Welsh rally driver Tom Cave, from Aberdovey, is preparing himself for what he regards as rallying's greatest challenge, the Rally of Finland. The event features among the highest speeds and the most technical of roads in the sport and is a fitting venue for the third round of the 2014 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.
Formerly known as the 'Rally of the 1000 Lakes' due to the number of inland water bodies in the region around event base Jyvaskyla and the 'Finnish Grand Prix', because of the high average speeds, the event is one which Tom has always wanted to contest but has never had the opportunity. Until now.
Success in Finland depends on numerous factors; an understanding of the nature of the roads, with countless crests, often blind and leading out of or into corners, an accurate set of pace notes, a good car set-up to soak up the landings and of course, some good old-fashioned courage.
Tom and co-driver Craig Parry have been preparing for the event with some high-speed testing in the UK, using an R2 Fiesta rented from AB Motorsport. However, for more event-specific experience, he has a test scheduled in Finland before the start of the recce, to familiarise himself with the conditions and establish what he feels is the best set-up to begin the event on. This decision will be taken following the test, which has been organised by a local Finnish team.
Following the recce, Tom will take part in the official Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy pre-event shakedown, which will give another chance to refine the Fiesta's set-up prior to the start of the event itself.
Despite the fact that he has not contested the event before and that the level of competition is likely to be exceptionally high, he is still relishing the opportunity to compete in the spiritual home of rallying. He is also buoyed by two second places in the first two rounds of the DDFT in his Morris Lubricants-supported Fiesta which, like the full 12-car field, also uses Morris Lubricants engine and transmission oils and brake fluid.
Commenting, 22 year-old Tom said; "I am so looking forward to Rally Finland. It has been one of my dreams to compete here since I started driving seven years ago and I still can't believe that in a little over a week, I will be driving on some of the most challenging and demanding stages in the WRC.
"It certainly isn't going to be an easy rally, that's for sure. Max [Vatanen] is Finnish and obviously has a huge amount of experience and heritage in the family so I expect he will be very quick. Sander [Parn] will also be very fast, as the conditions apparently are very similar to those in Estonia and he won the 2WD category of Rally Estonia recently, so he's going to be on a roll as well.
"I think the pre-event test we have scheduled will help enormously. I have studied so much video footage of the stages that I reckon I could drive most of them blindfold but while that gives a good idea of where the roads go, it doesn't give you any idea of the feel of the stages and how a rally car is likely to behave at speed.
"Our test will be in a Fiesta and will be the first chance we get to feel how the Finnish roads are in the car. I know they will be fast and the car will be spending a lot of time in sixth gear and in the air and it's crucial to know how it feels at high speed and how it lands after the crests and jumps.
"A good set of pace notes is also crucial and as this is our first time, it will be a clean sheet of paper for us. This means that the recce is extra important, to get a set of notes I can trust from the outset and make sure we can push as hard as we need to immediately.
"After two rounds we've seen just how competitive the DDFT really is and while it would be nice to be able to take a couple of stages to feel our way in, realistically I don't think this is possible. From what I understand, the roads in Finland tend to stay in pretty good shape as they are very hard-packed so I don't anticipate we'll need to be too defensive or careful if the weather stays warm and dry.
"I think to get a good result, which of course we want, means as fast as possible from the word go."
The event begins with the ceremonial start at the Paviljonki service area on Thursday 31 July before four stages into the evening. Friday 1 August sees nine stages to the south-west of Jyvaskyla, run as two loops of four plus the second superspecial stage close to the event base. Saturday 2 August sees 10 stages as two loops of five to the west and south-west while Sunday 3 August comprises just three stages to the east, culminating with the Power stage before the finish ceremony at the Paviljonki from 3pm.