Tom Cave and his co-driver James Morgan won round two of the British Rally Championship on this weekend’s Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally, the result putting Tom’s chase for the BRC title firmly back on track. The event also hosted a round of the Irish Tarmac Championship and therefore, the Welsh pair’s third place overall against many of Ireland’s top drivers, underlined the strength of their performance.
Proceedings began on Friday evening with a ceremonial start in the centre of Clonakitly, the event’s host town, with the action getting underway on Saturday morning in extremely wet and windy conditions. Right from the word go, Tom from Aberdovey and James from Hirwaun made their intentions clear by setting the third-fastest overall time on the first stage.
A braking issue on stage two slowed them slightly, but with the Hyundai working well and Michelin tyres providing exceptional grip, another third-fastest time on stage three was followed by a second-fastest time on stage six. These three impressive runs pushed them back up to third overall and more importantly, they were now the first of the BRC crews ahead of the day’s final loop of three stages.
However, the Welshmen’s charge was diluted a little due to a puncture on stage seven, which allowed their arch BRC rivals Matt Edwards/Patrick Walsh to nip past. Another third fastest time on stage eight meant Tom and James ended the day fourth overall and second BRC crew, albeit by a slender 6.8 seconds.
In contrast to the previous day, Sunday dawned dry and bright and Tom and James focused on the task in hand: to get back ahead of Edwards/Walsh. And on stage 10 – the first of the day – that’s exactly what they did, with a second fastest overall time that elevated them into third place overall and put them 1.2 seconds ahead of their BRC rivals.
But over the next two stages Edwards/Walsh fought back and at the lunchtime service halt, Tom and James were 1.4 seconds behind. With a re-run of the morning’s three stages remaining, the Welsh pair knew exactly what they had to do…
They were fastest overall through the next stage, beating their rivals by 1.4 seconds and therefore, putting them dead-level to the tenth of a second! But Tom and James were not finished yet and another fastest overall time through stage 14 pushed them ahead by 4.9 seconds.
It was now all down to the final stage and, with Edwards/Walsh ony 0.1 second quicker, the outcome was settled: Tom and James had won the BRC battle by 4.8 seconds and in doing so, scored maximum championship points and provided the Hyundai i20 R5 with its first ever British Rally Championship victory. At the finish a delighted Tom said:
“It feels brilliant to win a round of the British Rally Championship again. We had an intense battle with Matt and Patrick throughout the event and that meant we really had to fight hard to come out on top.
“The first day was very challenging as we were also battling against the elements, but having taken some fastest BRC times I knew the pace was there. We ended Saturday in a good position for Sunday’s stages and on the dry roads I was able to push even harder. The Hyundai felt great and the Michelin tyres were working perfectly, so once we were in front I felt confident we could hang on to the lead.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend and this result really has put my championship title chase back on track. I must thank James Morgan for doing a great job and the PCRS team for providing me with such a good car. I must also congratulate the rally organisers for putting on such a well-run event and the marshals for sticking with it in the wind and rain on Saturday morning. I must also extend a special thanks to all of our supporting partners. This result is for them.”
The next event in the British Rally Championship calendar is the Carlisle-based Pirelli Rally, which takes place on 27th April and sees the surface change back to gravel, as competitors take on the notoriously demanding high-speed stages in Kielder Forest.
Tom’s 2019 British Rally Championship campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods and their Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Castell Howell, Atech Racing, Walero and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
Tom Cave from Aberdovey aims to get his British Rally championship title challenge back on track this coming weekend (16th & 17th March) when he heads to Southern Ireland for round two, the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally. He will be joined on this occasion by his co-driver for the past three seasons James Morgan from Hirwaun, who sits in for Dale Bowen who is unable to partner Tom this weekend.
The Clonakilty-based event represents the first ever round of the British Championship to be held solely in the Republic of Ireland. It will also be the first asphalt event of the season for Tom, who will be looking to replicate his performance from the first round – February’s Cambrian Rally – but not the result. Whilst he and Dale set a series of front-running times and were challenging for the lead on the final loop of stages in the North Wales forests, three consecutive punctures meant they were unable to make it to the finish.
