Junior Rallying first event.....

    “Better than hoped”

The first international event for Junior Rallying in the 2008 Latvian Rally Championship went “Better than we could have hoped,” according to Manager Gemma Price. Junior Rallying had three drivers competing on this weekend’s Kekava Rally, the second round of the Latvian RallySprint Championship and all acquitted themselves admirably on the scheme’s debut for multiple drivers in Latvia.

Welsh schoolboy Tom Cave was using the event as a shakedown for the start of his Latvian National Rally Championship campaign in May and achieved what he described as a “dream result”, by finishing the event 19th overall and second in class. However, the result belies the achievement of the 16 year-old, partnered by Price, as the crew picked up ten seconds of penalties for clipping cones on two stages. Without the penalties, Cave and Price would have completed the event 15th overall and the leading 2WD car, an excellent performance.

Cave was understandably delighted with the result. Speaking from the finish ramp in Kekava just outside Riga, he said; “This is a brilliant result; for me, for Gemma and of course, for the team. The objective for this weekend was to gain as much experience as possible and get the car ready for the Talsi Rally next month. We achieved that without question and to get this result on top of that is fantastic.”

Tom Clark, from the Midlands, is another driver pleased with his performance over the weekend. He completed the event 47th overall and 11th in class, amid a series of firsts for the 14 year-old. This was the first time he had driven to pace notes, the first time driving the MG ZR rally car, the first time with co-driver Aggie Foster and his first time on Latvian soil. His was an extremely steep learning curve but according to Price, he performed remarkably well.

Price said; “I’m very pleased that Tom completed the event and made it to the finish. To do that and come 11th out of 30 starters in the class is a huge bonus. The Latvian Automobile Federation (LAF) was impressed with his performance and his driving, which is excellent and a fitting recognition of the importance of the Junior Rallying scheme to develop British talent and also, the relationship between us and the LAF.”

Clark was understandably pleased with his weekend’s efforts; “It’s been a great first event for me and while I’m very happy to finish 11th out of 30 starters, the main aim was to get to the finish of the event and gain as much experience as possible. I haven’t used my own pace note system before this weekend, so was a little nervous about that. But in practice, it seemed to work well. We only had one of the chicanes wrong in the notes but as it transpired, it didn’t cause us any major problems.”

Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Junior Rallying’s third driver, 15 year-old Conor Flyn. The engine on his family-prepared and run Volkswagen Golf failed before the start of the event on Saturday and he was unable to compete on the first two stages of the event. However, the team and the Junior Rallying technicians worked overnight to repair the engine and he was able to run on Sunday to gain experience, albeit without being classified.

Flyn and co-driver Tim Young put in creditable times on the six stages which made up Sunday’s section and despite not being classified, gained valuable experience of the nature of Latvian stages and driving to pace notes.

“It wasn’t the best start for us with the engine problem and missing the first two stages. But once we got going on Sunday, it was much better. This is also my first time on pace notes and this worked well. Like Tom [Clark], the hardest part was taking in what the co-driver, Tim was telling me. A few of the notes weren’t quite right so we didn’t feel we could commit fully but I am pleased with the stage times. It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the next event.”

Summing up the first weekend of competition in Latvia for Junior Rallying, Manager Price said; “We could not have hoped for the first event to go as well as it did. All the drivers performed extremely well and each gained a huge amount of experience, which will prove invaluable for the rest of their season’s rallying. With the exception of Conor’s engine problem, we had no mechanical issues over the weekend, thanks to the m3motorsport team’s efforts and the support and hospitality we received from the LAF and the Latvian people was fantastic. We now look forward to the next events in the RallySprint and National championships with excitement.”

The next event for Clark and Flyn will be the Rally B&K, the third round of the RallySprint championship, over the weekend of 10/11 May. However, for Tom Cave, his will be the second round of the National Rally Championship, the Talsi Rally, the following weekend, the 17/18 May.