Mansfield co-driver Phil Hall was rewarded for making the long trip to New Zealand to boost his career when guiding his new colleague to sixth place at the high-profile International Rally of Whangarei.
Hall, 28, was drafted in at the 11th hour to sit alongside driving ace Rhys Gardner, who is a contender for the New Zealand Rally Championship in his potent Mazda 2 AP4.
And the new partnership bedded in nicely as they tackled two preparatory stages around Poge Island loop course on the Friday night, a further eight stages on mountainous gravel on the Saturday and a shorter final day. Against stiff competition, they were well pleased with an impressive sixth, which gave Gardner enough points to move up to fourth spot in the overall standings.
“It was an amazing experience from start to finish,” said Hall. “Everything was last minute, but it all fell into place when it mattered, and Rhys and I gelled really well.
“The pace out front wasn’t mega, but the Mazda AP4 is the New Zealand equivalent to our R5 cars, so it was still an intense ride. I’d like to thank Rhys for the opportunity and it would be great to go back out there again in the future.”
The Whangarei event also formed the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, which gave Hall his first taste of the series in a four-wheel drive machine. His previous experience had been in a Fiesta in Rally Australia alongside Aussie Rhys Pinter.
Hall is now hoping to take part in more events in both New Zealand and Australia. He returns Down Under at the end of May for the National Capitol Rally with Pinter.