On to the main purpose of the year, The MSA British Rally Championship and the Mid Wales Stages.
The strategy was to achieve a podium. My confidence was low after the accident and it was important to get a solid finish and get the championship underway on a positive note.
The recce became a challenge in itself, keeping my trusty Subaru forester recce car on the road in a straight line thanks to a thick layer of snow and ice which adorned the stages. It made the recce a challenge for the crews who were in 2wd recce cars who found themselves stuck very frequently which sadly slowed the whole convoy. But thankfully the conditions warmed up in the afternoon and we completed the recce without ending up in a ditch or any tow rope in site.
We completed a test at Higgins Rally School in Carno mid Wales that evening, after the recce. This became very beneficial to us. Because the conditions were shockingly bad, we gave the car a good shakedown, played around with lights for the night stages on the Saturday and made few minor suspension changes to suit the slippy conditions.
The first loop of stages on Saturday started very well, posting a 3rd fastest time on stage 1 & then followed by 4th fastest on stage 2, even driving out of the stage on a rear left puncture for 4 miles! Which I was very surprised with..
We fought with David Bogie on Sunday for 3rd place, we managed to hold him off and recorded a very satisfying 3rd place with a strong points haul.
Next up is the Circuit of Ireland – fantastic stages few we’ve driven before on Ulster Rally 2012, Torr head stage known as Ballymena this year is personal favourite of mine.
Thanks for reading,
Tom Cave and co-driver James Morgan got their MSA British Rally Championship title hopes off to a flying start this weekend (5th & 6th March), when they finished the first of this season’s seven rounds – the Mid Wales Stages – in an impressive third place. Driving the Spencer Sport prepared, Trefeddian Hotel supported Ford Fiesta R5, they overcame the difficult conditions to claim a well-deserved podium position in an event that hearalded the start of a new era for the BRC.
Following the accident on the Red Kite Stages two weeks ago, when the Fiesta was extensively damaged, the Spencer Sport and M-Sport teams worked tirelessly to rebuild the car in readiness for this weekend’s event. After a quick shakedown on Thursday evening and, seeded fourth of the 66 crews on the rally, Tom and James were poised to start their British Rally Championship campaign.
However, it was clear during Friday’s recce that the snowfall leading up to the rally together with the icy conditions were going to make things interesting – especially as the first of the Newtown-based event’s two stages on Saturday evening took place in the dark. Making the task even more challenging was the quality of the field, where the best of British – and some overseas – crews would be competing in similar four-wheel-drive machinery.
A copybook start through stage one saw Tom and James begin how they were to finish – in third place. But then a rear puncture on stage two meant they returned to Newtown for the overnight halt in fourth.
Determined to make up the deficit, they headed off for Sunday’s four stages to find that the wintery conditions were still prevalent on higher ground. Straight away, Tom and James were on the pace and set another third-fastest time, which elevated them back to third place on the BRC time sheets.
With this their first season together, Tom and James’ partnership was quickly developing. So much so, they went on to deliver a consistent performance by setting the third-fastest time on the remaining three stages and, in doing so, assured themselves a place on the podium. Elfyn Evans won the rally, with Fredrik Ahlin in second – both regular competitors in the WRC and also driving Fiesta R5s.
“We were aiming to finish on the podium this weekend and that’s exactly what we did”, said Tom at the finish. “After the accident a couple of weeks ago, to claim third place in the first round of the new BRC and with so many top competitors taking part, is a great feeling.
“As the rally went on, things really started to gel between James and I and this added to our pace. The Fiesta ran faultlessly and I must thank Spencer Sport and M-Sport for getting it fixed in such a short space of time. This has been a fantastic start to the season for us.”
Tom’s next event will be the second round of the MSA British Rally Championship, the Belfast-based Circuit of Ireland Rally, which takes place on 8th & 9th April and represents the first asphalt encounter of the season.