Tom will be driving the same Philip Case Rally Sport prepared Hyundai i20 R5 that he used for the opening round, with the team having re-prepared the car and changed the set-up from gravel to asphalt specification.
To ensure he hits the ground running this weekend, Tom tested the car on Tuesday and was delighted with outcome:
“The PCRS guys did a great job of setting up the Hyundai for asphalt, which meant there was very little to do to get the car handling perfectly. However, Storm Gareth made things interesting: we had sun, wind, rain and hail in the space of a couple of hours. It was an ideal scenario actually, as we’re likely to encounter a mixed bag of conditions at the weekend.”
Seeded at #12, Tom and James will not only be up against an entry of top British Championship crews, but those from the Irish Tarmac Championship too. Intent on getting his title hopes back on track, Tom will be 100% focused on scoring BRC points.
“Whilst the result of the Cambrian wasn’t what we wanted, the performance of the stages and the reliability of the car absolutely was. I therefore head to West Cork confident in the knowledge that we can challenge at the front of the field – especially following the outcome of this week’s test. I’m really looking forward to driving the Hyundai on asphalt for the first time since the summer of 2017.
The West Cork Rally starts from Clonakilty at 10.00 on Saturday and sees the 200-strong field contest nine stages during the day. A further six take place on Sunday – St Patrick’s Day – with the first car scheduled to reach the finish back in the host town at 16.30 having covered a total of 240 competitive kms.
Tom’s 2019 British Rally Championship campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods and their Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Atech Racing, Walero and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing. The team is delighted to welcome onboard two new sponsors for this event: Go Fetch, pet relocation specialists and Intervino, letterbox wine and personalised gift providers.
British Rally Championship Round One – Report
Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – 16th February 2019
On the opening round of this year’s British Rally Championship – Saturday’s (16th February) Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – Tom Cave and co-driver Dale Bowen clearly established themselves as title contenders, when they delivered an impressive front-running performance on all of the event’s ten stages. However, three punctures in the final two stages meant they were unable to complete the road section to the finish line in Llandudno – an underserved end to an otherwise well-judged and faultless day’s competition.
For Tom (from Aberdovey), the Northwest Wales event represented the start of new season, in a new car, with a new co-driver, who is relishing the opportunity of contesting a full season in this year’s British Rally Championship. Following a highly successful test earlier in the week when he drove the PCRS prepared Hyundai i20 R5 on Michelin tyres for the first time, he and Dale (from Hirwaun) were well prepared to hit the ground running for the first of Saturday’s stages in forests that are synonymous with rallying in the region.
And hit the ground running they did, posting the third-fastest time in the opening stage, a performance that saw the Welsh pair just 3.2 seconds off the then leaders David Bogie/John Rowan and 0.8 seconds from 2018 British Champion Matt Edwards with co-driver Patrick Walsh. Tom and Dale then went on to set equal fastest-time on SS2 and second-fastest on SS3, which meant they held second place – just 5.2 seconds from Edwards/Walsh – when they booked in to the first service halt of the day in Llandudno.
Tom reported all was going exceptionally well, although the stages were more slippery than expected, with varying levels of grip.
With the onset of rain during the second loop of four stages, traction became even more of an issue. Even so, Tom and Dale continued to set top-three times before booking into the second service halt, where the PCRS team fitted spot lamps and a set of softer-compound tyres for the final three-stage loop in the evening.
The nighttime encounter began well, with Tom and Dale beating Edwards/Walsh – who were now in the lead – by nearly two seconds through stage eight. Although being slowed by a puncture about a mile from the finish of SS9, Tom and Dale still held on to their second place as they lined up to start the tenth and final stage.
