Having effectively clinched the Production Cup and Junior Driver awards in the 2011 BTRDA rally championship, teenage rally driver Tom Cave will embark on arguably the biggest challenge of his rallying career next month, as he competes in the series finale, the Cambrian Rally, at the wheel of a World Rally Car. The opportunity to enter the event in the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC presented itself and, as Tom admits, was far too good a chance to pass up.
Thanks to his and co-driver Craig Parry's performance on last month's Woodpecker Rally, Tom is now uncatchable in both the Production Cup and the Junior Driver categories of the 2011 BTRDA series. And while his performance elevated him to fourth overall in the Gold Star driver standings, he still has the opportunity to climb to third, if he has a good result on the Cambrian.
In addition, another excellent result means that he is also in contention for the Welsh National Rally Championship overall, where he currently holds third place and the Welsh Junior Driver award, which he leads.So without the pressure of competing for the Group N honours, the chance to drive the Lancer WRC on the Cambrian brings with it the best chance of overall success and the chance to end the season on a high with a top three overall BTRDA finish and the Welsh titles.
However, Tom knows that success on the Cambrian is by no means a given: the event uses stages which form part of the route of Wales Rally GB, the UK's round of the FIA World Rally Championship. As such, it's not uncommon for WRC drivers to enter the event as a warm-up and test for the WRC finale, run just five weeks later. In fact, Ford works driver Mikko Hirvonen ran as course car two years ago and on that occasion, the rally was won by Mads Ostberg.
The car Tom will be using, the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC, will be run by former works Mitsubishi outfit, MML Sports Ltd. While this will be Tom's first foray in a world car, it won't be the first outing with MML Sports. He drove the company's Group N Lancer EvoX on Rally Latvia in 2010 and was on course for a sensational second in Group N before a last-minute puncture.
Commenting, Tom said: "Of course, I'm incredibly excited by the prospect of driving a World Rally Car on the Cambrian. It's going to be a big challenge, as I've barely even sat in a world car before but we have a 50Km test before the event, so hopefully I'll be able to at least learn the systems then.
"Craig also has a huge amount of experience in world rally cars, so that will be a massive benefit as we approach the test and the event. It will be a huge step up for us but we're really excited by the prospect of driving the Mitsubishi WRC.
"It's great that we have this opportunity. It really means a lot to me to have effectively won the Production Cup and the Junior Driver award. And with the chance to drive the MML Sports car on the Cambrian, I hope that we can climb to third in the Gold Star and challenge for the overall Welsh championship title, as well as the Welsh Junior award. We'll need a good result but we'll definitely have the car for it.
"I'm also really looking forward to working with the MML Sports team again. We had a fantastic run in Latvia last year and they were extremely professional and supportive and I can't wait to get into the Lancer."The one-day event takes place on Saturday 8 October and is based in Llandudno. It takes in 45 stage miles, including the Great Orme stage, one of those featuring on the first day of this year's Wales Rally GB.