Phil Hall’s Rally Italia Sardinia Diary

Written By Phil Hall

Rally Sardinia is probably one of the toughest rallies I’ve done, it’s right up there with Turkey and Mexico. Even the recce is extreme, getting around the stages in a recce car is a challenge in itself.

The event was very hot, very dusty, and in places extremely rough. It took grit and determination to succeed.

We didn’t make the right tyre choice for the first loop of stages on Friday, and that cost us some time, but we had a clean run which was positive and to the plan. The afternoon loop we made better tyre choices and saw the benefit – even though the temperatures in the car soared. Our fitness training was paying off.

Saturday was going well, but a puncture in the last stage of the loop on both passes (which had to be changed in the stage) saw us drop a fair bit of time. We’d practised tyre changing a lot though so we did our best to minimise the effect. Saturday was a very long day, an early 5am start and a late finish meant you really had to maintain focus. Preparation was key, maintaining hydration and energy levels, and working as a team to maximise efficiency.

Sunday was a tricky day, with only 4 relatively short stages. Unfortunately, we cracked the oil sump on the engine on the very last stage – even making it on to the final road section. We made temporary repairs by the side of the road and carried on, attempting to drag the car to the finish, but it wasn’t to be. Our repairs melted as the engine got hot, and we ran out of materials to keep fixing it, ultimately leading to us having to retire at the side of the road to the finish.

A disappointing end to the rally in some respects, but it did allow us to demonstrate our determination to succeed. As always, a huge thanks to our team at M-Sport Poland who were incredible all event.

Phil’s 2019 Tour de Corse Diary

‘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.

Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport

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.’

Tom Williams and Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport.

Phil Hall’s 2018 Junior WRC Review

Phil Hall and Tom Williams

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.

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.

 

Phil Hall’s Wales Rally GB Diary!

It’s going to rain on Rally GB, that’s for certain. It means the grip levels and visibility levels can be highly unpredictable.

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.

Saturday should have been about managing the gap, but a puncture in the second pass of Myherin saw us drop a lot of time. So, we had to fight back.

And over Saturday evening and Sunday that’s what we did, ultimately coming away with our first WRC 3 category win… and on our home event! A very happy memory.