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.”
Determined to do the best he can on his home FIA World Rally Championship event, Aberdovey-based rally driver Tom Cave has been meticulously preparing for next week’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB. His focus of attention will be firmly fixed on the highly competitive WRC2 category, a class that sees many of the world’s leading young drivers compete in R5 specification cars in their quest to secure a WRC seat.
“It looks like all of the forests we’ll be visiting on Rally GB I’ve driven before when they’ve been used on a national-status rally. In fact, looking at the route, one of the stages runs less than 10 miles away from where I live! However, you can never be complacent, as the conditions at this time of year can change extremely quickly. I therefore have to be sure I’m on the top of my game next week.”
In order to get acquainted to the new Dom Buckley RSC prepared Ford Fiesta R5 he’ll be using for this year’s Rally GB, Tom has just completed two full-day’s of testing: one in Carno Forest in north Wales and the other at the Sweet Lamb complex in mid-Wales.
“The weather was horrendous. It rained continuously during the first day of testing and then ‘Storm Brian’ did its worst during the second. I don’t think that in all my eight years of rallying, I’ve ever driven in conditions like that. While it was great preparation for what might happen on the rally, thankfully the forecast is looking dryer, which will be so much better for the spectators, marshals and organisers.
“Even though it was wet and slippery during the test, the car felt great. The latest version of the Fiesta is definitely an improvement on the previous one. It felt sharper and more responsive. The engine is stronger too. I must admit that having driven the Hyundai i20 R5 earlier this year, I was wondering what the latest Fiesta was like in comparison and M-Sport have obviously done a great job since the last time I drove one of their cars.
“So, with the Fiesta inspiring confidence, my regular co-driver James Morgan beside me, the rally using roads I’ve driven before and, having worked with the Dom Buckely RSC team previously, I’m feeling as ready as I can be at this point before the event. As I’ve said before, having been beaten by a Finn in Finland, I’m looking to turn the tables here in Wales. Bring it on!”
The Dayinsure Wales Rally GB represents the penultimate round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. It commences on Thursday (26th) evening with a spectator stage at Tir Prince on the Flintshire coast. Friday sees six stages in mid Wales, followed by a further six stages in the north Wales forests – plus a spectator stage at Cholmondley Castle – on Saturday.
Sunday sees the route remain in north Wales and features another five stages before the ceremonial finish in Llandudno. All of the event’s service halts take place at Deeside Industrial Park.
Tom’s personal details
Date of birth (age): 16th November 1991 (25)
Home Town: Aberdovey, Wales
Occupation: Hotel Management
Interests outside of motorsport: Keeping fit, Golf, Rugby, Tennis, running, cars
Co-driver: James Morgan from Hirwaun
Tom’s Rally GB stats
Entered for the first time in 2008 driving a Fiesta ST – five days after passing driving test – and won the class by 15-minutes
This year will be seventh time on Rally GB
Third time driving Fiesta R5 on the event (previously in 2013 & 2014)
Best result: 12th overall, 2nd SWRC (2012), including six fastest stage times in class
Have driven every forest stage featured in this year’s rally and won the national rally that has previously used the same route