Following another front-running performance in a round of the British Rally Championship, Tom Cave’s efforts and the promise of a podium result on Saturday’s (17th August) Ulster Rally ended one stage from the end, when contact with a wall stopped him and co-driver Dale Bowen in their tracks. But having set regular top-three stage times, as the Welsh pair challenged to maintain their championship lead, the outcome clearly didn’t match the potential.
Having won two rounds, scored a second place and recorded a DNF apiece this season, Tom and his main rival Matt Edwards headed to the Newry-based, Today’s convenience store sponsored event tying for the British Rally Championship lead. So, with the Ulster encounter representing the fifth of six rounds, it was all to play for between the two title aspirants over the nine stages and 93 competitive miles that lay ahead of them.
Following a ceremonial start on Friday evening, the competitive action got underway on Saturday morning with the first loop of loop of three stages. Whilst damp patches in the opening stage did not persist in the second, grip levels from one section to the next were still difficult to predict.
However, Tom and Dale were right on the pace and well placed to challenge for the result they were looking for when he and Dale pulled into the first service halt of the day. At that point they were lying 2nd in the British Championship standings – 9.8 seconds behind Edwards – and third overall – 12.2 seconds behind rally leader, Craig Breen.
Changing onto a harder compound tyre for the second loop of the same three stages helped in some cases, but not in others. Whilst an overshoot into a field in SS5 cost Tom and Dale precious seconds, a fastest BRC time in SS4 and an overall fastest time in SS6 did much to restore some of the deficit. However, the gap between them and Edwards was now 19.3 seconds, which meant that a return to the softer tyres and a consolidation of positions was the order for the final loop.
But when it comes to rallying, the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition and on the approach to a high-speed left hander near the end of stage eight, Tom felt the car slide a little wider than it had done before. Whilst he straightened it up for the exit, a section of a wall that jutted out caught the front corner of the car, removed a wheel and spun the Hyundai round in the road. Thankfully both Tom and Dale were unharmed, but the same could not be said for their car and they had no choice but to retire on the spot.
“I really didn’t think we were going to hit the wall, but the last bit of it stuck out further than the rest and although we just clipped it, the outcome was terminal”, explained Tom. Of course, it’s disappointing to end the rally that way, but if we hadn’t been on the front-running pace it would have been even more disappointing, so we certainly take away some positives and I congratulate Craig and Matt for the overall and BRC wins respectively.
“Once again, the PCRS team provided us with a car that was competitive and reliable – as it has been all season – although what happened in stage eight was not the best way to show our appreciation of their fantastic efforts, of course.
“With just one round of the British Rally Championship to go, it’s going to make it extremely tough to claim the title. However, we shall still give it our best shot.”
The sixth and final round of this year’s British Rally Championship takes place on 14th September and sees the surface return to gravel for the Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas based Galloway Hills Rally.
Tom’s 2019 British Rally Championship campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, Ponsse UK, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and Shukers Hyundai of Aberystwyth.
Ahead of this Saturday’s (17th August) Ulster Rally – sponsored by Northern Ireland-based convenience store chain Today’s – Aberdovey driver Tom Cave prepares what could be the most significant event of the season.
Tom currently shares the British Rally Championship lead with fellow Welshman Matt Edwards, both of them level-pegging on 68 points and with two wins, a second place and a DNF apiece, the penultimate event in the six-round season is shaping up to be a pivotal point in the chase for the title. Therefore, with the nine timed special stages providing 93 miles of competition over the fast and technically demanding Ulster asphalt, the tension is building for an epic encounter between the two title aspirants.
“It really is a case of who dares wins this weekend”, explains Tom. “Both Matt and I are at the top of our game and we’ve been very evenly matched so far this year, so there’s no room for error and neither of us can afford to relax.”
Tom will drive the PCRS supplied and prepared Hyundai i20 R5 that he has campaigned in all this year’s previous four rounds and took to victory on the West Cork Rally in March and the Pirelli International Rally in April. Once again, the 27-year old will be co driven by Dale Bowen from Hirwaun.
The Welsh pair will head across to Northern Ireland on Thursday to carry out a pre-event test in the Hyundai on roads that will replicate those that will confront them two days later. Friday will see the crews perform their recce runs through the stages, with the event’s ceremonial start from Albert Basin in Newry taking place from 8.45 that evening.
