After more than three days of rallying and one of the biggest events of his career, Welsh rally driver Tom Cave from Aberdovey finished this weekend's Rally de España, the final round of the 2014 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy in second place, having led the event convincingly until an uncharacteristic error. This means that despite the performance, which also included three stage wins, he was unable to overhaul points leader Sander Parn and hence, finished the season second in the standings.
Heading into the season finale, Tom knew that he and co-driver Craig Parry had a huge task ahead of them; to stand a chance of winning the series and with it, the prize of a seven-round WRC2 campaign in 2015, they had to at least win the event and four stages just to close the gap to Parn.
They started the rally with this clearly in mind and by the end of the second day of competitive action, on gravel roads, held first place overall in the DDFT category, with a lead of more than a minute in class and two of the necessary four stage wins under their collective belt.
The third day and the first of two days of pure tarmac saw Tom and Craig pick up where they left off, embroiled in a huge battle with Nils Solans and Quentin Gilbert. By the end of the day, Tom had snatched another stage win and retained the lead with a margin of a minute.
However, his title aspirations would be dashed on the first stage of the final day. Around three kilometres into the first of the leg's four stages, his Ford Fiesta R2 understeered off the road and got beached on a rock bank. By the time the Spanish spectators had freed the car and returned Tom and Craig to the black-top, they had lost more than two minutes and with it, the event lead.
Such was their advantage from the first three days though, that they only dropped to second in class, behind eventual winner Nils Solans. However, the loss of position, combined with Sander Parn finishing in fifth place meant that Tom and Craig ended the 2014 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy in second place.
Commenting after the finish, Tom said; "I've never known emotion like that at the end of this event. To be fighting so hard all weekend and to be leading, then make such a silly mistake was devastating.
"Three kilometres into the stage, the car just understeered off the road. It was a section under the trees and while the first part of the stage was in bright sunlight, this was in shade and I guess the combination of cold road, cold air temperature and tyres not yet up to full temperature caught me out. There was no damage to the car so we could carry on but it took a while for the spectators to get us back on the road.
"The minute the car started to understeer, I knew that was it - game over. It was an incredibly frustrating way to end not only this event but also this season and I think it will take some time - probably until Wales Rally GB - to get over it. But as I have seen countless times in the past, it's all part of the learning curve and it happens to the best of 'em.
"There are plenty of positives to take from the season though. We have been quick on both gravel and tarmac on events which we have done before as well as events which are new to us and I am pleased with the speed we have been able to show.
"I want to thank all our partners and sponsors for their support through the year - Morris Lubricants for not only backing us but also supplying us and the rest of the DDFT field with lubricants and of course, the Trefeddian Hotel."
Tom's next event will be in three week's time, when he switches from two to four-wheel drive for the finale of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB. He will be driving a Ford Fiesta R5 car, as he did on last year's event and will be keen to repeat his performance, which saw him claim fine stage wins in a single day in a scintillating drive.