When you take part in any sport it’s important to go into an event with an open mind and treat it as an opportunity to learn new things. Well, this weekend’s Get connected Rali Ceredigion was certainly one of those occasions.
A few weeks ago I was asked if I would drive a Vauxhall Corse-e on the rally. It would be the first time a 100% electric vehicle had ever competed on a multi-venue stage rally. Without knowing too much about car I said yes as again, it was a chance to learn something new.
I knew that because it was a first and the rally was focussing on sustainability and promoting lower-carbon transport initiatives, it would gain a lot of publicity for all sorts of reasons. I tested the car last week to get a feel for it and I must admit that whilst I’ve competed in small hatchbacks before, it felt very different from any other I’ve ever driven.
This is mainly because of the transmission. There isn’t any. It’s just direct drive to the wheels from the electric motors. You can still left-foot-brake and use the handbrake as you would in a traditional rally car though, which is good.
The car was built by Opel Motorsport to take part in the ADAC Opel e-rally Cup in Germany. It’s currently owned by Myerscough College & University Centre in Preston, Lancashire, where a team of motorsport students maintain and prepare the car. They did a fantastic job of looking after Will Atkins – my co-driver for this event – and I throughout the event.
Without many moving parts, there was never going to be much that needed to be done at the service halts, other than charging the battery of course. Because you’re driving flat out on the stages, they told me it would drain the power four-times quicker than that of normal driving. Therefore, we had to schedule our rally a little differently to other competitors.
We did the two short Saturday stages that ran from Aberystwyth marina, around the sea front road beneath the castle grounds, into the town and then finished just before the prom. It was fantastic to see so many people watching. It was more than I’ve seen on some WRC events! A real credit to the organisers.
The route then headed inland for two much longer stages in the countryside. However, with delays caused due to a few incidents and cars blocking the roads, we only completed one of the stages before the overnight halt.
I then drove all of the stages on Sunday once, whereas other competitors completed them twice. Whilst the Corsa would have probably made it round the whole route, this was a huge learning exercise for everyone involved and we didn’t want to push our luck.
I was absolutely overwhelmed with the attention surrounding the project and the number of questions I was asked. Clearly, it was well received and people seemed to be very interested in what this meant for the future of the sport. They understood this represented a significant moment in the history of rallying and I have to say that I was proud to be part of it.
I remember making history three years ago, when in 2019 the event was held for the first time. Running at number one meant that I became the first driver to compete on closed public roads in Wales.
On that occasion I was driving a Hyundai i20 R5 and of course, it would be good to have been challenging for the overall lead again this year. But sport is cyclical and I’m sure that opportunity will come round again before too long. Whether or not it’s in a fully-electric, Hybrid or conventionally powered car, we’ll just have to wait and see…
Thanks and congratulations goes to everyone involved with the Corsa-e project: Myerscough College & University Centre, Cawdor Group – Vauxhall dealers covering Mid and West Wales – Renewable Developments Wales, Go Fetch pet travel, Michelin tyres, Garry Davies Accident Repairs and ATech Racing.
In his first rally since February 2020, Aberdyfi’s Tom Cave together with co-driver Dale Furniss from Llanfylin, took the fight to the forests when following an event-long battle for the lead, they emerged from the eighth and final stage of this year’s Nicky Grist Stages Rally in second place, just five seconds from victory behind British Rally Championship rivals Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod.
Driving a Ford Fiesta Rally 2 for the very first time and having not competed for 16 months, Tom was eager to hit the ground running from the off. And following a successful test a couple of days before the event, that’s exactly what he did.
Starting and finishing from the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, the Nicky Grist Stages comprised four stages in the morning followed by a second loop of the same route in the afternoon. It was clear from the start that Tom carried on where he left off last year when he set the second-fastest time on stage one Llyn Login, just one second behind Osian Pryce.
Another second-fastest time on stage two Monument, followed by a win on stage three in Halfway Forest saw Tom take the lead, albeit sharing the same overall time with Edwards. The fourth stage of the day was also the longest, a nine-mile encounter through the infamous Crychan Forest.
Another impressive performance enabled Tom to keep in contention and, as crews entered the lunchtime service halt in Builth Wells, he and Dale found themselves in second place, two second behind Edwards and Garrod. And, with Pryce and his co-driver Noel O’Sullivan third, just five seconds further back, the scene was set for an intense battle in the afternoon.
And the leading trio didn’t disappoint. Tom and Edwards posted equal-fastest time on SS5, with Pryce one second behind. Then in SS6, Edwards found an extra four seconds, whilst Tom and Pryce shared the second-fastest time.
With Edwards gaining another second and Tom doing likewise from Pryce in SS7, the timesheets at the start of the eighth and final stage showed a gap of seven seconds between the leading pair, who had pulled out the same margin from Pryce in third. It was now all down to the final stage, but with no breeze and the gravel roads now bone-dry, the dust generated by the cars ahead was destined to prove decisive.
Throwing almost everything he had in his rally-skills arsenal for the second run through Crychan, Tom drove a blinder and at the end of the stage Edwards – who was running first on the road – waited anxiously at the finish control. As the clock stopped, it was revealed that Tom had closed the gap to just five seconds, with Pryce claiming third, seven seconds later.
“I’m happy with that. Of course, it would have been good to win on my return to the British Championship, but I’m satisfied with second, especially with the visibility issues to contend with”, said a satisfied Tom at the Finish.
“When you’re out of the seat for a while, you do start to wonder whether you’re going to be on the pace, but today’s event has answered that question. It’s been a fantastic battle all day with Matt and Osian. Just like old times. I have to congratulate Matt for job well done and Osian for keeping me on my ‘A’ game from start to finish.