Competition will begin at 8.30 on Saturday morning with a loop of three stages tackled before the first service halt of the day in Newry. The same trio of stages are repeated before second service halt and again afterwards, with the finish scheduled for 17.30 at Newry High School.
“We are in a great position to challenge for the win on Saturday, so Dale and I are extremely focused on what we need to do. Having finished runner up twice before in 2012 and 2016, I would really like to get the British title under my belt – not only for Dale, the team and I, but for Hyundai and all our sponsors – so rest assured, we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got.”
Tom’s 2019 season is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, Ponsse UK, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and Shukers Hyundai of Aberystwyth.”
Tom Cave’s hard work behind the wheel of his Hyundai i20 R5 coupled with Dale Bowen’s efforts beside him on the notes, rewarded the Welsh pair with an impressive second place in the British Rally Championship standings and an overall result of seventh on Friday and Saturday’s (28th & 29th June) Renties Ypres Rally.
The outcome hots-up the race for the British title and with two wins, a second place and a DNF apiece, the scores put Tom on exactly same number of points as Matt Edwards with two of the six rounds remaining.
The Ypres Rally is the longest and fastest round of the season and was made even more demanding by the recent exceptionally hot weather. Adding further to the challenge for success in this hugely popular rally was a top quality field that featured a line-up of former and current World and European Championship teams.
Thursday evening’s practice and qualifying runs resulted in Tom and Dale claiming 10th place. Consequently, they had the final choice of starting position at Friday’s draw during the spectacular pre-start ceremonies in the town square and opted to run as first car on the road when the rally began later in the afternoon.
A measured start saw Tom and Dale enter the service halt after five stages holding an overall position just outside the top 10 and only eight seconds from BRC leaders Edwards and co-driver Patrick Walsh. Now with a better feel of how the car and his Michelin tyres were working on the Belgium asphalt, a re-run of four of the first loop’s stages in the evening twilight paid dividends. Therefore, when the crews arrived back in Ypres for the overnight stop, Tom and Dale had elevated their overall position to seventh and importantly, were now heading the British Rally Championship field by an excitingly close 0.4 seconds.
The plan was ‘more of the same’ for Saturday’s 14 stages and with no let up in the ambient temperature, there was little doubt that a tough day lay ahead. A perfect run through stage 10 to extend their lead was contrasted by a puncture and a damaged wheel rim on stage 11. This resulted in a cautious pass through SS12 and the loss of around 40 seconds, albeit Tom and Dale maintained a position in the rally’s top-ten and were still second of the British Championship runners.
With a two-minute buffer to that of the third-placed BRC crew of Alex Laffey and Stuart Lowden, Tom and Dale elected to still push so that if Edwards and Walsh had any issues they were in a position to pounce, but at the same time not spoil what would be an excellent result and claim a significant haul of points in the process. The remaining 11 stages saw Tom and Dale provide a demonstration of determined and consistent on-the-pace driving that was perfect for the circumstances – and in doing so, they increased their overall position to an impressive seventh and at the same time consolidated their second place in the British Rally Championship field by the time the event finished that evening.
“This is one of the toughest events I’ve ever done, said Tom at the finish. “The high temperatures coupled with the nature of the stages and the level of concentration and raw speed you need to succeed against drivers who are more familiar with the Belgium stages, was really intense. But of course, that makes our result even more satisfying and I’m delighted to have scored a third BRC podium finish and in doing so, stay at the top of the championship tables – albeit now sharing the position with Matt (Edwards), who drove an excellent rally.
“I must add that I could not have achieved any of this without by wing-man Dale Bowen, who did a fantastic job. I also have to thank and congratulate the PCRS team for providing us with the Hyundai that ran perfectly throughout the event, especially as this has been such a difficult week for them.
“And of course, my appreciation extends to all of our supporters, partners and sponsors: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, Ponsse UK, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Walero, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Shukers Hyundai of Aberystwyth and Gamme Hyundai in Ypres.”
Tom and Dale will reconvene their successful partnership on 16th & 17th August, when they head to Northern Ireland for the Today’s Ulster Rally and the fifth round of the British Rally Championship.
Photo: Chicane Media
Having claimed two British Rally Championship victories and consequently, maximum point scores on the previous two rounds: the West Cork and Pirelli rallies, Tom Cave heads to round four and the Renties Ypres Rally leading the drivers’ standings by seven points.
