Tuesday, 15 May 2018

New Zealand rally return offered “amazing experience” for Hall


Phil Hall in action in New Zealand
Phil Hall enjoyed rallying return to New Zealand in the Mazda 2.
- Image credit Geoff Ridder  - Click to download high res version. -

Mansfield based co-driver Phil Hall guided New Zealand rally ace Rhys Gardner to a top twenty finish at last weekend’s International Rally of Whangarei (4th-6th May), after overcoming engine woes which blighted their performance in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship qualifier.

After running well inside the top ten for much of the opening day, a reoccurring power issue would force the Mazda 2 AP4+ down the leader board throughout the rally and Hall would not be able to beat his previous result of sixth overall alongside the Kiwi at the event last year.

The itsmymotorsport.com backed co-driver has enjoyed a packed schedule in recent months which have included events in Paraguay and Europe when his commitments in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship alongside fellow Brit Tom Williams allow. Hall would head back to New Zealand to partner Gardner after forging a successful partnership on the rally in 2017.

The North Island based rally would offer over 290km of special stage action with most of the action taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Friday would play host to the popular ceremonial start before a double run of a short spectator super special stage got the action underway that evening.

Despite finishing the opening leg in 20th overall, the tests would certainly not be representative of the rest of the rally and Hall would guide Gardner to an impressive top ten stage time on the first of Saturday’s stages in the forests. Mixing with the best of the crews from the Asia Pacific Championship, Hall soon began to settle back into the Mazda during the opening loop, with the duo firing in fifth fastest time on stage five.

However engine issues would blight their progress on the eighth stage of the event and despite tracing the issue and fixing it at the side of the road, were hampered by further engine problems throughout the remainder of the day. Intermittently throughout the weekend, the full power of the AP4 specification four-wheel-drive machine would be restored and this allowed Hall to take Gardner to a handful of top 15 times across the remaining stages of the event.

But the damage was done as despite the best efforts of the team and the crew, Hall crossed the finish ramp on Sunday night in 20th overall.

“Sadly it was one of those events where the result and the stage times were not really representative of just how hard we were pushing all weekend and it was a shame the issues blighted progress during the weekend” said Hall.

“But the stages were absolutely incredible and it was a real honour to be tackling such iconic roads which have shaped the WRC event and which I remember watching in awe as a child. When the car was working it was insane and Rhys drove perfectly but it just wasn’t to be on the day. It was an amazing experience and to come back to New Zealand to compete with Rhys is truly fantastic. I`m looking forward to having another chance at competing on those stages, but with full power next time”.

In typical fashion, Hall will have no time to dwell on his result as this weekend he re-joins Tom Williams in the Ford Fiesta R2 to tackle the Plains Rally, a little closer to home in Welshpool. The duo will use the event in a bid to gain seat time ahead of their next WRC outing in Portugal in just a weeks’ time.