Tom Cave survived what he described as the toughest rally of his career this weekend, when he reached the finish ramp of the Wyedean Rally, the opening round of the BTRDA Champiosnhp, in 11th place. The result doesn't tell the whole story, with sub-zero temperatures and stages covered in sheet ice claiming countless cars from the enormous starting field.
The run-up to the event had been much the same as the rest of the country - snow a week before which had thawed and light drizzle the day before the event. However, the thermometer plunged during the night, meaning that the wet gravel roads forming the route were now completely frozen and in some cases, covered with remains of snow in shade and some in frost.
It was clear from the outset that four wheel-drive was no advantage for the later runners, as they found the going as difficult as their earlier two wheel-drive colleagues. In fact, it was colder in the Forest of Dean than it was in Hagfors, Sweden, for the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
While the WRC competitors had the advantage of studded tyres, these are not permitted in the UK and so a cautious approach was necessary.
Even so, Tom and co-driver Craig Parry still spun several times in the first stage, the 20 year-old completely caught out by the lack of grip from the gravel tyres on the Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 he had rented for the event, as his Subaru was not yet ready.
As a result, he was 48th overall after the first stage but now with an idea of the grip levels, he set about making up for lost time. By the time the crews returned to Chepstow Racecourse for the day's single service after three stages, Tom and Craig were 20th overall and third in Group N.
They tackled the afternoon with a more conservative approach and it paid off; after a quartet of top ten times, they reached the finish of the rally in 11th place overall and third in Group N.
Commenting, Tom said: "It's been a very tricky day but I'm just really pleased to get the finish. I didn't realise until the finish that we also got a pretty good result, considering the conditions, so not a bad start to the year.
"The biggest problem we had was completely the wrong tyres. We should have been on snow tyres like the other front-runners were. As a result, we lost a lot of time, particularly on the first stage and we just couldn't find a rhythm. I didn't really enjoy the driving today.
"It was also hard as the conditions were so inconsistent; you had to assume every corner was covered in sheet ice and while most were, others were clearer and there was more grip. But I'm glad to get to the finish and get some points on the board for the first round."
Tom's next event will be Rallye Sunseeker in two weeks time, the opening round of the British Rally Championship. He has secured a Citroen DS3 R3T for the BRC but it will not arrive from the Citroen Sport factory in France in time for the first round, so he will tackle that event in a rented Ford Fiesta R2.