test for youngest entrant ever
The UK’s first minor international rally driver, Tom Cave, recently completed a successful pre-event test as he prepares for his entry in the finale of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB. The teenager from Aberdovey will be the youngest driver ever to take part in the event, which starts just 18 days after his 17th birthday.
Having competed in Latvia for two seasons, Tom already has his International Rally license, required to enter Wales Rally GB. However, as he has only just turned 17, he has to pass his driving test and gain his full road license before he can take the start of the UK’s premier rally. Despite this, the youngster has been working flat-out to ensure that the competition side of his dream is ready to go.
He recently competed a two-day test in mid-Wales at the impressive Geoff Jones Motorsport complex just outside Machynlleth, testing the Yokohama tyres he will use on the event as well as establishing a base set-up for his Group N Ford Fiesta ST. Entered as a privateer, Tom is likely to be running close to the tail end of the field over the course of the event and while the prospect of competing on the same stages as the best drivers in the world is guaranteed to set his pulse racing, he is also keenly aware of the challenges ahead of him.
“Ever since I can remember, it’s been my dream to compete on the UK round of the WRC. Some of my earliest memories are spectating on the event with my father, who was an avid fan and always took me to watch when he wasn’t competing himself. I think to compete alongside the best drivers in the world on the season closer is a defining moment for any driver; for me to do it, just a few days after getting my driving license, is an unbelievable opportunity and one not to be taken lightly.”
“I fully expect to be one of the tail-end Charlies on the event,” said Tom. “I think the conditions will be pretty rough by the time we get to the stages, especially on the second run through, but with a good set-up, we’ll plough on and make sure we enjoy every mile.
“Our objective for the event is simple; to get to the finish, ideally without using SupeRally [regulations which allow cars retiring on days one and two to return on the following day with additional time penalties]. To complete the event on my first attempt, on the same stages as the best drivers on the world, would be an incredible feat for me and a perfect culmination of two years of competition in Latvia.”
Not only has Tom been working on his physical preparations, he has also enlisted the help of former Production car World Rally Champion Martin Rowe to assist in his Wales Rally GB campaign. Rowe, who won the P-WRC in 2003, was on hand at the test to work with Tom and the Yokohama technicians to assess different tyre options for the event and was impressed with the youngster’s feeling and feedback. “I first worked with Tom at the beginning of last year, when he attended one of our ice-driving schools in Norway,” said Rowe. “Since then, his pace and skill have developed massively and I was impressed with both his speed and approach at the test. We blind-tested several tyre options over the two days, including separating possible tyre options with a control pattern and he felt and understood every option that we fitted to the car. We also worked on some suspension settings and the feedback he gave, both on this and the tyre behaviour, was very impressive.
“We also carried out several endurance runs, since Wales Rally GB will feature much longer stages than he is used to, as well as some running in darkness. Again, he coped very well with the demands he is likely to meet on the event and from what I saw over the two days, should do well in December.”
Commenting after the test, Tom said; “The test went very well. We were able to assess various types of Yokohama tyres at Geoff Jones’ facility, as well as several different cuts to see how they affected the grip and handling of the car to deal with the conditions we are likely to face on the event. It was also fantastic having Martin on hand. He was a very easy-going guy and gave me loads of tips and pointers for the event, which will help make our event as successful as possible.”
Before he rolls over the start ramp at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff however, Tom has to pass his driving test. He has already passed his theory test and has a series of four-hour lessons booked to ensure that although he is well versed in car control, he is able to spot hazards and temper his impressive skill to driving on the UK roads, as opposed to stages.
Assuming he passes his test, he will become the youngest driver to compete on the UK round of the modern FIA WRC, an impressive feat after just two seasons of rallying and a perfect transition from his competition in Latvia to the next phase of his rally career.