on WRC debut
Tom Cave, the 17 year-old who became the youngest driver to compete on Wales Rally GB, yesterday afternoon recorded a convincing class win on his first event in the FIA World Rally Championship. Cave and co-driver Gemma Price reached the finish ramp of the event in Cardiff in 30th place overall, with a class lead of almost 15 minutes and additionally, were the second two wheel-drive car to finish the event outright.
The third and final day of the WRC season finale was again cold and clear, with temperatures hovering around freezing. However, with a class lead of almost 12 minutes after the second day, Tom knew that there was no reason to push on the last day and adopting a steady pace, as he had done for the first two days, was the best approach to ensure what would be a fantastic result.
As it transpired, this was exactly the approach to take. While conditions on the final day were not as bad as the first two, they still required a considerable amount of care to avoid any punishing mistakes. Tom and Gemma suffered several lock-ups on the way to their result but none that threatened their dominating class lead, which they held from the event’s first stage.
Speaking from the finish ramp outside City Hall in Cardiff, Tom said; “This is an absolutely fantastic result, for me, Gemma and the team. I’m over the moon to finish my first WRC event, particularly as it’s my home round but to do that and win our class is an unexpected bonus. Everything seems to have worked perfectly for us this weekend; the car performed without fault, the Yokohama tyres were excellent and I really could not have asked for more.
“There was a lot of black ice on the final four stages and this gave us a few heart-stopping moments here and there. But again, we found a good pace and rhythm for the stages that we felt would get us to the end, stuck to that pace and achieved what we set out to do.
“Before the event, I said I just wanted to finish but deep in my heart, I secretly hoped we might be able to get close to the class top three and perhaps to top 70 overall. I couldn’t have dreamed that we would win the class and be in the top 30 of the event outright. The result really surprised me but it’s unbelievably encouraging to see what we are capable of, as a team.
“The reaction to us here this weekend has been absolutely amazing. There was a lot of media interest around me passing my driving test and becoming the youngest driver ever to do the event but more encouraging than that was the reaction from the other crews, the marshals and of course, the fans. It began at the ceremonial start on Thursday evening and everywhere we went, people were wishing us luck. I’ve been asked to autograph service passes, programmes and jackets this weekend and almost every marshal we’re spoken to had the same advice – “Keep it on the island, son…”.
Just as important to Tom and Gemma as the support from the rally community has been that of the various people who made their record entry to the event possible. “There are so many people I need to thank for this opportunity,” said Tom. “My father has been the inspiration for my rallying and ultimately, has given me this chance while my mum and my sister have both been behind me all the way. Gemma’s support and experience have been invaluable, both in Latvia and of course, here this weekend and the help that Martin [Rowe, former Production car World Rally Champion] has given us also contributed to our success.
“I also have to thank the m3motorsport team for making sure the car ran without a fault this weekend and Yokohama for providing us with exactly the tyres we needed for the conditions, as well as technical support throughout the event. And of course, I have to say an enormous thanks to the Latvian Automobile Federation, whose support ultimately led to my International Rally license and two years of experience, both of which were essential in this weekend’s result.”
Commenting on the weekend’s result, Martin Rowe said: “This is an amazing result from Tom. The conditions have been extremely tricky and the only way to achieve a result was to drive carefully and use every ounce of understanding. Tom’s approach to the event was mature and showed experience and skill that far outweigh his time in a rally car so far. I thought he would do well but like him, I didn’t expect it to be quite this good.”