The countdown starts
This month sees the competition phases of Junior Rallying ’08 line up on the start line, as three of the scheme’s drivers begin their actual rally competition in Latvia. Tom Cave, Conor Flyn and Tom Clark will all take part in their first events in April, as the scheme, designed to develop and promote the next generation of British rally drivers, shifts up a gear.The first event will be the Rally Kekava, based in the town of the same name, just outside the capital of Riga. The event forms part of the Latvian RallySprint championship and was originally scheduled to run in February as a snow rally. However, the weather was unseasonably fine and the required low temperatures and snow cover were not present, so the event was postponed.Featuring seven gravel stages and covering a total competitive distance of 50Km, the event will be the first chance for two of the three British drivers to test their mettle on the Latvian stages. For Conor and Tom Clark, their first taste of Latvian stages will be when they tackle the event recce, to make their pace notes. However, Tom Cave, who is competing on the Latvian National Rally Championship this season, will be using the event as a shakedown in preparation for his first national event, having missed the season opener due to a sporting injury.The event will see the three British crews compete on two stages during the evening of Saturday 19 April before the remainder of the event, starting at 10.30 on Sunday 20 April. Each will use their own pace note system, with support and guidance from the Junior Rallying team in attendance, including Cave’s co-driver and Junior Rallying Manager, former WRC co-driver Gemma Price.The three cars will be run under the watchful eye of Junior Rallying’s Technical Manager Peter Gladstone, who like Cave and Price, already has considerable experience of running rally cars on the Latvian stages.Conor Flyn, aged 15 years, will be using a home-prepared Volkswagen Mk2 Golf GTi on his first event and will be co-driven by Tim Young. Flyn already has considerable experience at the wheel of a competition car, having competed in the British RallyCross championship last year. However, this will be his first genuine rally outing and he is understandably excited by the prospect.
“Starting to compete in Latvia will be one of my dreams coming true,” said Flyn. “I just can’t wait to be driving flat out through the forests. I’m really excited and a little bit nervous, but only about driving to the notes. I have been doing lots of work on my fitness and as I have been competing in RallyCross already this year, I already have quite a bit of seat time and I’m ready to go.”Tom Clark, aged 14, will compete on Rally Kekava in the MG ZR that Tom Cave used in last year’s Latvian series and will be partnered by Aggie Foster. Tom impressed the Junior Rallying team at the initial trial day as well as at a private test undertaken at the Sweet lamb Rally Complex in March and is looking forward to putting his already-impressive skills to the test under actual competition conditions.
“I’m really excited about going to Latvia; it will be the first time I get to do loads of things. I have never flown, been to a foreign country, driven on a rally, used pace notes or navigated on road sections before so I am going to learn a huge amount this weekend! It’s a dream come true really. I am doing lots of work with my co-driver Aggie Foster before the event on notes and navigation to make sure we are in the best shape possible on the day, but the plan is to get a feeling for the event and build on that.”Tom Cave is competing in the Latvian National Rally Championship this season but will be contesting the Rally Kekava as a preparation exercise ahead of his first event, the Talsi Rally in May. Having missed the opening round due to his injured left elbow sustained while playing football at school, Tom is keen to start his 2008 program. He will again be partnered by Price and will be driving his new car for the 2008 season, a Group N Ford Fiesta ST, built to the same specification as the cars used in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International, which runs alongside the FIA World Rally Championship.“I’m definitely looking forward to the Kekava Rally,” said Cave. “I haven’t competed since last October, as I missed the opening round of the championship with the injured elbow, so I’m dying to get into the Fiesta and try it in actual competition. I’ll be using the Kekava Rally as a final shakedown for myself and the car, to get a base set-up ready for the start of the Talsi Rally, the next round of the National championship, in May.
“I’ll also of course be there to help and offer encouragement to Tom and Conor, as I already have one year of competition in Latvia so may be able to offer some advice on that basis. I think this will be a great weekend for Junior Rallying and to see the season get underway, for us all.”UK TV viewers will be able to follow Tom Cave’s progress through the course of the 2008 Latvian Rally Championship on Motors TV. The high-speed channel will be covering the full National championship with a 30-minute program on each event.