‘6 notes per line, 3 lines per page, 2 pages per kilometre… 347km. That is about twelve and a half thousand pieces of information delivered, to split second accuracy, over the Tour de Course – at a conservative guess.
It’s a hell of a challenge for a co-driver.
It is also one of the most rewarding challenges. Tour de Corse is my favourite event on the WRC calendar not just because of the epic roads and incredible views, but also because there is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained in completing it.
Recce itself is requires huge attention to detail, not just from the driver – noting every bend and hazard – but also the sheer logistics of it; we stayed in three different hotels on each of the three recce days as the stages are so spread out across the island. Food stops, petrol opportunities, and long days all had to be taken into account weeks before the rally started.
Likewise, the ceremonial start was held at the opposite end of the island, and so hotels had to be booked for that, as well as coordination of our team to meet there.
This all adds to the adventure and flavour of undertaking the Tour de Corse, it’s not like any other rally.
And when we reach the competition itself, you have to be totally focused on delivering the notes exactly on time – there are so many corners, all coming so quickly, that you cannot think about anything other than the task at hand. I find it quite a nice place to be, in the car on those stages. Obviously, you have to be focused on every stage of every rally… but Corsica is another level.
We had a great rally, we finished 5th in JWRC which puts us 6th overall in the Championship. All the time we are learning and building, and the JWRC is such a great place to be. I’m really enjoying everything about this championship and can’t wait for Sardinia in June.’
I know this year there has been a lot of talk about ‘the conditions’ in the stages, how temperatures were quite warm and there was a fair amount of gravel in places, but that doesn’t mean the event was what you’d call tropical.
Everything you do has to take into account the environment in which you are competing – the low sun of the Scandinavian winter, finding an ice-free spot to jack the car up to change the wheels around (so you can stand up!), or even just not bringing snow into the car on your boots (which then melts and turns the footwell into a swimming pool).
Recce on Sweden is logistically quite straight forward, however the days are quite short because of the day light. You have to get a lot done in a reasonably short amount of time – you aren’t pushed for time but you need to remain focussed. We had a good recce and really saw the work we had put into our pacenotes over the winter start to show.
The event starts with a long drive down to Karlstad for the opening super-special, which is always packed with fans. I really enjoy the whole atmosphere at Rally Sweden, and this is where it all starts – live acts, lots of entertainment, and hugely enthusiastic crowds.
The Rally itself was not only a test of speed, but also of tyre strategy. There was quite a lot of gravel in the stages, and this meant the tyre preservation was absolutely key. We were moving tyres around on the car after every stage to maximise the studs we had between each service. It also meant we had to plan where we pushed and where we saved our tyres.
A characteristic of Sweden which is not always noted is that it has some very long days. On most competition days we would be up for 6.00am to go to get the car from Parc Ferme, and we might not be back to our hotel until around 11.00pm in the evening. It’s a physically and mentally demanding rally, and it’s one I remember for a lack of sleep.
We came away from the event with our first top 3 time in the JWRC, and 4th overall in the JWRC – which we are really happy with. It’s been a great start to our season and hopefully we can keep building and improving throughout the year – next stop, Corsica!
Twenty-Eighteen has been an incredible year in JWRC and WRC3, with a few R5 and AP4 outings too.
I passed a few milestones as well; I completed my travels to 6 continents (just Antarctica to go!), I made my 20th WRC start, and I earned my first WRC category win.
The year started off very cold, with Sigdal Rally in Norway as a warm-up for WRC Sweden. I really enjoy snow and ice rallying, the atmosphere is always incredible and the challenge of competing in such a harsh environment pushes my adventure buttons.
In stark contrast, the next stop was WRC Mexico – hot, high, and very dry. An extreme physical challenge, with stages lined by huge numbers of truly passionate fans. The atmosphere at the start of the rally was unlike anything I’ve experienced.
Next was one of my favourite rallies in the world – Tour de Corse, the twisting tarmac roads are a big test of co-driver skill and I relish the challenge – reading flat out for 50km (or 90 pages of pacenotes) and delivering it all exactly right is a great feeling.