Taking place on smooth West Flanders asphalt roads, for the Aberdovey driver this weekend’s event is the biggest of the season on three levels: overall competitive distance, the rally’s sporting status and for keeping Tom’s title hopes on track.
“It’s an important one for us, as we will be fighting to maintain our championship lead”, explains Tom. “It’s a demanding rally too. Whilst the stages are on good quality roads, they’re very technical in nature and you have to concentrate 100% of the time.“
Tom will be partnered in Belgium by fellow Welshman and his regular co-driver for 2019, Dale Bowen and will be driving the same Philip Case Rally Sport prepared Hyundai i20 R5 that he has used for all three previous British Championship rounds.
“I last did this rally two years ago – also in a Hyundai i20 R5 – and although we didn’t finish on that occasion, following the experience gained and the development of the car since then, I am confident we can be very competitive this year.
“As usual there’s a high quality of crews and teams on the entry list and whilst we’ll be fighting for overall honours, our main focus will be to beat our BRC rivals, of course. I must admit that following my last asphalt outing in Ireland, I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do in Belgium.”
A test on Tuesday on similar roads that will be used for the rally went exactly according to plan, with Tom reporting that the Michelin tyres were working exceptionally well in the dry and warm conditions.
Tom and Dale will carry #5 on the door of their Hyundai and will take part in Thursday evening’s qualifying session that will dictate their eventual starting position.
Following the pre-start ceremony in the centre of the town, the Ypres Rally gets underway at 16.10 CET. Crews tackle nine stages that evening and following the overnight halt, another 14 on Sunday, with the finish scheduled to take place at 21.30. The rally’s overall competitive distance of 278 kms makes this the longest event in the BRC calendar.
The team welcomes its new sponsors and supporters for this event: Ponsse UK, Shukers Hyundai in Aberystwyth and Gamme Hyundai in Ypres. They join Tom’s existing line up of supporters: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Walero and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
For two days in the middle of May, Hyundai UK invited us to take part in its Spring Drive Event, where journalists and key personnel were given the chance to experience the latest range of Hyundai cars – and discover what it’s like to ride in a rally car.
The event was based at a farm about ten miles north of Banbury that featured a superbly converted barn where guests were welcomed in the morning before embarking on a series of pre-determined routes in various Hyundai models. Our role was to provide the attendees with demonstration rides in our i20 R5 in between their test drives.
To do this, we set up a stage at a nearby quarry, which provided a perfect ‘Ken Block’ style venue where we could put the car through its paces and give our passengers a ride they’ll never forget. Whilst some had previously experienced what it’s like to be strapped into the co-driver’s seat and driven at almost full rally-speeds around a stage, for others it was their first time. Either way, it would be fair to say that without exception everyone was blown away by the experience.
“This is the first time we’ve worked with Hyundai UK and we were delighted to be involved with this event. PCRS came over from Ireland with the Hyundai i20 R5 we’ve been using for this year’s British Rally Championship, so for the guests, it was the real deal.
“We ran almost non-stop over the two days in what were very dry and dusty conditions, which meant that from the photos it looked like we were competing somewhere overseas. We took out well over 30 journalists and Hyundai personnel, including the company’s chief European designer and the UK managing director.
“Other than the car needing fuel towards the end of the second day, the team didn’t have to do a thing to it, which considering we covered the same mileage as a British Championship round in ‘Safari-like’ conditions, was an impressive statistic.
“We’ve had some great feedback since the event and there’s been some excellent media coverage. We therefore look forward to doing more with Hyundai UK in the future.”
Photos by Matt Vosper.
Two in a row for Tom! Cave claims 2nd British Rally Championship win of the season on the Pirelli International Rally
Tom Cave achieved exactly what he set out to do this weekend, when he recorded his second British Rally Championship victory in succession by winning Saturday’s (27th April) Pirelli International Rally. He and co-driver Dale Bowen took the lead after stage two and went on to win the third round of the season by an impressive margin of 17.6 seconds – a result that sees Tom top the championship’s drivers table by seven points at the season’s halfway point.
Following a victory on an asphalt surface last time out, Tom was eager to do the same on gravel. However, with competition coming from top UK drivers such as Matt Edwards in a Ford Fiesta and David Bogie and Rhys Yates in Skoda Fabias – plus the appearance of Finish driver Jari Huttenen in an identical PCRS-run Hyundai 120 R5 to that of Tom’s – it was never going to be a straightforward affair.
