Rivals chip in to get Armstrong ready for Germany
When Jon Armstrong landed the opportunity to drive an R5 Ford Fiesta in this week's Rally Deutschland, he was naturally delighted - but also had one big concern.
He'd never been behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive R5 and now had to face three tough days in the German round of the World Championship.
The young Kesh driver had earned the chance to step up to the WRC2 division of the World series following his performances in last season's DMACK Trophy, a competition for two-wheel-drive Fiestas in the WRC3 category. It is a big jump to the R5 class, and Armstrong is desperate to do himself justice.
It would be difficult to adjust without at least the benefit of a test session in the M-Sport supplied Ford. But how to pay for it?
His solution was to organise an £85-a-head raffle, with the winner sitting in as his co-driver for the Northern Ireland Championship Bushwhacker Rally next month.
Some 60 people, including leading competitors like Niall McShea, Connor McCloskey, Alastair Fisher and Stephen Wright, put their hands in their pockets and the £5,000 required for the test was raised.
The winner was another competitor, Manus McManus, and the pre-German test took place yesterday ahead of the start in Saarbrucken on Thursday night.
"I can't thank everyone enough for their support," said Armstrong, who joins Kris Meeke and Craig Breen in the starting line-up. "Never having driven an R5 before, I felt it was vital to do the pre-event test to make the most of the opportunity I have been given.
"I was able to cover 100km and get a real feel for the car. Now I just can't wait to get started."
Armstrong, who won the DMACK Trophy rounds in Poland and Spain last season, also gets a second chance in the R5 Fiesta on Rally Catalunya in October.
Meanwhile, another young rising Ulster star, Daniel Harper, stayed in the fight for the UK Ginetta Junior Championship despite being in the wars at Knockhill on Sunday.
The Hillsborough teenager qualified on pole position for race one in the Ginetta series but had to settle for third in a nose-to-tail battle with Harry King and his Douglas Motorsport team-mate Kiern Jewiss.
Harper fought his way into the lead from the second row of the grid in race two but ran wide at the hairpin in the closing stages, allowing Jewiss to snatch victory by two tenths of a second.
The rookie champion in 2016, Harper stays fourth in this year's title chase but has closed the gap on leader Sebastien Priaulx.