Frustrating first event for Tom Cave

on Rally Talsi

Welsh schoolboy Tom Cave endured a frustrating event on this weekend’s Talsi Rally, the second round of the 2008 Latvian Rally Championship. Tom and co-driver Gemma Price were settling well into what the locals regard as the toughest event in the calendar when they slid wide on one corner and tipped their car into a slow roll. When the engine failed to restart and with broken front and rear windscreens, they were forced to retire from the event.

Tom’s first rally in 2008 in the National Championship started well. The event saw a pair of gravel stages on Saturday afternoon, followed by two back-to-back runs through the centre of Talsi town. By the end of the first leg on Saturday evening, Tom and Gemma were 7th in class, less than 10 seconds behind their closest competitor in a Honda Civic Type R.

However, rain during Saturday night changed the nature of the event significantly and the stages on Sunday morning became extremely slippery and rutted, with rocks being dragged out of the surface into the road.

It was on the day’s sixth stage that the problem began. Tom slid wide on a medium speed corner 4Km from the start of the stage and into soft mud at the edge of the road. The day before, this would have been dry gravel and the chances are the car would simply have carried on. However, the overnight rain had turned this to mud and it dragged the car further off the road and into a small ditch by the side of the road.

This caused the car to pitch up into a slow roll and come to rest on its roof. Both Tom and Gemma were unhurt in the incident and the passionate Latvian rally fans soon had the Fiesta ST back on its wheels, with Tom quickly trying to re-start the engine so they could continue.

However, because the car had been inverted, the engine oil had run into the top of the engine and fouled the spark plugs and it refused to restart. Despite their attempts, Tom and Gemma were forced to retire on the spot, a frustrating end to the first event of their 2008 campaign proper.

“I think we were very unlucky,” said Tom after the event. “The car got into the mud on the outside of the corner and was dragged into a small ditch. The sill dug in and pitched us onto the roof. Some spectators got us back onto our wheels, for which I’m very grateful, but the plugs were fouled and we decided not to risk the engine any further and retire.

“Up until that point, things had been going well. The two town stages were really good fun and we had a very good rhythm and feeling with the car. But after the rain on Sunday night, the stages were very tricky. They were quite rutted by the bigger cars in front of us and there were lots of rocks in the road. But we were settling well into the event and driving with a finish in mind.

“I feel we were reasonably competitive without pushing too hard, since experience and a good result were the targets. But this was one of those situations that could have gone either way; unfortunately for us this weekend, it went the wrong way. But the car isn’t too badly damaged and should be fine for the next event in three week’s time.”

The car itself suffered broken front and rear windscreens and minor panel damage but nothing that should prevent it being ready for the next round of the National Championship, the Cesis Rally on the weekend of 7-8 June.