Following the showcase start at the Pirelli factory on the outskirts of Carlisle, teams headed into Kielder Forest for the first of the day’s six stages. Taking into account a slow puncture and a misting windscreen in the damp conditions, Tom and Dale were pleased to emerge from the opening run in second place, just 1.4 seconds behind Huttenen.
But at the end of the second stage the tables were turned, when the Fin spun and dropped 20 seconds. Tom and Dale set the fastest time and consequently, entered the first service halt of the day 15.3 seconds ahead of their closest rivals, Matt Edwards/Patrick Walsh.
Another good run for the Welsh pair through stage three was only briefly interrupted when they caught and passed Edwards/Walsh who had sustained two punctures – a factor that not only dropped the round-one winners down the leaderboard, but eventually led to their retirement.
Another fastest time through stage four meant that when they arrived at the second service halt, Tom and Dale were 20.5 seconds ahead of second-placed Yates and Tom’s co-driver in West Cork James Morgan.
It was now a case of consolidation and taking clean lines through the corners in order to minimise the risk of punctures for the event’s remaining two stages – and that’s exactly what Tom and Dale did. Following a perfectly executed final two runs, they arrived at the finish control in Brampton a few miles east of Carlisle, a convincing 17.6 seconds ahead of Yates/Morgan and a further 21.9 seconds ahead of David Bogie/John Rowan in third.
“It’s great to have scored two wins on the bounce, especially one on asphalt and one on gravel. I haven’t won the Pirelli International Rally before, so I’m pleased to have laid that spectre to rest. Things really went according to plan and, after taking the lead on stage two, it was a case of managing the gap for the rest of the day.
“The car ran faultlessly throughout the event and I have to thank the PCRS team for all their hard work. This result is testimony to their efforts. Also helping us achieve what we did today were the Michelin tyres that worked extremely well in the ever-changing weather and surface conditions.
“I’m also pleased for Dale too, as this was his very first outright rally win and I have to thank him for doing such a fantastic job not only in the car, but during the lead up to the rally as well.
“It’s great to now lead the championship with three rallies done and three more to go. The race for the title is now well and truly on!”
The fourth round of the British Rally Championship sees competitors head overseas for the second all-asphalt surface encounter of the season, the Renties Ypres Rally. This hugely popular, high profile, annual Belgian event takes place over two days on 28th & 29th June.
Tom’s 2019 British Rally Championship campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Walero and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
British Rally Championship Round Three – Preview
Pirelli International Rally – 27th April 2019
Following his victorious run on last month’s West Cork Rally – the second round of the British Rally Championship – Tom now sets his sights firmly on round three, this Saturday’s (28th April) Pirelli International Rally. Having scored maximum BRC points on asphalt last time out, a second win as the surface reverts to gravel is exactly what the Aberdovey-based driver is looking for to consolidate his bid for the British title.
Reunited with co-driver Dale Bowen – who had to miss round two – Tom will be driving the same Philip Case Rally Sport prepared Hyundai 120 R5 that he used in Wales for round one and in Ireland for round two. Reacquainting himself to the car, he tested it in Kielder Forest on Wednesday on roads similar to those he will encounter this weekend:
“We had a very good test and ran through our-pre-event programme. The Hyundai felt great and the Michelin tyres worked well. However, I’ve never seen the roads in Kielder so dry and abrasive. If things stay like this it will make for a very interesting event.”
Tom and Dale are seeded at #2 on Saturday and consequently, will start the event behind current championship leader Matt Edwards in a Fiesta. They are followed at #3 by former British Champion David Bogie in a Skoda and Finnish driver Jari Huttenen at #4, who is making a one-off appearance in the BRC behind the wheel of another PCRS-run Hyundai.
“The third event of the season sees another to-quality entry”, explains Tom. “Whilst it adds to the pressure, it makes for great competition and because of that, if you do well it’s even more satisfying.
“It also means there’s no room for error and it’s flat out from the start. We’re as ready as we can be, so our aim is to carry on from where we left off in West Cork – and we can do no more than that.”
The Pirelli Rally starts in Carlisle on Saturday morning and features 63.35 competitive miles split into seven stages, held over the distinctive gravel roads that are a hallmark of Kielder Forest. The rally concludes in the evening with a high profile finish ceremony in Brampton, a few miles east of the host town.
Tom’s 2019 British Rally Championship campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, H.N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Walero and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
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