Welsh rally driver Tom Cave endured a rollercoaster of an event on this weekend's Rally Finland, the third round of the 2014 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy. The 22 year-old, partnered by co-driver Craig Parry and driving their Morris Lubricants-supported Ford Fiesta R2, went from a dominant lead of the event at the end of the second day into retirement on the third after suspension damage but a combination of tenacity and a string of stage wins means that he retains second place overall in the series standings.
The event began with four stages on Thursday afternoon and evening and the forecasted rain and winds did not disappoint. The conditions caught many drivers out and Tom and Craig were to suffer indirectly, as they caught and were held up by slower cars in both the first and third stages of the event. As a result, they finished the first day of competition in fourth place.
However, the second full day - Friday - dawned dry and while the fast Finnish gravel roads were still damp, Tom found they suited his driving style perfectly. He set the DDFT pace throughout the nine stages, claiming five stage wins to end the second day of the rally having climbed into the lead with an advantage of 20 seconds over series leader Sander Parn.
He began the third day of the event in the same frame of mind but it would not be as straightforward as the second. In the first stage of the morning, he caught a slower car ahead and almost lost the lead in the one stage. He spent the rest of the morning loop of stages trying to regain the rhythm, as well as managing his tyres for a big push on the second loop that afternoon.
However, on the second stage of the loop, he struck an unseen rock in a hole on the inside of a full-speed left hand bend and this ripped the entire suspension leg off the car. With no chance of continuing he was forced to retire from the day.
He returned on the fourth and final day - Sunday - under Rally2 regulations and despite languishing in 39th place overall and eighth in DDFT, refused to be beaten. The first run through the famed Ruuhimaki stage, he was unsure how fast he could take the huge jump in the middle and aired on the cautious side, missing out on the stage win by 0.4s. However, he pushed hard through the two remaining tests to claim the win on the penultimate stage and the second run of Ruuhimaki, the Power Stage.
As a result, he finished the event in 37th pace overall and seventh in DDFT. Thanks to the result and the number of stage wins he claimed on the event - eight - he maintains his second place in the DDFT standings, as the series now heads for its last two events, both on tarmac as opposed to gravel.
Commenting after the event, Tom said; "I'm really pleased with this weekend. Obviously we didn't get the result I was hoping for at the end of the second day but I'm really pleased with our pace, especially when you consider the nature of this event and the fact that we haven't been here before.
"Thursday evening was a bit frustrating, to have caught two cars ahead of us but Friday was really good. The stages really suited my driving style and it all clicked together.
"Saturday morning really threw me when we caught another car. We lost loads of time stuck behind it and it threw the rhythm off for the next couple of stages. We were also trying to look after our tyres so that we could have a big push in the afternoon so it was very disappointing to go out like we did.
"I saw the hole at the last minute but the speed was so high at that point that there was nothing I could do to change the line.
"We managed to keep our second place in the series, which is really good. I think the dynamics could well change on the next event - Germany - when we move from gravel to tarmac but let's see."
The next round of the DDFT is Rally Germany, over the weekend of 21-24 August.