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FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) co-driver Phil Hall was on-track to secure a solid finish at Rally Italia Sardegna (13-16 June), before a cruel twist of fate meant he would be forced out of the event, almost within sight of the finish ramp.

Hall had guided Tom Williams through three days of gruelling, rough and rocky stages, powering their M-Sport Ford Fiesta MK8 R2T through 300km of arduous terrain across the Sardinian mountains, battling ten other JWRC crews for top honours.

After suffering two punctures and unprecedented road conditions, Hall was just a handful of miles from the finish of the final stage when a large rock pierced the sump pan of the Ford. Despite a heroic effort and temporary fix, it would not be enough to make the finish ramp and Hall was forced to record his first non-finish on his JWRC scorecard this year.

Despite not contesting Rally Sardinia previously, the backed co-driver would head to round three of the JWRC in the knowledge that it would prove to be one of the toughest tests of the five-round calendar.

Searing heat and very rough road conditions would make going very difficult for the Junior crews and simply making it to the end of the gruelling event would be a feat in its own right. With stages offering a wide mix of technical and super-fast sections, it would prove to be a demanding event for co-drivers as well as their pilots.

Heading into the final stage of the 19 test event, Hall would be on-course for more points in his JWRC campaign. However a rock would cause the loss of all the engine oil and despite best efforts, the British crew would not make the finish.

“We did everything we could out there today but it just wasn’t to be,” said Hall

“We took off the sump guard and made a temporary repair using items from our medical kit, some radiator putty we carry in the car, and anything else we could find. That actually worked for a while but it started leaking on the way to the finish ramp and when we ran out of oil altogether, it was game over”.

“It’s devastating but I’m really proud of the way we managed the situation. The determination we both had to make it to the finish was great and if anything we can really learn from this experience. The whole rally has been amazingly tough, both physically and mentally but I felt very prepared for it and that’s important when you are competing at this level.”

The 30-year-old from Mansfield near Nottingham has enjoyed a busy season both in and out of the JWRC, recently announcing a new collaboration with the Royal Air Force Reserves which will see Reservist’s sample life in the World Rally Championship.

In contrast, rally team members will sample life in the RAF, each obtaining a taste of the different trades that are available to the Reserves. The programme kicked off in Sardinia with members of 611 Squadron visiting the M-Sport World Rally Team and JWRC team as well as watching the action unfold on the stages.

There were plenty of positives to take away from the weekend.

“It was great to have 611 Squadron along to Sardina with me and sample just how tough it can be in the World Championship.

They sampled life in the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and Junior WRC services areas and even got to sit in a Fiesta R5. Watching out on the stages was a great experience too and I have to say thank you to M-Sport for making the first visit such a great success. I look forward to welcoming the next team to Rally Finland in August”.

Hall is partnered by and the Royal Air Force in 2019.

Image credit M-Sport/JWRC

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