However, just half-a-mile into the 4.81-mile run through Elsi Forest, a second puncture beset the Hyundai crew, the tyre loosing all of its air immediately. Nevertheless, Tom managed to get the car to the end of the stage and even with the consequential loss of time, he and Dale were fifth and still in a valuable point scoring position.
But there was more frustration to come, when a third puncture manifested itself during the transit section on the way back to the finish control in Llandudno and, with no more spare wheels available, they had no choice but to retire with just a few road miles left to go. It was not the result that the team had anticipated or indeed deserved, following a performance that had all but assured a podium finish, as Tom explains:
“I just can’t believe our rally ended that way. I’ve never experienced three punctures in an event before – let along in two stages!
“However, I’m really pleased with the way things went up until that point. Considering it was the first time in this car, my first event since October’s Wales Rally GB and Dale and I’s first rally together at this level, to be in with a shot of the lead and claim two fastest times, really sets the scene for the season ahead.
“We’ll now investigate what happened, take on board the positives – of which there were many – and regroup so that we’re even better prepared when we travel to Ireland next month.”
The second round of the British Rally Championship is the Clonakilty-based West Cork Rally, which takes place on 15th & 16th March and provides the first asphalt encounter of the season.
Tom’s 2019 British Rally Championship campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods (Get Jerky), Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Atech Racing, Walero and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
Photo: Chicane Media
Welsh Rally driver Tom Cave is pleased to confirm that he will compete for honours in this year’s British Rally Championship. He will contest all of the season’s six rounds behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 R5, supplied and prepared by the PCRS team that ran a similar car for Tom on the Wales Rally GB in October.
The 2019 British Rally Championship season kicks off on Saturday 16th February with the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, when Tom will be joined by fellow Welshman Dale Bowen as co-driver.
“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make this year happen, so I’m delighted that everything has come together just in time for the first round and I really have to thank everyone who is supporting our campaign this season.
“Having been runner up in 2012 and 2016 and third in 2013, the British Championship is something I would really like on my CV, so it’s great to have the opportunity to challenge for the title this year.”
Support for the season comes from Trailhead Fine Foods, who teamed up with Tom for last year’s Rally GB to launch their new Get Jerky range of snacks. Also continuing their backing from 2018 is Manchester-based HN Nuttall Foodservice, Atech Racing and Walero. Adding their names to the list of supporting partners are Michelin Motorsport and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
“Philip Case Rally Sport are supplying and running the car for the whole season. We worked very well together on Rally GB, so it makes complete sense to continue the association.
“I’m delighted to be back in a Hyundai and, after my previous outings in the i20, I feel very much at home in the car. With the upgrades that have been made over the two years since I first drove it on the Pirelli Rally in 2017, I think we can really push for the title this year. I can’t wait to get started, especially as the first round is my home event!”
The Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally gets underway at 8.00am from Mostyn Street in Llandudno. Tom and Dale will be the fourth British Championship crew to leave the start before heading into a series of North Wales forests that are synonymous with the sport of rallying.
The route, which comprises 66 competitive miles, features three stages in the morning followed by a service halt in Llandudno. A further five stages take place in the afternoon followed by another service halt and, for BRC competitors, an additional two nighttime stages before the event finishes where it began later that evening.
After setting four fastest stage times and regularly posting top three times within fractions of a second from that of the factory-supported drivers, Tom Cave’s performance on this year’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB underlined his true potential as a front-runner in the international RC2 category of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Having concluded a deal to drive a Philip Case Rally Sport prepared Hyundai i20 R5 and attracting support from a variety of backers a few weeks before the UK’s round of the WRC, Tom carried out a short but successful test on the Monday before the event. Even without much seat time under his belt, the 26-year old from Aberdovey and co-driver James Morgan from Hirwaun were matching the pace of the top seeded crews from the word go.
Following a short spectator stage near Rhyl on Thursday evening, they went on to set the second-fastest RC2 time on the first two of Friday’s eight stages in the North Wales forests. However, a puncture in SS4 slowed Tom a little and, having used the one and only spare wheel, he was wisely cautious through the morning’s remaining pair of stages held in a slate mine where the flint shards on the edges of the road could have easily caused another tyre-related issue.
