Young British rally driver Tom Cave heads to Latvia next weekend to resume his 2008 campaign in the Baltic state on the Rally Gulbis, in the same region as his first event in 2007, albeit this time with no snow or ice. The 16 year-old will again pilot his group N Ford Fiesta ST as he targets a solid finish to get his campaign back on track after missing the last round of the Latvian Rally Championship.
The event sees the return to the area for Tom for the first time since his competition debut in Latvia at the beginning of 2007. On that occasion, conditions were very different from what he will face next weekend, with snow and ice covering the gravel roads and putting the then 15 year-old on a near-vertical learning curve.
Next weekend’s Gulbis Rally is the penultimate round of the Latvian RallySprint championship and Cave will be using the event to get more miles under his belt in the Fiesta, after retiring from his last event, the Talsi rally when he rolled and subsequently retired. Having not driven the car since Talsi in May, Cave and co-driver Gemma Price will be keen to return to the Latvian stages to complete the season with a string of strong finishes, after a troubled first half.
Cave now has three events remaining in Latvia in 2008; the Gulbis, the Rally B&K, the final round of the RallySprint championship and then in October, the National Championship finale, the Rally Latvia. He and the rest of the Tom Cave Racing team feel that three strong finishes are what is required to get his development and progression back on track and round out the second of his two seasons in Latvia on a high.
“My objective now is to get back in the car and into the swing of it for the rest of this season,” said Tom. “I want to put the problems we had early on this season behind us and approach the next three rallies with one simple objective; reach the end of each event and demonstrate that we are capable of consistent finishes. If we show that we have the pace and achieve good results, then that is a bonus but the main aim is three finishes.
“I think it will be tricky, since I haven’t been in the car since Talsi in May and we don’t, at the moment, have any testing scheduled. And although I have been working with Gemma and the Junior Rallying scheme over the summer, we haven’t been in a car together, so it may take a little while to get back into the swing of things. Having said that, I’m also sure it will start to come back to us soon enough.
“The most important thing next weekend will be to get a good feeling back in the car and find a pace that is fast enough so that both Gemma and I can find the right rhythm but without taking any risks. If things appear to be going well, then we may move on from there but we will certainly be starting from a conservative speed to begin with.”
In addition to his own rally, Tom will be heading a five-car entry with Junior Rallying, the scheme to develop the next generation of British rally talent which his activity inspired and for which he remains the figurehead. As such, he will also be on hand to offer advice and support to the other drivers as they continue their development. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the other Junior Rallying drivers have developed over their events in Latvia. I know that they are generally very quick and are learning a huge amount, as I continue to and of course, if I can help them, I will. I just hope that as we’re concentrating on the finish and not speed, I don’t end up as the last Junior Rallying driver!”
Based in the town of Gulbene, 150Km east of Riga, the one-day event sees the crews tackle six stages, starting at 09.00hrs and with the first car expected to finish at 13.40hrs. The crews will face two loops of three stages, the longest 9.7Km and the shortest, 7.4Km with a total competitive distance of 55Km and 180Km including road sections.