“A big thanks goes to Dale for doing such a good job alongside me today. I’m also grateful to the team at Dom Buckley RSC who provided me with a car that ran faultlessly. They also did a great job getting everything organised during the lead up to this event.
“I have to especially thank each and every one of my sponsors: Trailhead Fine Foods – Get Jerky, Intervino, Go Fetch, Pirelli Motorsport, Atech Racing and all of the unsung heroes that are involved with the considerable operation that’s required to deliver a successful rally. I know it’s a cliché to say that we couldn’t have done it without them, but we really couldn’t. I know that together we can build on what we’ve achieved today, with the ultimate aim of challenging for the British title.”
1 Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod VW Polo R5 42m 30s
2 Tom Cave/Dale Furniss Ford Fiesta Rally 2 42m 35s
3 Osian Pryce/Noel O’Sullivan VW Polo R5 42m 42s
4 Rhys Yates/James Morgan Ford Fiesta Rally 2 43m 26s
5 Matthew Wilson/Stuart Loudon Ford Festa Rally 2 43m 30s
Tom is delighted to confirm that he will take part in this Saturday’s (10th July) Nicky Grist Stages Rally, round two of the 2021 British Rally Championship. The Builth Wells-based event will be his first competitive outing since the Cambrian Rally in February 2020 and understandably, he is looking forward to being back behind the wheel again:
“Having recently secured the backing from a collective of Welsh businesses and other supporting partners, the package to compete in this weekend’s Nicky Grist stages and kick start our season has literally come together in the past few days. I’m therefore extremely grateful to Trailhead Fine Foods Get Jerky, Pre-Eminent Solutions, Go Fetch, Atech Racing and Pirelli Motorsport for their invaluable support.”
For the first time since the Wales Rally GB in 2017 – when he finished an impressive third in the WRC2 category – Tom will be driving a Ford Fiesta Rally2 prepared and run by Dom Buckley RSC. Returning to the co-driver’s seat will be Dales Furniss from Llanfylin who accompanied Tom for last year’s Cambrian Rally – the only event the pair contested in 2020 before lockdown intervened.
Previous to that, Tom and Dale recorded their best ever World Rally Championship result by finishing 11th overall on the 2019 Wales Rally GB and in doing so, secured third place in the WRC2 class as well as winning awards for being the first independent entry and top Welsh crew.
“After what feels like a long 16 months, I hope I’m not going to be too match-rusty. We have some testing lined up this week, so the plan is to be on the pace when we set off on Saturday. It’s going to be great competing again, especially over the stages this rally uses as they’re some of my favourites. I really can’t wait to get started!”
A top-quality entry sees Tom and Dale seeded at #4 in a packed field of 150 cars. Indeed, such was the popularity of the event, orgainisers reported that entries sold out in 15 minutes!
The rally features a loop of four stages in the morning that is repeated in the afternoon, the combination of all eight stages providing a competitive distance of 44 miles. Whilst an event that has always attracted large numbers of spectators, at the request of the Military of Defence that owns much of the land used by the rally, this year will see the event take place behind closed doors.
Consequently, the action can be viewed via live stream broadcast on the Special Stage TV Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/specialstage. The stream will also be accessible alongside the live tracking feed: http://rallytracking.co.uk/ Plus, there will be further coverage provided by Rally FM: http://rallyfm.net/
Tom’s 2021 rally campaign is supported by: Trailhead Fine Foods Get Jerky – premium Beef Jerky snack, Pre-Eminent Solutions, Go Fetch pet transport specialists, Intervino personalised gifts, Pirelli Motorsport, Atech Racing and RPM Promotions.
British Rally Championship round two – Preview
West Cork Rally, Clonakilty, Ireland – 14-15 March 2020
Tom is looking forward to returning to the event where he posted his first of three British Rally Championship victories last year, the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally, which takes places this coming St Patrick’s Day weekend – 14th & 15th March. He will be partnered by co-driver Dale Furniss.
In a nail-biting, final stage shoot out in 2019 against fellow Welshman Matt Edwards, driving his PCRS prepared, Get Jerky supported Hyundai i20 R5, Tom and his co-driver on that occasion James Morgan secured an impressive win by a margin of 4.8 seconds. Scroll forward to 2020 and the rivalry is rekindled, with Edwards also returning to West Cork in a Ford Fiesta R5.
But the competition for BRC honours this year doesn’t end there, with the appearance of another Welsh driver Osian Pryce in a VW Polo R5, WRC regular Rhys Yates in a Fiesta, 2019 Billy Coleman Award winner Josh McErlean – also in a Hyundai – and Ollie Mellors driving a Proton Iriz R5.
Tom sets the scene: “To win the British Championship round and finish third overall against so many top Irish drivers last year was fantastic and very satisfying. Looking at the entry list for this year, the competition is just as tough – if not tougher – so we’ll need to be on our game and as well prepared as we can be, make sure the pre-event test and recce go well and then give it our best shot.”
Tom and Dale initially led the opening round of the British Championship, last month’s Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, before clipping a rock and breaking a wheel. The subsequent time lost pushed them outside the top-ten, but a fight back through the field saw them end the day a credible sixth.
“We need to keep our championship hopes on track and to do that, scoring points is all-important”, explains Tom. “The West Cork Rally is a demanding event with 14 stages and 135 miles on closed public roads. So whilst it’s not a sprint, you can’t afford to back off, especially with strength of competition we’ll be up against. I can’t wait!”
Following a ceremonial start in Clonakilty on Friday evening, the action gets underway on Saturday morning and features eight stages providing 68 competitive miles. Sunday’s distance is similar, with its six stages covering 67 miles of competition.
Tom’s 2020 rally campaign is supported by: Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Pirelli Tyres, Trailhead Fine Foods and Get Jerky, Shukers Hyundai of Aberystwyth, WD40 and Atech Racing.