Challenging season debut ..

for Tom Cave in local event

The UK’s first minor international rally driver, Tom Cave, enjoyed a challenging season-opener this weekend on his local event, the Bulldog Rally. Using a hired car, Tom and co-driver Gemma Price finished the event, the first round of the British Rally Championship, 17th overall and as the fourth Group N Ford Fiesta.

This was Tom’s first event since he completed his FIA World Rally Championship debut in December of last year, when he became the youngest driver ever to compete on Wales Rally GB. And although the stages would be familiar to him, he was using a car hired from former British Rally Champion Gwyndaf Evans, as his car was travelling to Portugal for the next rally in his 2009 campaign.

The Welsh event began well for the pair; they set the second fastest stage time for the brace of Group N Fiesta competing in the British one-make series and had a clean run through the first pair of stages. However, they suffered a slight scare on the third timed test, when smoke began to enter the car from below the handbrake lever. Despite a brief pause to establish there was no danger of fire, the pair arrived at the day’s first service as the third-placed Fiesta, a position they were more than happy with.

However, the smoking problem reappeared on the first of the next two stages and Tom was forced to drive four miles of the stage blind, while Gemma poured water into the transmission tunnel of the car to prevent smoke entering. The following stage passed without incident and at the following service halt, the crew made several adjustments to the Fiesta’s suspension, to cope with the two final stages, repeated runs over increasingly rutted and cut up gravel roads.

Four miles into the penultimate stage, Tom was approaching a tight hairpin left corner rather too ambitiously, by his own admission. The Fiesta spun and stalled and the engine would not restart immediately, costing the crew some 45 seconds and a position.

Hoping that their dramas for the day were now behind them, Tom and Gemma started the final stage, the 18mile Dovey test. However, there would be a sting in the tail for the pair, as three miles into the stage, the car hit a huge rock and the intercom failed. Gemma was forced to resorting to indicating the corners by pointing left or right and holding up fingers to show the severity of the corner for the final 12 miles of the stage. Despite this adaptive technique, the pair still managed to set the third-fastest time of the Fiestas on the event, to round out what Tom went on to describe as a challenging day’s rallying.

Commenting on the day’s action, Tom said; “It was a challenging day, that’s for sure. However, even with the issues we had to work around, I definitely enjoyed it and I’m pleased with the result. We managed to set top three Fiesta times, which is where I hoped we would be and that is very encouraging, considering the competition we were up against.

“The GemSport team did a great job on the car, giving us what we needed for the weekend and the Yokohama tyres also worked very well. It was a perfect rally to set us up for the WRC round in Portugal, which I know will be a much tougher proposition altogether.”

There was almost no chance for Tom to draw breadth, as almost as soon as he finished the Bulldog, he flew to the Algarve in Portugal to begin preparations for his next event, the Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Running from the 2nd to the 5th of April, the fourth round of the WRC again features the Fiesta one-make series, this time the international version supporting the WRC and three solid days of competition, a prospect Tom is relishing.

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