Having completed the afternoon’s three forest stages that were a repeat of the morning’s trio, Tom and James pulled into the Deeside service area for the overnight halt fourth in class and impressively, lying 13th overall amongst the works-assisted crews.
The second full day of the rally took teams to Mid and North West Wales for a series of stages that were more familiar to the Welsh pair and, in SS11 – a 20km run through Sweet Lamb and Hafren – they claimed their first RC2 stage win. But then, on the very next stage Dyfi, a slide to the edge of the road on a fast left-hander resulted in getting caught on a tree stump.
With help from a group of spectators they managed to get the car back on the stage, although with over ten minutes lost the chance of a podium finish was now out of the question. Therefore, Tom’s strategy changed and instead of targeting a top overall result, he and James would aim to show what they could do by setting as many top stage times as possible. With only minor cosmetic damage to the rear of the Hyundai, the afternoon saw them go on to achieve their quest by setting another two fastest RC2 times before the overnight halt.
The PCRS team made the most of the limited service time available and consequently, returned the car to 100%. Then, on Sunday’s opening stage, Tom repaid their efforts by setting the quickest time by a clear three seconds ahead of class leader Kalle Rovanpera in a Skoda. It was an impressive performance, bearing in mind it was only a 10km run!
Another top-three time on the 15km Power Stage followed, but when he and James went to swap the wheels from front-to-back before the circumnavigation of the Great Orme at Llandudno, they noticed oil on and around the sump guard. Taking into account their position in the rally, they decided to retire from the event rather than risk any significant mechanical damage.
Whilst it wasn’t the ideal outcome they were hoping for, Tom, James and the rest of the team were extremely satisfied with the way they had represented themselves and their sponsors on the event. Consequently, they came away from the rally in the knowledge that given the opportunity, they can be competitive at international RC2 level.
“It’s a strange feeling, as this is the first time I’ve retired from an event but still feel upbeat about what’s just happened”, explained Tom. “Yes of course, it would have been great to stand on the podium and receive the accolade a top three position brings with it, but I believe our times showed what we can do, even against the full-time drivers and factory-supported operations.
“For us, this event has represented a great team effort and I really must thank everyone involved: PCRS for providing us with a car that ran perfectly throughout the event, which is a fantastic achievement. Also DMACK for supplying tyres that worked exceptionally well in the conditions and helped us to set the times that we did.
“We could not have entered the rally without the invaluable help of our sponsors: Trailhead Beef Jerky, who not only backed us in order to launch its new snack, but provided all of the event’s 2000+ volunteer marshals with a complimentary pack of products. Further support came from DMACK, Intervino, H N Nuttals Foodservice, Humphreys & Foulkes of Newtown, Atech Racing, Walero, Speedline Corse and Cave Equine, to whom we are most grateful.
“I must also thank our supporters and followers, be it at the side of the stage cheering us on or keeping up to date with our progress on social media. We hope you enjoyed watching!”
Tom and his team are currently working on plans for 2019 and hope to make an announcement soon.
Following a successful test in South Wales on Monday, Tom Cave says he feels ready for his biggest challenge of the year, the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB – Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship – that takes place this week.
Monday’s test saw the 26-year old from Aberdovey back behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 R5 for the first time since finishing third in the WRC2 category on the Neste Rally Finland in July last year. It didn’t take long for Tom to re-acclimatise himself to the car and, with just a few tweaks made by the Philip Case Rally Sport crew, he was quickly up to competitive pace.
“It was great to back in a Hyundai again”, said Tom. “The one I’m using on Rally GB is a 2018 model and it felt even better than the cars I drove last year in the British Rally Championship and Finland. I was very happy with the test. I came away feeling comfortable in the car and confident we can fight for class honours.”
