Belfast Telegraph

Real life rally star Armstrong eyes second world title in lucrative gaming showdown

Virtual driver: Jon Armstrong
Virtual driver: Jon Armstrong

By Sammy Hamill

Been there, done that and got the new car to prove it. Now Jon Armstrong will try to do it all over again in the final of the video gaming eSports World Rally Championship in Wales this weekend.

Armstrong won the final in Germany last year, collecting a new car from sponsors Hyundai, and he is one of nine players from an original entry of 12,000 through to the deciding round to be held in the Rally GB service area tomorrow.

Uniquely, 25-year-old Armstrong, from Kesh in Co Fermanagh, has competed in the real life World Championship, taking part in two rounds in 2017 as his reward for successes in the Ford Fiesta Trophy series.

But his career has been hampered by a lack of a viable budget, although he made a partial comeback this year when he finished fourth on the Galway International and won the Down Rally in his first appearance in a WRC Mini.

He has filled the gap by becoming one of the best rally gamers in the world and is now a consultant for Codemasters, who produce the DiRT video games.

"I have found it difficult to practice lots this year and my best result was third at the last event," said Armstrong, who nevertheless qualified with a round to spare.

"The final should be a good challenge and WRC 8 is more realistic than WRC 7, so I hope this will suit me even more."

The nine finalists come from all around the world and will compete in eight special stages during tomorrow's finale inside the Cymru Theatre in the heart of the Rally GB service park. The top four will go on to the grand final, which will be held over three more stages with a prize fund of more than £30,000 - including a car - at stake.

Meanwhile, Kris Meeke got his Rally GB bid up and running with the fastest time in yesterday morning's shakedown test.

Meeke took three runs through the 4km stage in his Toyota Yaris and was quickest on all of them, finishing more than a second ahead of the Ford Fiesta of Elfyn Evans and Citroens of Sebastien Ogier and Esapekka Lappi.

"It was good to get a feeling for the car in the sort of slippery conditions we'll encounter in Wales," he reported. "The times on shakedown don't really mean anything but they can show that we're confident in the car. The big challenge is that conditions will be changing all the time over the weekend, especially with Storm Lorenzo looming."

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