Fermanagh rallying ace Jon Armstrong along with navigator Noel O’Sullivan not only took the top spot on the DMACK Fiesta Trophy rostrum at Rally Spain at the weekend, which grants them two drives in an R5 car within the WRC2 category next season, but also bagged the 2016 Rookie champion accolade as well as finishing third overall in the series while Welsh crew crowned overall Fiesta champions on the same weekend.
Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss lifted the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy title in dramatic style after a thrilling final round of nip-and-tuck championship action in Spain. The Welsh pairing got their hands on the title only after narrowly holding off a gutsy late challenge from flying Finn Max Vatanen.
For the third year running, the Trophy title race, which provides a training ground for budding world rally stars of the future, hung in the balance until the very last stage of the season finale.
Pryce and Furniss led the overall standings going into this weekend’s year-ending RallyRACC-Rally de Espana. But a captivating climax lay in store. An electrical problem on Friday hampered the Welsh wonders and saw them plunge down the Spanish leaderboard.
By contrast, Trophy veteran Vatanen pulled out all the stops and remained in close pursuit, benefiting from past experience of the event. However, he was ultimately unable to overhaul 23-year-old Pryce and Furniss, aged 28, at the championship summit.
A new competition prize structure saw a total of three pairs of WRC2 prize drives offered to crews competing in what proved once again to be an ultra-competitive Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy. This revamped format proved a huge hit, with three different talented young crews now having a chance to strut their stuff on the WRC2 stage.
Jon Armstrong is the third of these, gleefully gobbling up the last pair of prize drives today to round off a memorable year. The Northern Irishman, along with co-driver Noel O’Sullivan, tasted victory at the final rally of the season, and was the top points-scorer over the final two events in Germany and Spain.
Armstrong, aged 21, made his Trophy debut at last year’s RallyRACC-Rally de Espana, and used his knowledge of the stages to lead throughout this weekend. It was his second race win of the season, following his triumph at Lotos Rally Poland. He has also claimed the top Rookie award and was third overall in the final Trophy standings.
This weekend saw 10 crews from across the world tackle the only mixed surface outing of the season at a rally based in the holiday resort of Salou. They were confronted with treacherous conditions on Friday when torrential rain turned gravel roads into mud baths. There followed a busy extended evening service for the M-Sport team as competitors’ identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars were switched to Tarmac specifications. This brought a change of suspension, the addition of bigger brakes and a move to DMACK’s asphalt tyres for the final two days on Spain’s fast-flowing roads.
Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said: “The Trophy continues to grow from strength to strength and this year has seen even more intense rivalry. Jon’s driven a very impressive rally to win this weekend but Osian also deserves the title. Max has benefitted also with the new prize drive structure, which has turned out to be a real success.”
Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport managing director, said: “It’s been another fantastic year with competitive performances from all of our Fiesta R2 drivers. Once again, the championship has come down to the wire and we’ve witnessed some intense and extremely close-fought battles throughout the season.
“Congratulations to all of this year’s crews, but especially to Osian, Max and Jon who have each secured two prize drives for next year. Our intention was to award those who delivered exceptional performances, and I think we have three very worthy winners who now have the opportunity to show what they can do at the next level.”
Jon Armstrong from Northern Ireland said: “I’m overwhelmed, it’s been a fantastic weekend. We set out trying to have a clean run on the gravel and we did that. We had a good lead and managed to hold it for the rest of the rally, it’s fantastic. To win two rallies is more than I could have dreamed of and to get the two drives for next year is just great. It’s going to be amazing experience and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Final Event Classification
1. Jon Armstrong / Noel O’Sullivan 3h 47m 36.6s
2. Gus Greensmith / Katrin Becker 3h 48m 28.4s
3. Max Vatanen / JJ Renucci 3h 48m 33.9s
4. Jakub Brzeziński / Jakub Gerber Rookie 3h 53m 02.4s
5. Osian Pryce / Dale Furniss 4h 00m 19.8s
Drivers Final Trophy Classification After Round 5
1. Osian Pryce 112
2. Max Vatanen 105
3. Jon Armstrong Rookie 97
4. Gus Greensmith 52
5. Bernardo Sousa 47
6. Jakub Brzeziński Rookie 43
7. Nicolas Ciamin Rookie 34
8. Oscar Solberg Rookie 34
9. Karan Patel Rookie 12
10. Dillon Van Way Rookie 10
Co-Drivers Final Trophy Classification After Round 5
1. Dale Furniss 112
2. Noel O’Sullivan 97
3. Maxime Vilmot 65
4. Hugo Magalhaes 47
5. Jakub Gerber 35
6. Thibault de la Haye 34
7. Patrik Barth 34
8. Alex Gelsomino 31
9. JJ Renucci 21
10. Katrin Becker 21
11. Thierry Salva 19
12. Phil Hall 12
13. Andrew Edwards 10