Bishopscourt victory hands Armstrong early lead in Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales
Kesh’s Jon Armstrong provisionally tops the points’ standings in the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition following a comfortable victory on the opening round at Bishopscourt. The result sees Armstrong cement his status as one of the favourites to win the series, which is giving one lucky person a fully-funded drive on Britain’s only round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Saturday’s event attracted a stellar entry of young drivers from right across Ireland, with one competitor making the early morning trip from Ballymory on the Isle of Mull to take part. Cold but dry conditions greeted crews as they arrived at the County Down venue for the Ballynahinch and District Motor Club event, which consisted of fourteen short, sharp Tarmac special stages.
As expected, Armstrong went fastest of the CFR2 crews on the opening test, albeit by a tenth of a second from short circuit specialist Kyle White. A blistering time by White on the next stage saw him inherit the lead before a mistake on the third allowed Armstrong to move back in front. That was as close as White – or anyone for that matter – would get to Armstrong, his Peugeot 208 R2 having the legs over the other cars in the field to record an eighteen second win.
Speaking at the finish, the 20-year-old said: “Until today I’ve never been to Bishopscourt before so I was surprised – but very pleased – at how quick my pace was. I had a good run and we had no problems to contend with, so it’s nice to come away with a result like this on the first round.”
Pushing Armstrong all the way to the end was White, who admitted a brush between his Citroen C2R2 and some tyres, followed by an overshoot, all but ended his hopes of challenging for top spot. Nevertheless, he was happy to leave Bishopscourt second of the CFR2 competitors. “I’ve been coming to this place for ten years but Jon’s pace really surprised me. I don’t think any of us had an answer for it today,” said the Dunmurry driver. “When I had my overshoot and stalled the car I decided to ease back and preserve the points. There was little point in me taking risks.”
Third-placed Alan Smyth had mixed emotions with his performance. Running forest suspension to its hardest setting was far from ideal but that failed to stop him from recording some mightily impressive times in spite of being hampered at crucial moments by slower back markers on his second lap of the track. “It happened at least four times today, which is annoying,” said Smyth.
“However, I can have few complaints about coming home third – I would have taken that at the start – but like any driver you always want to finish first in your class. But this sets us up nicely for the next round when we should be quicker as the stages will be run on closed public roads.”
Killarney native Rob Duggan – who made the trip north for what was his second time in the car – secured fourth. Having sourced a Ford Fiesta R2 in Holland just recently the only testing he managed in the left-hand-drive car was a hastily arranged half hour dry run in the days prior to the opening round. A heart-stopping spin on the first corner knocked his confidence somewhat, but as the day unfolded he and new co-driver Keith Moriarty got progressively quicker.
Rounding out the top five was Fraser Mulholland, the Hillsborough youngster getting the better of Feeny’s Callum Devine who was unable to exact all of the speed from his Fiesta following a recent engine re-build. Scotland’s Fergus Barlow came seventh and collected some useful points as he – like other drivers in the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition – prepare for round two.
Easter’s Circuit of Ireland Rally – which takes place from Thursday, April 2nd, to Saturday, April 4th – will host the second round of the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition. It will be the highlight of the season for many of the championship’s young drivers as they will get to share the stages with crews from the FIA ERC Junior Championship. For all the very latest driver news and event information, follow the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition page on Twitter by searching ‘CFR2Wales’.