After Tour de Corse, we headed to WRC Portugal, more heat and dust. A tricky event for us, but we learnt a lot and found good pace.
Continuing on the loose, in July we undertook the gravel grand prix itself; Rally Finland. I spent a lot of time in Finland during my time with Toyota Gazoo Racing, so I always feel quite at home in Jyvaskyla. This year the high-speed stages incorporated more narrow roads, which brought a whole new dynamic to the event.
News: Junior World Rally Championship co-driver Phil Hall secured his best ever result in the series last week, guiding fellow Briton @williamsrally to sixth #JWRC at the legendary @RallyFinland.
The final round of the JWRC, though not our final WRC event of the year, was Rally Turkey. There is only one way to describe this event – Brutal! A test of resilience and skilled, measured driving. Getting to the end was an achievement in itself, and managing to do so without going into Rally 2 is something I’m quite proud of. We worked hard; battling punctures, broken suspension, and the heat and dust, to return a solid result – and demonstrate just how tough the little Fiesta R2T really is.
One of the highlights of my year was us winning WRC3 on my home event, Wales Rally GB. We had a really good rally, and set a nice pace from the start. Everything came together in the rain and fog of Friday and we managed to pull out a good lead which we maintained to the end of the event, despite a puncture.
The finale of our WRC season was Rally Spain, the mixed surface challenge was treacherous with heavy rainfall on the tarmac mixed with dust on the gravel. The heavily muddied tarmac roads offered a particularly tough challenge, but we were extremely happy with our pace.
Overall, an exciting and rewarding 3rd year in the WRC for me, 20 WRC starts on the board and hopefully many more to come.
This makes recce super-critical. Make good pace notes, and you can go faster in the fog. We had a great recce in GB, it felt good to be on home turf, however with the route change a lot of the stages were unfamiliar to us. I can tell you, for me there is no better feeling in Rallying than being flat out in the fog, knowing the two of you in the car are absolutely committed to the pace notes.
The other thing about Wales Rally GB is that’s it’s a test of endurance too, not in the rough, battering way that Turkey was, but in the get up at 4am and go to bed at midnight kind of way. Long, long days with few opportunities to service the car or get a break. Big distances in wet, cold, muddy conditions. It’s a classic challenge.
We had a good shakedown, and a good opening stage on Thursday night. And we followed that on Friday by getting stuck in and building a nice lead in the howling, rain-soaked forests of North Wales. We had a good day.
Rally Turkey was a rally like no other I’ve competed on. An incredible test of endurance and determination.
The recce was a challenge in itself, we picked up two punctures on our recce car. The rough nature of the stages made writing difficult, and the dust made navigating tricky. However, we were rewarded with some of the most beautiful stages I have seen, this rally was held amongst truly stunning scenery.
The route of the rally was nicely compact, with short liaison sections and easy access to the stages.
The rally itself was a war of attrition, we had to go slowly in places to preserve the car and then speed up to maximum attack on the smoother sections. The trick was knowing where to go fast, and where to go slow; and that meant making really good pace notes.
The soaring heat and choking dust made life inside the rally car a challenge, it’s where our focus on fitness and preparation really helped. We had to change three punctures in the stages, another area we’ve practised hard to save precious seconds. The Fiesta R2T held up really well against the ruts and boulders on the stages, some of the rocks on the line were size of a beach ball! We damaged the rear suspension and had to complete one loop of stages with not much in the way of damping on the rear right, which led to some interesting handling characteristics. However, the M-Sport team were fantastic, and worked incredibly hard to keep each car running perfectly in the tough conditions.
The rally start was a great experience on the sea front in Marmaris, a huge amount of fans lined the streets and there was a huge party atmosphere (in fact there was a huge fan presence across the whole rally). The city centre stage that night was one of the best ones I have done, featuring open sections as well as tight hairpins.
Friday was probably the toughest and roughest leg, with stages to the north, Saturday saw (relatively) smoother stages to the east, and Sunday saw four shorted stages finishing right outside the service park. Friday and Saturday had a mixture of long, endurance-sapping stages of nearly 40km, and short high intensity tests, so strategy was key.
