after day one of first WRC rally
The youngest ever driver to take part in Wales Rally GB, 17 year-old Tom Cave completed day one of his first FIA World Rally Championship event by notching up two class stage wins and the class lead. T
he youngster and co-driver Gemma Price dodged what were widely acknowledged as some of the most difficult conditions Rally GB has seen to arrive at the overnight halt having climbed from their start position of 94th to 44th place overall.
Conditions for the pre-event recce were particularly treacherous, with snow and sheet ice covering many of the stages. While the predicted heavy snowfalls in the run-up to the start of the event did not materialise, the conditions were still very tricky, with snow and ice still evident in many places as the crews prepared to tackle the WRC season finale.
This led the organisers to amend the first day's stages considerably on the previous evening, with the result that all three of the first leg's stages were shortened to avoid the worst of the ice.
However, despite this, the day's first stage was cancelled for all runners and the field began their competition on stage two, Sweet Lamb. Tom and Gemma set the fastest time in their class, N3 for Group N cars up to2 000cc before heading for the much-shortened Myherin stage.
However, that was to be the limit of their action on the first loop, since a road accident meant that the stage was stopped and subsequently cancelled for the following runners, including Tom and Gemma.
Arriving at the mid-day service at Builth Wells, the pair already had a 22 second lead in their class, thanks to a steady run which went without a hitch, while other competitors suffered a raft of problems.
"This morning was very tricky, and a little frustrating," said Tom a tservice. "We've only done 4.5Km so far but the conditions are very difficult. It's very slippery and muddy on the stages and they are already quite rutted, up to a foot or so deep in places. I think this afternoon will be very difficult, particularly on the second run through Sweet Lamb and Myherin."
His words proved to be true, with the second run of the Hafren stage cancelled, due to poor conditions. They were fastest through the second run of Sweet Lamb and second fastest through the Myherin stage, to reach the second halt of the day, immediately before a double-run of the Walters Arena complex, maintaining their 22 second lead in the N3 class.
The two final stages of the day also passed without incident, with Tom and Gemma taking another pair of class stage wins. By the time they returned to the service area in Swansea for the final time, they had advanced even further, to hold a 58-second lead in the N3 class, second two wheel-drivec ar outright and 44th position overall.
Commenting on the day, Tom said; "I'm delighted with how today has gone and if I'm honest, a little surprised. The main objective was to get to the end of the day without any problems, which we have achieved. To do that and hold the class lead in my first WRC event is incredible.
"We decided at the start of the day to take things easy and be pretty cautious and as it transpired, it was the right decision. The conditions were really bad, with the stages getting very rutted but we settled into a safe pace, found a good rhythm in the car and it paid off for us.
"I think tomorrow has to be more of the same; find a pace that works and stick to it. It looks as if the weather will be quite similar and that will make conditions just as tricky, so we will have to keep our wits about us."
The second day of the event sees the crews tackling seven more stages, with two loops of three followed by the now-customary superspecial in the Millennium Stadium in the centre of Cardiff.