The UK’s first minor international rally driver, Tom Cave, moved one step closer to his rally dream this weekend, as he finished the Aizpute Rally in Latvia. This means that he now has to finish just one more rally before he will be granted his international rally license and with it, the chance to enter his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB in December.
Cave was treating this weekend’s event as a test, to fine-tune not only his pace note system, with co-driver Gemma Price but also, the settings on his Group N Ford Fiesta ST, the car he plans to use on Rally GB. Prior to the event, he clearly said that performance and the result were not the objective and that the finish was all that was important.
However, things didn’t begin smoothly for the 16 year-old. The rally started with a pair of superspecial stages around the host town and on the second run through, the Fiesta began to jump out of first and second gear, meaning he and Gemma had to complete the test in third gear only.
The Junior Rallying technicians, who were running Tom’s car this weekend, were able to adjust the gear linkage on the car overnight and ensure that he had all five ratios available for the rest of the event. This caused a slight concern though, as the team was using a standard-specification gearbox and clutch, since the dog gearbox originally fitted to the car was being rebuilt, ready for the final round in Latvia.
Their concerns proved unfounded though, as the transmission performed perfectly for the remainder of the event. He and Price adopted a pace which Tom conservatively estimated to be around 70% to reach the end of the event 42nd overall and eighth in class but most importantly, recording another finish.
Speaking after the finish, Tom said; “It’s been a good weekend. We took the event steadily and treated it more as a test than an actual rally, as the objective was to get to the finish and we got the result we were looking for.
“The stages on the event were very nice. A good mix of technical tests as well as fast and flowing roads. One was partially used in last year’s Kurzeme Rally, so I knew it a little from that event which helped. The stages cut up a little the second time around but that didn’t cause any problems and I’m pleased that other than the linkage problem, the standard gearbox held up well.
“We’ll be refitting the dog box for the next event, Rally Latvia, which will be the most important rally of my career so far.”
Tom now has to complete Rally Latvia in two weeks time with no driver errors to gain his Latvian International Rally License. This will be the culmination of two years of competition in Latvia and will allow him to move on to the next phase of his rally carer and the fulfilment of a long-standing dream – the become the youngest British driver to compete on his home round of the WRC, Wales Rally GB.
If he finishes the event, the Latvian Automobile Federation, which governs motorsport in the nation, will issue Tom with his International License that will allow him to compete on Rally GB, assuming he passes his UK driving test.
The event begins 14 days after his 17th birthday and he has already begun taking driving lessons on private property, in preparation for the all-important test. If he passes, then Christmas really will come early for the youngster, as he competes on the same stages as the world’s best rally drivers.