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FIA Junior World Rally Championship co-driver Phil Hall was eager to “take away the positives” from last weekend’s second round of the series, as engine failure denied him another top result at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (21-23 May).

The RAF Reserves High Performing Athlete and Motorsport UK Team UK squad member would resume his Junior WRC title charge alongside fellow Briton Jon Armstrong, after taking his maiden world-level victory at the first round of the series in Croatia just a few weeks ago.

Despite the new partnership, Hall guided Armstrong to a series of top times during the season opener and that performance continued on the gruelling gravel tracks of Portugal, winning five from eight stages on the opening day.

Sadly the pairing would cruelly suffer an unfortunate engine failure, putting them out of the rally. However, thanks to earning numerous bonus points through their brilliance across the hugely demanding opening half of the rally, Hall still sits third in the co-driver standings despite a zero score due to their retirement.

Fresh from his opening round spoils, the 32-year-old RAF Reserve from Nottinghamshire would tackle his third Rally de Portugal and was able to bring his previous rally and Royal Air Force experiences to the car, a valuable asset when going head-to-head with seven other rapid Junior contenders during the weekend’s formidable rough, sandy stages.

Friday’s opening leg would be arguably the toughest, with no mid-point service to offer respite, Hall would need to draw on all his skills to remain faultless throughout the day and ensure Armstrong could keep the Ford Fiesta Rally4 at the front of the field.

The pairing went fastest on four of the five morning’s stages and would have secured a substantial category lead into the second day had it not been for a time zapping puncture on the sixth stage. Dropping over four minutes, they immediately replied with another fastest time to end the day in fourth.

With a long way still to go, the crew would continue to push the envelope as the unpredictable nature of the event had the potential to see a climb up the leaderboard. After the morning loop, another fastest time on stage eleven brought the British duo into third overall. However, on the 14th stage of the rally, disaster struck when the engine in the Fiesta had a terminal technical failure, with no potential for repair. Hall was forced out of the rally from third place.

“It would be easy to focus on the result and zero score but that really isn’t the news story here,” says Hall.

“It was great to be able to pick up where we left off in Croatia and the pace was certainly there throughout each aspect of the weekend. Winning six from 13 stages [completed] is a huge achievement in the Junior WRC – it is such a closely fought series. It really shows what we are capable of. On an event like this it’s really key to bring not only my previous WRC experience, but also the leadership skills and resilience I’ve developed in the RAF – it really is a truly challenging rally where you need to perform in tough conditions and under pressure”.

Despite the zero points score, Hall still sits in third place in the championship thanks to the number of Wolf Stage Win Points they earned, a bonus points scheme designed to reward the very fastest crews with extra points for stage wins.

“It’s great that I`m still third in the championship but even more positive is that we’ve shown our pace is right up there at the front and that we can do it consistently. It was great to have the support of the British Embassy, Ambassador, and Defence Attaché to Portugal via social media throughout the rally and it was an honour to fly the flag for the UK and the Royal Air Force in another World Championship event.

”Everything bodes well for the remainder of the season and will continue to focus on our strengths and build towards the next round, Rally Estonia”.

Image credits: JWRC/M-Sport

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