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