Youngest entrant ever in Wales Rally

rolls on Yokohama tyres

The youngest competitor ever to enter the UK round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, will use Yokohama tyres on this year’s event. Welsh teenager Tom Cave, who turned 17 just 18 days before the rally begins, recently carried out a two-day test using Yokohama tyres on his Group N Ford Fiesta ST and will be flying the flag for the Japanese brand on the WRC finale in December.

Cave has already made an impression on the rallying world; he has been rallying on Latvia for two years and is the inspiration for the Junior Rallying scheme, to develop the next generation of British rally drivers. Latvia was chosen as it allows drivers from the age of 14 to compete on genuine rallies, in both the RallySprint and the National championships.

The Rallysprint series features one-day events, with the recce in the morning and competition in the afternoon, while the national championship comprises genuine two-day multi-venue rallies, comparable in terms of technical difficulty and challenge with the British Rally Championship. After two seasons, Cave has already secured his International Rally license, issued by the Latvian Automobile Federation and has now passed his UK driving test before starting the event.

In preparation for the start of the Wales Rally GB, the Tom Cave Racing team recently carried out a tyre test in Mid-Wales, to assess different options from the Yokohama range, ready for the event. As a privateer, Cave is allowed to choose his own brand of tyres and he selected Yokohama following the success the brand has already achieved in rallying this season, with Tristan Pye winning the Production Cup of the BTRDA series and Paul MacKinnon winning the Tour of Mull outright.

Yokohama Rally Technician Simon Clark attended the test, where the team worked through various options for the event, which will see Cave running well down the field and likely to be faced with rough stages and deep ruts. The team had also drafted in former Production car World Rally Champion Martin Rowe to assist and advise on car set-up and after two days of hard driving in the Welsh forests, were impressed with not only the Yokohama’s performance but also, their durability.

Commenting after the test, Cave said: “The test went very well. We were able to test various options on the Yokohama tyres and I have to say, I was impressed with every available choice. I haven’t driven on Yokohamas before and immediately, I had a very good feeling with the tyres. The grip was right where I expected it to be but perhaps more importantly, they felt incredibly strong and resilient.

“We had three base options to run and at first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to feel the difference between them. However, with Simon and Martin making sure that I didn’t know which set of tyres were on the car at any time, I could feel the difference straight away and give them both feedback which helped us to establish a base set-up and specification for the rally. Now we know which tyre we will use and what options we have to cut them to gain more grip if the conditions are really bad.

“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.”

Rowe was also impressed with the youngster’s speed and understanding of the intricacies of car set-up. “I first worked with Tom at the beginning of last year, when he attended one of our ice driving schools in Norway. 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.”

Wales Rally GB will be the culmination of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. The event runs for three days through the forests and gravel stages of south and mid-Wales and could see the drivers coping with rain, fog, frost and even snow. The event begins on the evening of Thursday 4 December and ends on the afternoon of Sunday 7 December.

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