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.