In addition to setting up the car, Monday was also an opportunity for Tom to take some of his sponsors for a passenger ride they’ll never forget! In the warm autumn sunshine, guests were treated to a high speed run through the test stage and by the look on their faces when they got out of the car, without exception all of them said they were thrilled by the experience.
“It was great to be able to offer our sponsors the opportunity to sit alongside and find out what it’s like to drive through a forest stage at speed. Many of them had never been in a rally car before and to say that they were blown away I think would be an understatement. Events like this are so important, as the support from these companies and individuals has enabled me to take part in this year’s Wales Rally GB – and for that, I’m extremely grateful.
“Because I haven’t entered as many rallies as I would normally this year, it would be fair to say that I’m looking forward to this event more than ever. Living in north Wales, I feel at home on the stages; the car feels great and James (co-driver) and I are as ready as we can be. I can’t wait to get started!”
The Dayinsure Wales Rally GB gets underway on Thursday (4th October) evening from the Deeside service park, before the Visit Conwy Tir Prince spectator stage near Rhyl. Friday features eight stages in north Wales, with Saturday comprising a further nine in north and mid Wales, one of which runs just a few miles from where Tom lives.
Sunday is the final day, when the route heads back to north Wales for four stages in forests directly south of Llandudno followed by the the fifth and final stage around the Great Orme headland with the flying finish along the sea front.
Welsh driver Tom Cave is pleased to announce that he has entered this year’s Wales Rally GB, which takes place from 4th – 7th October. He will drive a PCRS run Hyundai i20 R5 and will be partnered by his regular co-driver James Morgan.
Tom from Aberdovey and James from Hirwaun enjoyed a busy season in 2017, when they gave the Hyundai 120 R5 its British Rally Championship debut and then went on to finish third in WRC2 on Rally Finland. They then repeated the result on Wales Rally GB driving a Fiesta R5.
In contrast, 2018 has seen a far quieter season for the Welsh pair. In addition to an outing early in the year driving his own Subaru, Tom entered July’s Nicky Grist Stages, when he and James impressed with a front-running performance in a Spencer Sport R5 specification Mitsubishi Mirage.
Eager to get back onto the world stage, Tom has since focused his attentions on securing an entry in Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Thanks to support from DMack tyres, Trailhead Fine Foods, Pre-eminent Solutions, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Cave Equine, Atech, Walero and Philip Case Rally Sport – who will supply and run the car – he has been able to enter the event.
“With Wales Rally GB my home round of the WRC and after James and I finished on the WRC2 podium last year, I’m extremely pleased that everything has come together in time for us to enter this year’s event and I have to thank everyone involved for their invaluable support.
“This year marks the 10th anniversary of Tom competing on a World Championship rally and my ninth time contesting the Wales Rally GB, which makes this year’s entry even more significant.
“It’s great to be back in a Hyundai i20 R5. The last time I drove the car was in Rally Finland last year and we finished third in WRC2. The Hyundai really suits my driving style, so I’m hoping with a latest-specification model and the previous results behind me, James and I can be even more competitive this year.”
Trailhead Fine Foods are using Tom’s Wales Rally GB campaign to launch its new Get Jerky snack. Furthermore, the company will be providing all of the event’s 2000+ marshals with a complementary pack containing its brand new product. Samples will be available from the Wales Rally GB office located in the Deeside service park.
Impressive performance in Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage on Nicky Grist Stages sees Tom back on the pace from the word go
Tom Cave and James Morgan showed they had lost none of their former pace, when they recorded the fastest time on the first of eight stages on Saturday’s (14th July) Nicky Grist Stages Rally. Following a day long battle for the lead, they went on to cross the line in second place. But having reached the finish, their convincing podium position was denied when, due to an admin oversight by the co-driver, the Welsh pair were disqualified for infringing an event regulation.
After a successful test in the Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage last week, Tom was more than ready to make his return to the stages in a R5 specification car following a nine-month sabbatical since he and James finished third in the WRC2 category in October’s Wales Rally GB.