Tuesday: Finland recce is always fun, I love getting back into these stages. I spent so much time in this area when I was competing with Tommi Makinen Racing that it feels like a second home. Today we recce’d six stages, a mixture of the traditional flat-out Finnish roads and newly added tighter and twisty sections.
Wednesday: More recce today, pacenotes in Finland are super-critical, the speed you are carrying, often in the air, means that you have to commit absolutely. The jumps require bravery and skill, because you can’t really turn a car when its wheels aren’t touching the road. Tom and I have been working really hard on our pacenotes over the last few weeks, and we can feel the difference here.
Thursday: A big day today, we had an early tyre meeting with Pirelli to help us decide on our tyre strategy and then straight into shakedown. Shakedown was extremely hot, and the weather continued throughout the weekend. We found a good set up and felt confident in the car. After lunch Tom had some PR engagements for the event, and I continued to work on the notes and strategy. Finally, in the evening we had the start of the rally and SS1 through the centre of Jyvaskyla.
Friday: The first proper day of rallying, we started with a good pace and settled in well. The new stage configuration of using smaller, narrower, rougher roads was tricky to say the least as they were still very fast in the little M-Sport Fiesta R2T. The Pirelli tyres worked really well, and our tyre strategy was giving us the grip we needed. I really enjoy these Finnish roads, it’s great to get a flow with the pacenotes and synch with the driver… it’s amazing how fast you can go.
Saturday: Iconic stages today, with the new narrower twist. We were locked in a great battle with New Zealand Champions Dave Holder/Jason Farmer, absolutely great guys and we were having a lot of fun – tiny gaps on every stage. Unfortunately, Dave and Jason picked up a double puncture on the second loop of stages dropping them out of contention. Meanwhile, we were feeling good in the car and especially in our pace notes – all the hard work since Portugal on our fitness, pace notes, and all-around performance, was really paying off.
Sunday: 4 Stages. It’s not that far to hang on to our best result in the JWRC. Except this is Finland, and anything can happen. Finishing with the legendary Ruuhimaki test, and a monumental jump to finish (which we took absolutely flat, see the video on my social media), we kept on it to the very end and were rewarded with a fantastic result. Now we are focusing on the next round of the JWRC in Turkey.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@PhilHallRally) for more behind the scenes JWRC stuff!
Recce for Rally Portugal is particularly challenging, the stages are tight and twisty but also rough. Today we did 6 incredible stages, which will form the route for Friday and Sunday. A lot of KM covered and in the hot and dusty conditions you really have to focus.
I get a few funny looks around the world when I turn up to Recce with a pillow ‘borrowed’ from the hotel. But on rough roads it makes all the difference to lean on as a shock absorber. Along with a lot of practice it means I can usually get all my notes down tidily on the first pass, with little touch up work later. It’s actually quite interesting to see which countries make the best Recce pillows. Keep an eye on my Twitter as I usually post the best ones.
Recce day Two (Wednesday 16th of May)
Similar to day 1, another challenging day of recce awaited us. Today we covered the Lousada super special as well as the monster that is Amarante. The surface in Portugal changes a lot so it is important to make sure your pacenotes take this into account.
Shakedown is a spectacular, if short, stage finishing in a huge arena full to the brim with fans. We had a good run, getting a good feeling for the car and the surface.
After a long drive to the ceremonial start, a great opportunity to meet the incredibly passionate Portuguese fans, we headed to the Super Special at Lousada. The sheer volume of rally fans crammed into this venue was a sight to behold.
Friday: (18th of May)
The rough northern stages bring their own challenges, we tried to keep it clean and were running comfortably inside the top ten despite a puncture. For a co-driver here in the heat and dust it is very important to keep focused. the tight twisty stages require a lot of information to be delivered often whilst the road is very rough.
Saturday: (19th of May)
A new day and a new surface, and the iconic Amarante test. At 37km this is a big test for crews, and for us unfortunately where it all unravelled. Amarante hasn’t been kind to me, I rolled out of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy event on this stage in 2016, and again today we had a small roll that put us into Rally 2.
