Codemasters' Jon Armstrong on road to add real world rally crown to virtual title
Game designer driving in Rally Croatia this weekend
Rally driver Jon Armstrong returns to World Championship action in Croatia this weekend ahead of rounds in Portugal, Estonia, Belgium, and Spain.
He already knows what it’s like to be the best in the world, but his title in 2018 didn’t involve as many foreign adventures – he was the WRC eSports champion and his success was virtual!
That year he also began working for Codemasters in their Southam office as a game designer on the DiRT Rally Franchise.
Coronavirus halted his real rallying campaign at the wheel last year, but with fresh support from his employers, he is focused on a strong start in the Junior WRC, for drivers aged under 30.
“I am really buzzing to make my return to the world stage,” said the 26-year-old.
“As every piece of the puzzle came together: like the car being wrapped, my race suit arriving, and the flight schedule coming ever closer, it just feels so exciting.
“Finally I have a proper programme to get my teeth stuck into.
“I have been doing plenty of research into Rally Croatia and the stages themselves.
“This prep will give me the confidence I need in recce to make good notes that will pay dividends on the rally.
“I have also been doing plenty of simulator training as well as running to keep my fitness up.
“I am doing everything I can to prepare myself the best I can, it’s all about thinking of the bigger picture.”
Growing up around rallying as a youngster he started competing in rally sprints in Northern Ireland at the age of 13, winning the junior championship three times.
“My dad had done some amateur co-driving and was also a mechanic on rally cars, so I fell in love with rallying as a sport ever since,” explained Armstrong, who lives in Warwick.
“Then when I was old enough to get my driving licence, I started competing in real road rallying on closed public or forest roads.”
He has driven in the British, European and World Championships, turning professional in 2015 and having plenty of success with many stage and rally wins.
He added: “I took a spell away from competing in the real rally world and competed in the WRC eSports in 2018 also, becoming the World Champion!”
The final was held in Rally Germany’s service park, alongside the real event.
“Ever since, I have been working hard on getting back out there in the real World Rally Championship and I have been given a golden opportunity by Codemasters to do so.”
Motorsport UK Academy co-driver Phil Hall will partner Armstrong for the first time this season in an M-Sport Poland prepared Rally4 Ford Fiesta.
Hall brings two years of JWRC experience to the car and has been reading pacenotes for Armstrong’s virtual rallying exploits during lockdown.
Ross Gowing, DiRT Rally Game Director at Codemasters said: “We’re excited to launch the Codemasters DiRT Rally Team, and we have high hopes for Jon and Phil in the upcoming Junior WRC season. Working alongside Jon, I know the skill, passion and dedication he brings.
“He’ll have the entire studio and DiRT Rally community behind him.”
Shakedown in Croatia was due to get underway yesterday (Thursday) before a total of 20 timed stages over 300 kilometres starting today until Sunday.
You can follow Armstrong’s progress on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.