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World Rally Championship co-driver and Royal Air Force Reservist Phil Hall proved his talents lay on both sides of the cockpit by winning the inaugural RAF Virtual Rally Championship title.

Hall, a regular competitor in the FIA World Rally Championship turned his hand to online gaming during an enforced sabbatical due to COVID-19, lifting the first series trophy to beat a number of eager RAF gamers all battling it out on the DiRT Rally 2.0 game.

The five-round virtual championship included iconic virtual locations such as the USA, Spain, New Zealand and Argentina, coming to an end at the final round in Finland.

With the world of motorsport being decimated due to the global pandemic in 2020, competitors and fans had been looking for other ways to get their adrenaline fix and the life-like rally simulation game DiRT Rally 2.0 has seen a huge uplift in popularity as 9 million gamers across the world join together to compete against each other virtually.

Offering a wide variety of machinery and locations, the game has brought many communities together and the RAF Virtual Rally Championship was a perfect outlet for Royal Air Force petrol-heads to compete for ultimate gaming supremacy.

Being forced to sit-out many real-life co-driving opportunities during the year, Hall would look to the online series as a beacon in a tough time for many. The 32-year-old Reservist from Nottingham would usually be found in the co-drivers seat of a real rally car, leading Royal Air Force Motorsport’s involvement in international rallying since 2014, having competed in locations such as the USA, Japan, South America and Australia.

With the pandemic halting many international series, Hall had been working hard on keeping his skill set topped-up as a co-driver, calling notes over the internet for Junior World Rally Championship contender Jon Armstrong and New Zealand driver Rhys Gardner both utilising the game.

But the RAF Virtual Rally Championship was the opportunity for Hall to get behind the wheel himself, entering into five rounds on a variety of surfaces, similar to the World Rally Championship tour. With close-run competition throughout the season, Hall would head into the final round in Finland with a shout of the inaugural title and 12 stages across the iconic jumps and super-fast gravel tracks of Finland would lie in wait for Hall and his title rivals.

With the flame-spitting Group B powerhouses as the category in Finland, it would be a tricky curtain call on the season and virtual contenders would need to call on all their experience to negotiate the stages and come out on top. Despite heading into the finale’ on top of the points standings, Hall would be just a puncture or spin away from losing his advantage to closest rival Alex Magee.

With both contenders using the legendary Audi Quattro, it would be a nail-biting climax with just a handful of seconds separating the protagonists throughout the event. Hall crept ahead thanks to a tyre selection issue from Magee and from there he would not be headed, grabbing critical Powerstage points to secure the inaugural title.

“It’s been a fantastic season with some great competition,” said Hall.

“I’m super proud to have won the first RAF Virtual championship and it’s been great fun along the way. The competition certainly draws you in and whilst it began as a bit of fun, I soon found myself building a strategy. To come down to the final event was great too and after a difficult start I made some changes to the plan but I was confident I could deliver the win.

In such challenging conditions, it was all about not making mistakes and remaining focused under the intense pressure; which I think my WRC and RAF careers have certainly prepared me for. I can’t wait for the 2021 championship”.
Hall is partnered by and the Royal Air Force in 2021.

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