Sunday: (20th of May)
Another tough day, and the attrition rate was high. A few stages were cancelled because of incidents and we focused on just being clean and getting to the finish. despite a couple of near misses, we did just that and got to the end. In fact, we managed to hold on to our top ten position, with 7th overall in the JWRC.
Things to take away about Rally Portugal:
– The Fans are incredible!
– The stages are a true test of physical and mental stamina
-Truly iconic roads
Many thanks again to Phil Hall for this great diary! Why not give him a follow on Twitter? @PhilHallRally
Hello rally fans. This is the first in a series of Rally Diaries that Phil Hall, Co-Driver to Tom Williams will be providing for you to enjoy. Here, Phil shows the whole week dedicated to Tour de Corse. Enjoy!
Reece Day One
Monday the 4th of April
Recce on Corsica is a challenge in itself. Writing down a seemingly endless stream of pacenotes whilst trying to navigate (including turning pages in the pacenote and road books independently) requires no small amount of multitasking and coordination. Because of the sheer number of corners, I actually use 50% more pages of paper in Corsica than a ‘normal’ rally.
Today was the first day of recce and saw us cover 3 incredible stages in the north of the island. In Sweden we found Elk, in Mexico we found goats, and today we found a herd of cows. We are certainly discovering plenty of wildlife this year.
Reece Day Two.
Tuesday the 5th of April
This is where we see the full breadth of road types on the island; from race track smooth 2 lane winding up the valleys, to slimy and gravely ‘barely there’ slivers of asphalt clinging to mountain sides.
The pinnacle of today is a 49km stage that covers everything this rally has to throw at you. And it takes so many pages of pacenotes, I started an entirely new book for this stage just to be sure I had enough.
You have to really focus on the pacenotes here, there are so many variables. It’s a great challenge.
Reece day Three.
Wednesday the 4th of April
The final day of Recce, on paper, looks simple enough. Just 2 stages. But when one of them is a Monster 55km Corsican legend, the day continues the challenging theme of the event.
72 pages; concentrating on making quality notes for nearly an hour and a half straight, reading the road and writing it down, page after page. It’s a real team effort.
An incredible stage to (almost) finish the rally, as the penultimate test of the event it will make Sunday an exciting prospect to say the least!
Friday, 6th of April – Day One of Competition.
Only two stages repeated sounds quite simple. Except this is Corsica. A 50km monster followed by a fast and flowing test was a true challenge.
Reading pace notes for 40 minutes nonstop is a work of concentration and endurance. Especially as the car is moving around so much on the twisty roads.
The conditions today saw a lot of gravel on the roads and some damp and wet patches in places that only added to the difficulty. However, we had a good clean day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow (Saturday).
Saturday, 7th of April- Day Two
Saturday was a huge day of the rally, an early start and a late finish. Though only covering two loops of 3 stages, the day was a complex challenge. We had three very different stages to contend with; the opening test was long and narrow through mountainous terrain with a lot of bridges and big drops (!), the second was more like a race track, wide and flowing with smooth and consistent tarmac, the final stage was possibly the trickiest with a lot of gravel and dirt on the road whilst still being fast.
We got a front puncture on the first stage of the day and had to change it, we are well practised at changing the wheels but we still lost quite a lot of time. The rest of the days stages went smoothly, or as smoothly as any Corsican stage can go.
Sunday, 8th of April- Day Three
Sunday had only two stages, the first being over 55km in length! We had a really good run over both stages, we had learnt a lot over the rally and were starting to get everything to work really well. Reading pacenotes flat out for nearly 40 minutes is a challenge and shows why co-drivers have to be fit as well as drivers. We had no straight longer than 150m in the whole rally, and corner after corner had to be delivered exactly on time. That’s a lot of processing power being used!
Corsica is one of my favourite rallies, and I can’t wait to be back next year. Our next JWRC event is WRC Portugal.
A huge thanks to Tom for a great drive, M-Sport for a great car and team, and my supporters ITSMYMOTORSPORT and the Royal Air Force.