Two weeks ago, Chris Armstrong was sitting on the side of stage one of the Raven Rock Rally after an accident. The car was so badly damaged that if you had said that he would go on to finish the Sligo Stages Rally in eighth overall, he would have laughed at you!
With thanks to his dedicated team, the car was repaired. It may not have looked the prettiest but it was mechanically perfect. Stage one was a daunting twenty kilometre test of Sligo’s trickiest tarmac. Instantly their confidence returned! Chris excelled in the changeable conditions and set the second fastest two wheel drive time. Two clean runs over stages two and three left the pair in eighth overall and third in the two wheel drive heading into the first service.
Chris commented “The first stage was really tricky, we had a few big moments on damp patches under trees. I didn’t expect the time to be that good but I was very happy to get our confidence back so quick. Gary (Kiernan) and Jonathan (Pringle) are not far away, so we will have to keep the push on!” Over the next loop, Chris tried to consolidate his position, setting a string of quick times with Gary nipping at his heels. A mere seven seconds is all that separated them going into the last loop of three stages.
It all unraveled for Chris on stage seven, when midway through he had a small moment and this was enough to lose the rhythm, hemorrhaging time to his rivals. Both Gary and fellow Cavan man Jonathan Pringle leap frogged Chris on the leaderboard. He fought back on stage eight, leaving the gap at a minuscule half a second to Gary going into the last stage.
It all came down to a final stage shootout. Each driver was vying to be the quickest on the twelve kilometre test. Unfortunately for Chris it was not his day. When he crossed the finish line and the times were calculated, he had lost out by the smallest of margins. One point one seconds is all the separated Chris from Gary after one hundred and seventeen stage kilometers.
Chris still claimed an excellent eighth overall, third in class thirteen and third Ford Escort Mark 2 home. Two weeks ago, he would have gladly taken this result, but when you are so close to finishing higher it is difficult to avoid disappointment. A good haul of points in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship see him narrowly keep his lead in the two wheel drive championship, but Jonathan Pringle is now on equal points in the Mark Two Challenge.
Next up, the team heads west for the Galway Summer Rally on the 30th of August. This is the penultimate round of the championship, where Chris and James will need a faultless run to secure their place at the top of the championship standings.