A determined performance by 20 year-old rally driver Tom Cave saw a useful haul of points for the MSA British Rally Championship on this weekend's Pirelli International Rally, despite the Welshman not finding a set-up for his Citroen DS3 R3 which allowed him to confidently attack the stages in the fabled Kielder forest. He and co-driver Craig Parry eventually finished the event ninth overall, fifth in Class 5 and claimed ten points for the championship in the process.
Tom was understandably bullish approaching the event, following a dominant win on the previous round, the Bulldog Rally. A short pre-event test gave what he and the Tom Cave Racing team thought would be a good wet set-up for the Pirelli but as it transpired, this was not the case.
The event began with two stages run on Friday evening and immediately, the Citroen was showing excessive oversteer and with it, a lack of confidence for Tom. He made several changes to the settings for the first loop of stages on Saturday morning but again, these did nothing to improve the car's stability and as a result, his confidence.
Further changes were made in consolation with the attending Citroen engineers but again, these were ineffective and the car remained extremely nervous on the long, fast straights that made up many of the stages. The net result was that Tom simply had no confidence in the car and was unable to push for a better result.
By the mid-point of the day, he and Craig decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valour and they adopted a pace that would see them to the finish of the event, without pushing to claim a better position and risk throwing a useful points tally away.
Commenting after the event, Tom said: "It was a very disappointing and frustrating day. We just couldn't get the right set-up that would give me any confidence in the car whatsoever and allow me to push.
"The car itself ran faultlessly, we just couldn't get it set up right. It started with too much oversteer on Friday and was incredibly nervous and unstable on the higher speed sections. And in Kielder, that's the last thing you want. We tried various options, including those suggested by the Citroen engineers at the event but it just wasn't happening.
"I couldn't get my head round what the issue was and as a result, had no confidence in the car and knew that if I tried to push, it would have gone wrong in a major way."
Tom's next potential event is the Jim Clark Rally, the fourth round of the BRC, pending securing financial support. However, he clearly understands that in order to succeed, he needs more seat time in the car and is considering using the prize money from his win on the Bulldog and from the Pirelli to contest an event in Ireland as a pre-event warm-up for the Jim Clark and potentially, the Ulster Rally in August.
"It's clear from this event and the Bulldog that when everything gels and works together, then the speed and potential results are there," he said. "However, we can't be at the front unless this is the case. I think that if we had a good set-up with the car this weekend, then we could have done better but there's little point in focussing on 'What ifs'.
"What is obvious is that we need to up the game if we're going to succeed in the BRC. I'm just glad that we stuck with it this weekend and managed to get enough points to stay towards the front of the championship."
Tom is now second in the overall championship standings.
Tom is considering the feasibility of contesting the Carlow Stages in Ireland on the 13 May, having been unable to get an entry on this year's Isle of Man Rally, as the entry list is full.