Saturday’s event featured a loop of four stages on the gravel roads on and around the Epynt Military Ranges in the morning, followed by the same loop of four in the afternoon. Seeded at number one, things started perfectly for Tom and James. In the dry and dusty conditions, they set the fastest time on the opening stage and consequently led the rally by two seconds, ahead of current British Rally Championship leaders Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod in a Fiesta R5.
During the following three stages before the lunch time service halt at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, Tom and James delivered another first and two second-fastest times, which enabled them to maintain their lead by two seconds at the half-way point. Following a quick check around the car by the Spencer Sport team, they embarked on the afternoon’s four stages and, like the weather, the battle between them and their main rivals got even hotter.
In fact, on stage five both crews set exactly the same time, four seconds faster than anyone else. Still with a two-second advantage, Tom knew it would be flat to the finish and, although he and James pushed as hard as they could through the remaining three stages, they could not hold off Edwards/Garrod who fought back to take the win.
But on returning to Builth Wells, unknowingly Tom and James found that they had contravened an event regulation due to a rare co-driver error and were consequently disqualified from the results. Although a conclusion they and the team would not have wished for, Tom and James were pleased they had been able to get straight back to a front-running pace. The team were also happy that the stage times clearly proved the Mitsubishi Mirage was a match for any other R5 class car.
“Whilst the final outcome was of course, not what we had wanted, rallying is a complicated sport with lots of rules and regulations, so these things can and do happen”, said Tom at the finish.
“It was great to be back in an R5 specification car alongside James who did his usual great job on the notes. And to be straight back on the pace right from the start was very reassuring to us both.
“The Mirage has really progressed into a competitive car and the stage times prove it. It’s great to drive and I hope I have the opportunity to enter another event with it soon.
“I have to thank everyone involved who made this event happen for us: Spencer Sport, Spencer ECA, DMACK Tyres, Nicky Grist Motorsport, Walero Racewear, Atech Racing and the team’s sponsors: Oil for Wales, Speedline Wheels, Motul Lubricants and Sea & Slate.”
Further news about Tom’s next event will be announced soon.
Photo: JMS Photographic
Tom Cave and co-driver James Morgan have been announced as the number one seeds for this Saturday’s (14th July) Nicky Grist Stages Rally, when they will compete in an R5 specification Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage.
The event will see the Welsh pair back in action for the first time since last October’s Wales Rally GB, when they finished an impressive third in the WRC2 category driving a Fiesta R5. With 2018 year of consolidation for Tom, he is relishing a return to the hot seat:
“As plans didn’t quite come together in time for the start of the season, I’m only intending to enter a few rallies in 2018. I’m therefore grateful to Spencer Sport for giving me an opportunity to get back out there and keep my hand in. Of course, I’ve worked with Spencer Sport before when we finished second in the British Rally Championship in 2016. It was a great team effort. Having led the event at one point, we also finished second on the Nicky Grist Stages in that year behind Elfyn Evans.”
Tom is mindful that with a 120-strong field, a number of previous event winners and crews in WRC cars taking part, it’s not going to be easy to score a top result and says he will have a better idea of what’s in store after he has tested the Mitsubishi on Thursday (12th July):
“I’ve driven the Mirage before but only in testing, so it’s great to now have the chance to compete in it too. I know there’s been a number of upgrades since I drove it last, so I’m looking forward to finding out what it’s like now, especially on a rally like the Nicky Grist Stages.”
The event represents round six of the BTRDA Rally Series and gets underway at 09.00 on Saturday from the centre of Builth Wells. The route incorporates the gravel roads and forests around the Epynt military ranges on the Brecon Beacons and features a loop of four timed special stages in the morning followed by a repeat run in the afternoon.
Tom’s Nicky Grist Stages outing is supported by: Spencer Sport, Spencer ECA, Nicky Grist Motorsport, DMack Tyres, Walero and Atech.
