Whilst away in December 2019 on holiday, there was head space to reflect on the year gone by. There were no realistic options on the horizon for 2020. I was un sure whether I was going to move forward for another year in the British Rally Championship. Not because I didn't want to, it down to circumstances out of my control.
2019 on the whole was successful, 3 outright rally wins, handful of podiums, albeit one sizeable accident on the Ulster Rally. Which only dented pride thankfully. I was never at one with car on that event, I had to push with out it coming naturally, Matt drove very well I could not get near to chinking his armour. I learnt a lot about my self that weekend too, I never voiced my opinions afterwards to anyone, I suppose I didn’t want to show a sign of weakness, but I was immensely disappointed, I knew the championship title was going to be a mountain climb blindfolded, near impossible! Fast forward to Galloway Hills rally, the minimum required was to win from my side, I didn’t feel the pressure, because I had nothing really to lose, it was all on Matts shoulders. We came out on fine form never the less, we won 8 of 8 stages and claimed the rally victory. This was a huge confidence boost, moving forward and a relief that I extracted a small positive from the past few weeks. Phillip and his army of mechanics, spent the best part of 2 weeks prior to Galloway Hills solidngly, working, cutting, welding, ALZ R550 back together again after the Ulster rally incident. That win was for them, in large quantise of gratitude towards their efforts on getting the car ready for Scotland.
Wales Rally GB: A new co driver, Dale Furniss. I had known Dale for many years on and off events. I was looking forward to working together. The event on whole was very good. We started with few a car issues, one to note was a complete re wire job of the steering wheel, there was broken wire which was causing intermittent responses to my wheel output controls, Anti Lag control, Boost control, wipers etc. In the end all controls were lost on the wheel, prior to stage 2 Elsi. We didn’t have anti lag, or full boost then onwards for elsi and penmachno. The long road section down to Dyfnant gave us a opportunity to have a go at a road side repair job. Much to Dales delight in the pouring rain, Ciaran our engineer sent us over a wiring diagram, find attached photo! And we attempted a successful fix, having to use our teeth to strip the wire back! The time loss was on average, 25 secs a stage to fastest R5 car, so over 2 stages we lost the best part of a minute to my frustration!
To put the overall result into perspective we finished 15.9 seconds behind 2003 WRC champion Petter Solberg & 59 seconds behind 1st R5 car, Kalle Rovenpera!
On reflection, It was a weekend of what ifs, whats ifs; Or like Guy Martin said I quote; “If, ifs and buts were pots and pans, we would all be scrap mental merchants” The result was my best finish to date on Wales Rally GB, 11th overall. It is an event I love, an event I looked upto when I was young lad, out spectating with my dad, and hopefully one day I get the opportunity to compete on WRGB in a WRCcar.
A new decade has began, it had been a tough 8 weeks, more from a personal perspective, a family bereavement, which puts added pressure on every one close to you, and you don’t realise how much it had niggled away in your own head in till you reflect back on it. We learnt an opportunity was possible do BRC again, in the Hyundai I20 R5. Heading to the Autosport Show at the NEC, discussions were carried out with our partners of 2019, and we agreed to go ahead with a programme in the BRC. As always these things never come together when you would like them to, but nonetheless I am grateful we have a programme to aim for, 4 weeks and counting to round 1, Cambrian rally.
Our pre event test was the first time I had been in the car since November. I knew we had a good setup from Wales rally GB, stages are similar on the Cambrian rally, same Pirelli Tyres. There wasn’t to much to learn from the test. We had a upgraded set of suspension to test, I felt the traction and feeling in the car was improved greatly with the upgrded shocks, so we opted to use these for the rally. Conditions were perfect, cold, crisp air & potent combination for a R5 car, engine felt strong all was happy heading into the recce.
As many of you have seen, the rally wasn’t successful. We came out fastest out the blocks, albeit Matt did stall on the start line of Stage 1. Matt fought back on stage 2 taking 1.5 seconds back over 8 miles. Heading into Penmachno stage 3, there was a small delay at the start. That gave us all a chance to have a catch up, chat abit of nonsense as we always do in-between stages.. I like to break out the Haribo’s keeps things sociable!
4.5 miles into the stage 3, the rear got away from me on a 3rd gear right hand corner, and the rear left wheel, struck a large rock. Consequently breaking the wheel, and brake disc into 3 pieces. I carried onto the next junction, I knew that was only 200 metres away. Luckily I did, because we could not get the jack under the car, thankfully the spectators lifted the car up enough to get the jack lined up with the jacking post, and we got the wheel changed, albeit 3 mins 35seconds have gone by. But it felt much longer working away on the side of the road changing the wheel in all the chaos, with cars hurdling past every 1 minute or so, and with hot wheel nuts to contend with, a VERY hot brake disc hanging off, the rally win had long disappeared into the horizon!
Overall result, we fought our way back up to 6th overall, scored crucial championship points, fastest times on the board too. Moving onto West Cork Rally in March; great event and based 2019, we showed good pace.
That is all for now, I hope you enjoyed my blog…
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British Rally Championship round one – Report
Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – 8th February 2020
Having led the event from the start, Saturday’s Cambrian Rally saw Tom and his co-driver Dale Furniss having to call on their skills and resolve when a broken wheel and the subsequent time lost on stage three, forced them to fight back to go on to score a hard-earned sixth place.
