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Rally Finland has held its place on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar since 1973 and as such, has had plenty of time to test the world’s best sportsmen over the decades.

Last weekend, Neste Rally Finland returned for its 68th edition and Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) co-driver Phil Hall endured almost every inch of its wrath during the four-day event alongside Briton Tom Williams.

The fondly named “Rally of 1000 Lakes” would form the fourth round of the ultra-competitive JWRC series which saw 15 identical M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2T’s battling out across blistering quick gravel roads which are made iconic by their impressive large jumps, set deep amongst the forests.

Hall, 30 from Mansfield near Nottingham has entered his fourth season in the World Rally Championship after making his WRC event debut at Rally Australia in 2015. The progressive co-driver has often regarded Finland as his second ‘rally home’ thanks to spending the latter half of 2015 and 2016 with the Tommi Makinen Racing / Toyota Gazoo Rally team, working with talented Japanese pilot Hiroki Arai.

Contesting events in the Finnish Championship, the backed co-driver regularly featured at the sharp end of the field as part of an intensive training programme run by WRC Team Toyota Gazoo Racing Principal Tommi Makinen. With this experience of the roads and time spent in the country, Hall has built a very special connection to this already iconic event.

He would head to the penultimate round of the 2019 JWRC in a buoyant mood and despite a non-finish for the all-British duo at the last round in Sardinia, the RAF Reservist was looking forward to one of the most demanding rallies on the WRC Tour.

Unfortunately, Hall would endure a tough weekend in the co-driver seat of the Fiesta, having to retire on the first full day after an impact with a rock damaged the sump. After a mammoth effort by the M-Sport Ford team to repair issue, the second day would also offer another chunk of drama, having rolled into the trees on a tricky right-hander.

Once again, the Mk8 Fiesta was readied for the following day’s stages and Hall was able to guide Williams to record a finish and a valuable point to add to their standings in the JWRC category.

“Just when you think you know a lot about Finland and its characteristics, it catches you, again and again, said Hall.

“Rally Finland never fails to surprise me just how tough it can be, but that’s the attraction I think, and why it has such an iconic place on the WRC calendar. Its certainly been a difficult weekend but the important thing is that we overcame the challenges that were presented to us again and again and there is plenty that can be carried over the final round in October”.

After uniting with the Royal Air Force Reserves for his JWRC campaign, members of 501 and 504 Squadron including Chefs, Drivers and Suppliers were able to join Hall in Finland, sampling life in the WRC with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and JWRC Team.

A highlight of the event for Hall was a visit by Defence Attache, Wing Commander Mark Taylor from the British Embassy in Helsinki.

“It was a real honour to be able to host the Defence Attache from Helsinki at Rally Finland, and to see his enthusiasm for our programme was a real boost. Once again it’s been brilliant to offer my colleagues in the RAF Reserves the chance to experience what life is like in the WRC. It’s fantastic to have the support of an iconic organisation such as the Royal Air Force in all aspects of my career and wherever I travel in the world. I’m looking forward to hosting them again on my home event, Wales Rally GB in October”.

Image credit M-Sport/JWRC

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