Phil Hall’s Junior WRC Rally Sweden Diary

It might sound obvious, but Rally Sweden is cold!

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.

Phil Hall and Tom Williams tackle the amazing Colins Crest! Photo credit M-Sport

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!

Phil Hall’s Rally Finland diary.

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.

Phil Hall jumps to best-ever JWRC finish with Tom Williams in Finland – Image credit M-Sport/JWRC

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.

Phil Hall (L) celebrates with Tom Williams (R) – Image credit M-Sport/JWRC

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@PhilHallRally) for more behind the scenes JWRC stuff!

 

Phil Hall’s Tour de Corse Diary.

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

Phil Hall – Photo courtesy of M-Sport.

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.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) – WRC 04/04/2018 to 08/04/2018 – PHOTO : @World

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!

Tom Williams – Photo courtesy of M-Sport.

Corsica is one of my favourite rallies, and I can’t wait to be back next year. Our next JWRC event is WRC Portugal.

Phil Hall and Tom Williams – Junior WRC – Photo courtesy of Phil Hall

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.