Kris Meeke bows out but Armstrong lands prize drives
Rally Catalunya ended disappointingly for Kris Meeke and frustratingly for Craig Breen but it brought celebration for Jon Armstrong.
The 21-year-old Kesh driver won the DMACK Ford Fiesta Trophy category, earning himself two prized drives in an R5 Fiesta in the WRC2 division of next year's World championship.
The top rookie in the series, Armstrong led virtually throughout the three days, finishing almost minute ahead of Gus Greensmith with Max Vatanen in third place. Former Rally NI winner Osian Pryce had a troubled rally, finishing fifth, but still did enough to stay top of the DMACK table.
It was Armstrong and co-driver Noel O'Sullivan's second win of the series, following up their victory in Poland.
Meeke retired from fifth place at the start of the final leg when his Citroen stopped with engine trouble but he was always on the back foot after rolling the car on the first day and then suffering a puncture on Saturday.
Team-mate Breen was in trouble, too, his Citroen suffering a broken driveshaft on Saturday which cost him several minutes but he battled through to finish 10th as Sebastien Ogier took the victory ahead of the Hyundais of Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville to wrap up his fourth successive World title.
Meanwhile, Camillus Bradley did everything he could to wrest the Northern Ireland rally championship away from Derek McGarrity on the final round on Saturday but came up just short.
He needed to win the Down Rally with McGarrity outside the top seven places and for a time it looked like he might succeed as he led virtually from start to finish in his Ford Escort while McGarrity fell outside the top 20, hampered in the lashing rain by a misted up windscreen in his WRC Ford Fiesta.
But the rain cleared, and so did the windscreen, allowing McGarrity to surge through the field with a succession of fastest times, climbing to third place behind Bradley and runner-up Damien Toner to ensure a record seventh NI title for the Mossley driver.
Kenny McKinstry, struggling with gearbox issues in his Subaru finished fourth.