Success in snowy Sweden for Armstrong and Hoy

ON Armstrong and Brian Hoy made the perfect start to the Junior World Rally Championship at Rally Sweden over the weekend.

The all-Fermanagh crew were involved in a titanic tussle with Finland’s Lauri Joona throughout Saturday and Sunday before they swept to glory over the final stages of a thrilling snow-bound event.

The victory was particularly sweet for Kesh native, Armstrong, who suffered a heavy crash the last time he competed in Sweden in 2020 and missed out on the Junior WRC crown at the final round in Spain in 2021.

“When I was told I had won my initial reaction was surprise more than anything but also a great sense of joy and satisfaction to take the win on snow,” beamed Armstrong.

“It’s a good sensation of redemption too because that’s total redemption from Sweden 2020. I’ve come back the next year it’s held and I’ve won it, so I can’t do any better than that.”

Having gone into the event on the back of absolutely no testing whatsoever, Armstrong had thought Sweden could be his dropped round come the season’s end. But he turned those doubts on their head throughout the weekend as he got stronger and faster throughout.

“It’s strange but I just had a good feeling and thankfully when we got into shakedown the base set-up was pretty good from the get-go,” he explained. “Everything just seemed to work quite quickly with Brian too, so it was just a matter of bringing that into the rally.”

After finding their rhythm and a comfortable pace on Friday, Armstrong and Hoy finished the opening day’s seven stages in second, 7.7 seconds behind Joona.

An incredible time on Saturday’s first stage allowed Armstrong to jump into the Rally Sweden lead for the first time but the lead then swung back and forth with the Fermanagh pair leading by 3.5 seconds at the end of day two.

Joona got the jump on Armstrong on Sunday’s first of four stages to lead by 0.5 seconds but the former eWRC champion responded on the next test to reverse the difference to 0.5 seconds in his favour.

A second stage win in-a-row for Armstrong and Hoy gave them a 2.5-second lead with one run of Sarsjoliden remaining. Despite Joona’s best efforts on the 14-kilometre finale, Armstrong did enough to secure his maiden snow rally victory.

“It was a tight battle, probably the closest battle I have ever had and to be honest I would have been quite happy with first or second but I was giving it a go,” Armstrong explained.

“I knew I could do it and I didn’t want to give up until the end and I managed to fight the whole way through and it was nice to win in that fashion.”

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