Tom Cave targets classic rallie

 to gain experience

The UK’s first minor international rally driver and youngest competitor ever in Wales Rally GB, Tom Cave, will contest some of the most iconic events in rallying in 2009 as the next phase of his career. He has chosen a mixed program taking in events that form part of the British Rally Championship, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and the FIA World Rally Championship to springboard him towards his goal of becoming a professional rally driver.

Following the success Tom and co-driver Gemma Price enjoyed on the finale of the 2008 WRC, Wales Rally GB, determining his program for 2009 was crucial in ensuring that his experience and skills progress. The programme was finalised following discussions with various parties at the 2009 Autosport International show and now confirmed, Tom can begin his preparations for a season that will take him across Europe and potentially, farther afield.

He will begin his ’09 campaign at the wheel of his Group N Fiesta, since this will allow him to focus on developing his pace note system on increasingly challenging rallies, as well as become more familiar with the format of a modern event without the added complication of understanding a new car. It also means that he will be able to push on each and every event he competes on, demonstrating the pace and potential that was apparent in Wales.

His season will begin with his home round of the British Rally Championship, the Bulldog Rally, which will be treated as a shakedown test for the remainder of the programme. Using stages in Wales not far from his home in Aberdovey, Tom feels that a little local knowledge will go a long way.

The Tom Cave Racing team will then head south for the fourth round of the WRC, Vodafone Rally de Portugal. The high speed and challenging nature of the stages in the Algarve will mean that his pace note system will develop considerably, as will his confidence and commitment. The event should also see a significant number of drivers in equal machinery, allowing him to gauge his competitiveness once again.

Following the fast Portuguese stages, there will be a brief respite for Tom, as the car is switched from gravel to tarmac trim, ready for the third round of the BRC, the famous Jim Clark rally. Based in Kelso, this event comprises some of the most demanding asphalt stages in the UK.

There then begins a busy summer for the youngster, with four rallies in less than two months. Firstly, he will tackle the infamous Acropolis Rally, renowned as one of the ultimate tests of both man and machine and success here will dpend on knowing when to push and when to hold back and preserve the car.

The following round of the WRC will see Tom competing on Rally Poland, appearing in the WRC calendar for the first time. Tom’s experience in Latvia should stand him in good stead as he and the rest of the WRC field, including a brace of Fiesta drivers, take to the Polish stages.

Two weeks later, it’s back to the UK for the fourth round of the BRC and another absolutely iconic rally, the Manx International. Running on the bumpy and abrasive asphalt of the Isle of Man in the Irish sea, this is another event that will depend on accurate pace notes and an ability to deal with constantly-changing conditions. As in Poland, Tom can expect stiff competition from Fiesta drivers in the British one-make series.

The mid-summer push ends with another tarmac event, this time further from home as Tom and the team head for the Portuguese island of Madeira. This event is a round of the IRC and as well as providing additional tarmac experience, will give the chance to see the latest crop of Super2000 cars in action; crucially important as it looks as if these cars, in either this or the ‘S2000+’ guise will form the future of rallying.

Tom then has a two-month break to recuperate as well as a chance to review the year so far and finalise plans for the remainder of the season. It is at this point that Tom will decide whether to complete the season in the Fiesta or if the opportunity is available to make another step forward in his career, as he did when he entered Wales Rally GB last year.

This would most likely take the form of a step up in terms of the car that he uses for the remainder of the season. However, while the possibilities of a major step forward late in the season would be enough to distract many, Tom is clearly focussed on the aims for the year.

“I think this year is all about gaining as much experience as possible on as many surfaces as we can,” said Tom. “That’s part of the reason we’ve chosen some of the most famous events in the sport. There were others that I initially hoped to compete in, such as Rally Finland, Rallye San Remo and Ypres but unfortunately I can’t yet, because I must be 18 to be able to enter and I won’t be until November of this year.

“I feel that it’s a good blend of everything; a mixture of gravel and tarmac, some events in the UK, as well as WRC or IRC events which will help me to develop my pace note system as well as improve my understanding of the physical and mental demands of consistently competing on top level events.

“Using the Fiesta means that I can push as hard as necessary to prove how competitive I know we can be. I’m also looking forward to gauging my pace against some of the more experienced Fiesta drivers we’re likely to meet on both the BRC and WRC stages.

“The break at the mid-point of the season will allow us to take stock and decide how to approach the second half of the season. We may stick with the Fiesta or we may look to move on, depending on what options are available to us at that point.”