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FIA Junior World Rally Championship co-driver Phil Hall guided fellow Briton Jon Armstrong to a dominant Renties Ypres Rally Belgium victory last weekend (13 – 15 August), meaning he heads into the final round of the series within sight of clinching the iconic title.

The Motorsport UK Team UK rally co-driver steered Armstrong to seven stage wins in their M-Sport Fiesta Rally4, winning the demanding closed-road event by over a minute from their nearest rival. Hall’s result in Belgium puts him just three points shy of the lead of the Junior WRC heading into the final round in Spain in October.

“It’s been yet another fantastic victory for Jon and I,” said Hall.

“Despite being a new pairing just this season, we have been able to deliver consistent top results all year which has put us in the thick of the battle for a World Championship title and that feels pretty good to say out loud”.

The 33-year-old RAF Motorsport High Performing Athlete from Nottinghamshire is enjoying a buoyant return to the Junior WRC in 2021 having experienced the gruelling series in both 2018 and 2019. He also contested the series pre-cursor in 2016 which offers him up as arguably the most experienced co-driver on the tour.

The series is considered the most important talent pathway in the sport and with crews contesting the five-round series in identical machinery, it is left to raw speed, talent, and skill to reach the top step of the podium. Hall has stood there twice so far this season, securing a sensational round one win in Croatia on his debut event with Armstrong and now a significant win in Belgium.

Whilst Hall’s extensive experience had taken him across the globe, the Ypres Rally was an event he had never contested previously and would have to be sure his pre-event preparation was faultless ahead of the rally. That hard work would pay off instantly, going fastest on the pre-event shakedown was a sign of things to come with the first competitive tests also going the way of the pairing.

In fact, it would be all four of Friday morning’s stages that would see the Hall and Armstrong name on the top of the stage times and by the end of the opening day, the pairing had built up a mammoth 50-second lead.

Belgium’s roads are some of the most unforgiving in Europe. With inch-perfect placement on the narrow stages a necessity, perfect note delivery from the co-driver’s seat would be an essential factor in success. The slightest hesitation or incorrect pacenote could result in a trip into one of the event’s deep ditches and at the speed the stages are tackled, it would almost certainly spell the end of the rally should the driver and co-driver not be at one with each other.

However, there were no such issues in the car for Hall, who was able to help Armstrong manage the pace over the second day to head into Sunday’s short four-stage blast with a significant lead of over one minute, which they duly held onto to climb onto the podium in the legendary Spa Francorchamps race circuit as the only crews to win two rounds of the Junior WRC this season.

“It’s fantastic to scoop a second win of the season on such a tough event on both sides of the car” explains Hall.

“The format is very demanding physically and mentally due to the early starts and late finishes but as a co-driver you really cannot afford to waiver at all on these roads. The notes are very detailed here due to the surface changes and cuts we have to take so I must make sure the note delivery to Jon is perfectly placed but also as informative as possible. But I enjoyed every second of it and it was a great challenge to overcome. To stand on that top step again was a real honour and we are proving that we can deliver results across the board this season”.

RallyRACC Catalunya returns to the World Rally Championship calendar as a pure asphalt event in 2021 and provides a thrilling final event showdown for the Junior WRC in October.

Image credits: FIA Junior WRC/M-Sport

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