Phil won’t have pace notes to guide them but they will have to follow a diagramme to try and go as fast as they can!
The Junior World Rally Championship hopefuls will also go from their cutting edge Ford Fiesta Rally 4 with it’s EcoBoost 200 bhp engine to a 1968 90 bhp classic Morris Mini Cooper S rally car from HERO-ERA’s Arrive and Drive fleet. The Mini is resplendent in the red and white works BMC colours.
So what does Jon think of his latest very different rally challenge? “We are definitely being thrown into the deep end! I know the basics but there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know which is why Phil and I enrolled into the HERO-ERA online navigational class session with Seren and Elise Whyte. I was intrigued and eager to pick up more information, and it didn’t disappoint, we learned a lot, so now we have to convert the knowledge into the HERO Challenge Three based in Bicester. I think Phil has a good understanding, certainly a better understanding than me! Phil has done some navigational rallies in the past, so maybe he can teach me a thing or two as well.
“The Mini Cooper S is a special car to me, as fellow Northern Irishman Paddy Hopkirk won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in one. I also got my first overall rally victory with a Prodrive Mini Countryman WRC, so that is a special link to this little car too. It should be really enjoyable to drive“
Co driver and navigator Phil Hall, who is also a Royal Air Force High Performing Athlete, has some previous road rally experience, but even he feels that this very different discipline of motor sport could be quite taxing;
“This will be full on with 12 tests and 8 regularities crammed into one day. For me there will be non stop navigation and timing calculations to make with average speeds hitting me all at once, I think it’s going to be tough but we are up for the challenge!”
Jon added; “We are both aware that because we are in the JWRC we will be expected to do well, so the pressure is on. After the classroom session it will be very different on event when things happen and come at you at speed, that’s when you can get confused. So it’s going to be very interesting to see how the day unfolds!
“I’m sure it’s going to start off a bit hectic but we want to get into a flow, hopefully by the end of the day we will be OK but we will see”.
The HERO Challenge Three (Sept 25) is the final in the HERO Championship trilogy which will, like Jon and Phil’s JWRC showdown in Spain, will be a title fight which the JWRC drivers will be in the middle of, but it won’t be their own. This time it’s a two way classic car battle for the HERO Challenge Championship between Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane (BMW 323i) and Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite (SAAB 900 Turbo).
Jon Armstrong ; “Whilst we want to be competitive, we are here to broaden our motorsport experience. We don’t want to get in the way of a title battle, so if we see them behind us on the road we will move out of the way rather than spoil any action.”
Jon Armstrong competed in Rallysprint single venue events when he was 13, from there it snowballed. Jon; “Once I was old enough to get my road licence the focus changed to doing stage rallies and then things got out of hand!
“I haven’t competed in too many other disciplines, just a few other bits and pieces, I’ve competed in a few rallycross events in RX150 Buggies at Lydden Hill and at Pembrey in Wales.
“Navigation rallies are very big in Ireland. They are called night navigation rallies out around the lanes, but I was always fascinated though because there are certain aspects that seemed to improve rally driver’s skills when they’ve been brought up doing night navigational events. They pick up certain skills that make them better in stage rallying, it’s really good for codrivers/navigators too, but I am looking to improve as a driver overall.
“So to get the opportunity to learn the skills required for a HERO-ERA regularity rally is an opportunity to improve and broaden my motor sport skills as a driver, it will be good to see what I can actually learn. Great to get the chance to try it.”
In summary, HERO-ERA Competition Director Guy Woodcock said; “It’s great to see Jon and Phil trying out another discipline of rallying as they continue on their adventure in the Junior World Rally Championship. The Mini Cooper S will be slightly different from their Ford Fiesta Rally 4, and Phil will have a bit more time to call out the instructions on the tests, but I am sure after his tulip route book experience he should not have any issue with the navigation, the regularity timing on the other hand will be interesting to watch!”