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British rally co-driver Phil Hall guided Jon Armstrong to an historic category victory at the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship last weekend, debuting the M-Sport Poland built Ford Fiesta Rally3 in the series at ORLEN 77th Rally Poland (18-20 June).

The 32-year-old RAF Motorsport High Performing Athlete from Nottinghamshire would dovetail his assault on the FIA Junior World Rally Championship with an outing in a new generation of four-wheel-drive rally car from the M-Sport factory in Krakow, contesting the ERC3 category at the grueling high-speed gravel event.

Hall skillfully ensured driver Armstrong could push the limits of the new machinery across the rough and sandy stages to secure his second category win of the year, adding to his maiden Junior World Rally Championship win in Croatia in April.

The Motorsport UK Team UK squad member has enjoyed a dream start to 2021 after an enforced break from competition for much of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting motorsport across the globe. However, Hall would use that downtime to work hard towards a solid campaign this season and announced a new partnership with Northern Irish rallying returnee Armstrong.

A plan for a full assault on the Junior World Rally Championship would follow and the newly formed duo got their season off to the best possible start with a win at the opening round of the season. Hall’s experience of the series ensured their pace continued into round two, only to be cruelly denied another top result with engine failure on the second day in Portugal.

With a two month gap between Junior WRC events, an opportunity arose to tackle the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship and Hall would head to Poland for his debut in the popular series.

After the opening super special stage on Friday night, the rally proper would start on Saturday with seven stages offering over 130 kilometers of competitive driving. Hall would be competing in four-wheel-drive machinery for the first time since last year’s Goodwood Speedweek with World Champion Stig Blomqvist, but the Fiesta Rally3 soon felt like home for the progressive co-driver.

Rally3 is a brand new category of 4-wheel-drive car that sits above the 2-wheel-drive Rally4 class that Hall and Armstrong currently campaign in the Junior World Rally Championship. Hall adapted to the new surroundings quickly with the proof coming in the stage times for the duo – leading the ERC3 category after the opening day with four stage victories.

The gap to the nearest rival would be enough to ensure the final leg could be spent managing the lead in the category. Coping with the demanding conditions on the stages, Hall was able to guide Armstrong to the ERC3 victory and a place in the history books as the first-ever winners of the class in the European series.

“It’s been a really tough rally in many ways so to come away from my European Rally Championship debut with a category win is a fantastic result,” said Hall.

“To give the Fiesta Rally3 its first win at this level makes that even more special and it proves that we can adapt quickly to new challenges and still be at the front fighting for wins. The ERC was a new experience for me but I really enjoyed the difficult nature of the stages and it really allowed me to push myself in the co-driver’s seat.”

“It’s not very often you can say you have led both a World Rally Championship and European Rally Championship category in one year so that victory was pretty special. Fighting at the front of both championships proves we are a great combination and I`d like to thank everyone who made the opportunity happen.”

“The remainder of the season is looking very promising and I`m very much looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds.”

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