It wasn’t the result the two Welshman had been looking for to kick start their 2020 British Rally Championship campaign, but they came away from the event consoled in the knowledge that the pace is there to win when the opportunity and better fortunes allow.
The Llandudno-based Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally featured six North Wales forest stages plus a run on asphalt around the Great Orme headland – an area that Tom and Dale know well having been rewarded with success in November when they finished 11th overall and top non-WRC registered crew on the Wales Rally GB.
Using his knowledge of the area, combined with his confidence in the PCRS-prepared Hyundai i20 R5, Tom was fastest out of the box and after stage two led the event by a margin of 1.7 seconds from his perennial rival, Matt Edwards.
With the scene set for an intriguing battle for the remainder of the rally, stage three proved pivotal, when Tom and Dale clipped a rock with the rear, nearside wheel. The impact was enough to break the alloy and puncture the tyre, forcing them to stop at the side of the road to change the wheel.
Although carrying out the running repairs as quickly as they could, nearly four minutes were lost. Consequently, the only option now was damage limitation and get to back on the trail to score as many points as possible.
Now in tenth place, Tom and Dale picked off the cars ahead of them stage-by stage. After setting another fastest time on the seventh and final stage of the day, Elsi – a forest Tom knows well, following impressive runs over its testing seven miles in the past two Rally GB outings – the Welshmen crossed the line in sixth place. Clearly, whilst it wasn’t the result they had hoped for, both were satisfied that given the circumstances, it was the best that they could have done and that championship points were now on the board.
“I was pleased in the knowledge that we were on the pace right from the start. I felt at home in the Hyundai from the word go. The PCRS team know how to build a reliable car and set it up just how I like it. So, even though the competition was tough, I knew we had a great chance of a top result.
“It therefore came as quite a blow that when we clipped a rock on the outside of a fast right-hander, the consequences were as severe as they were. All we could do from then on was exactly what we did and bring home as many points as possible. We have the team, the car – in fact the whole package – to challenge for the British title, so we’ll now re-group and focus on the next event. Thanks go to Dale and the team for a job well done and our sponsors for their invaluable support.”
The second round of the British Rally Championship is the West Cork Rally. Having scored a fiercely fought victory last year, Tom will be gunning to do exactly the same again on 14th & 15th March.
Tom’s 2020 campaign is supported by: Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Pirelli Tyres, Trailhead Get Jerky, Shukers Hyundai, WD40 and Atech Racing.
Photo by Stanislav Kucera.
Back to challenge for this year’s British Championship title is Aberdovey’s Tom Cave, who will embark on a second season driving a PCRS prepared Hyundai i20 R5 on Saturday’s Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally.
This year will see him partnered by Dale Furniss from Llanfylin, who co-drove for Tom when he recorded his best ever World Rally Championship result of 11th overall in October’s Wales Rally GB. In doing so, Tom and Dale finished third of the WRC2 class entries, first independent entry and top Welsh Crew.
After winning three of lasts year’s six British Rally Championship rounds and setting more fastest stage times than any other driver, Tom ended the 2019 British season as runner-up and therefore, has his sights firmly fixed on grasping the title this year.
“It’s great to be back in the British Rally Championship and after finishing second place for the third time last year, adding to my results in 2016 and 2012, I feel I have some unfinished business to attend to. We’ve spent the past few weeks bringing everything together for this season, so I’m delighted to be able to kick things off with the Cambrian Rally this weekend.”
As well as entering this year’s British Championship, Tom also aims to maintain his podium-finishing profile at world level and therefore, plans to enter two WRC events this season: Rally Finland in August and Wales Rally GB at the end of the October.
“In addition to all six rounds of the British Championship, if all goes well we are planning to go back to Finland, where I scored third in the WRC2 class in 2017 driving a Hyundai. Likewise, having finished third of the R5s in last year’s Rally GB, it would be great to do the same again. It would be a perfect way to round off the season.
“However, we have to focus on the first event and although the Cambrian Rally is fairly local to me, it’s a tough one to start with and we’ll need to hit the ground running. I’m sure the PCRS team will do their usual fantastic job when it comes to providing a strong and reliable car, so I’m hoping we’ll get off to a great start. It feels like a long time since last October and my last outing in the car, so I can’t wait to get started. Bring it on!”
The 65th edition of the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally will be based in the event’s familiar home of Llandudno and – as it did for last year’s Wales Rally GB – the town hosts the event’s start and finish.
Running second car on the road, behind last year’s winner Matt Edwards, Tom will leave the Promenade at 09.02. Then, together with the rest of the 100+ car field, will head south to tackle three gravel-surface stages in Crafnant, Gwydir and Penmachno forests, followed by a run around the Great Orme headland road on asphalt before the midday service halt at Rhos-onSea near Colwyn Bay.
The afternoon sees a further three forest stages in Crafnant, Gwydir and Elsi which, as his performances from the previous two Rally GB outings have shown, is one of Tom’s favourite stages. After completing 44 miles of competition, cars return to Llandudno Promenade for the finish from 15.43.
Tom’s 2020 rally campaign is supported by: Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Pirelli Tyres, Trailhead Foods Get Jerky, Shukers Hyundai of Aberystwyth, WD40 and Atech Racing.