Tom Cave from Aberdovey, together with his co-driver James Morgan from Hirwaun, scored an impressive third-place finish in the fiercely contested WRC2 category on this year’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB. After three days of competition in the forests of Mid and North Wales, driving their Dom Buckley RSC prepared and M-Sport built Ford Fiesta R5, they crossed the finish line in Llandudno yesterday (Sunday 29th October) afternoon to claim their second podium position in as many FIA World Rally Championship events.
The rally started from the centre of Chester on Thursday evening and, to get proceedings off to a spectacular start, a short spectator stage watched by 1000s of fans was held at the Tir Prince leisure park and trotting track near Rhyl. But it was Friday when the real rally action began, kicking off with three classic stages in mid-Wales: Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren.
In the autumn sunshine – a welcome feature on this annual event – a strong run through the first loop saw Tom and James fourth in WRC2 and lying 17th overall after SS4. Then, on SS5 they moved up a place – even though they had a scare when the car’s engine cut out momentarily at the end of the stage. They consolidated their position over the day’s remaining two stages and, when they returned to the Deeside service park that evening, they were 46.4s behind already crowned 2017 WRC2 Champion Pontus Tidemand in a Skoda and only 3.3s away from Frenchman Eric Camilli in second place.
Saturday morning featured a loop of four stages, this time in the equally as classic north-Wales forests of Aberhinrnant, Dyfnant, Gartheineog and Dyfi – all of them Tom regarding as local rally territory. With mist and drizzle greeting crews, conditions were certainly different than that of the day before and consequently, with far less traction available, Tom thought he was off the pace – only to find that everyone else was experiencing similar issues. In fact, he and James were in the ascendancy and went ahead of Camilli on stage 11, the first run through Dyfi and then went on to set the fastest WRC2 time in SS13 – the second run through the same 25.86km stage.
The day of intense forest action was punctuated with a 1.8km blast in the grounds of Cholmondeley Castle on the park’s asphalt roads – another stage designed to for the less hardcore rally fan. Following brief check and refuel at Deeside, it was then back to the forests for a second run through Aberhirnant and Dyfnant, but this time in the dark.
However the weather had changed and thick fog – sometimes cutting visibility to less than 10m – led Tom to report it was possibly the worst stage he had ever driven! The second stage was clear, but it had meant that time was lost to Tidemand who had had a clear run and was now 1m 43s ahead, with Camilli remaining seven seconds behind the Welsh pair when competitors returned to Deeside for the overnight halt.
With little chance of catching the Swedish team, consolidation was the order of the day for Sunday’s four stages: Alwen, Brenig and Gwydir, followed by a second longer run and through Brenig as the final ‘Power’ stage. But with Tom reporting the handling of the car felt different that it had done on Friday and Saturday, Camilli edged past on the 19th and penultimate stage. Try as they might, Tom and James could not retrieve the difference, but both were delighted they had achieved what they had set out to do, the final result seeing them finish 3rd in WRC2 category and 13th in the event overall.
“That’s mission accomplished’, said Tom as he and James lined up in Llandudno High Street before crossing the finish ramp. “We came here looking to end the season on a high, so to score a WRC2 podium in the two WRC events we’ve entered this year’s is fantastic, especially against world-class drivers that have factory support. It’s as much as we could have hoped for and I’m over the moon with the result.
“It’s even more rewarding to do it on your local event. The fans were out on mass and it was great to see so much support. Of course, it was fantastic day for Welsh rallying and I must congratulate Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Daniel Barrit for claiming their first WRC victory – and what a place to do it! Congratulations also go to M-Sport (the team that builds the Fiestas) for securing both the World manufacturers’ and Drivers’ title on this event.
“As well as thanking the fans for cheering us on, I must also thank everyone who supported me. Firstly, to James for doing yet another fantastic job from the other seat; to Dom Buckley RSC for providing us with such a such a well prepared car; to DMACK for supplying tyres that not only helped us get onto the WRC2 podium, but enabled Elfyn to claim his outright win; to Walero for supplying the extremely effective temperature controlling base-layers; to Atech Racing for the top quality racewear and to the Trefeddian Hotel in Aberdovey.”