Welsh rally driver Tom Cave kick starts his 2015 rally campaign next week when the opening round of the 2015 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy blasts into action at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
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As runners-up in last year’s championship, Tom and co-driver Craig Parry have their sights firmly set on going one step better and lifting the huge prize on offer this year.
Tom’s last event was his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship back in November at Wales Rally GB and he’s had to wait patiently for almost five months to get back behind the wheel. The DMACK-backed series sees him pitted against a number of up and coming drivers as they battle in identical Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars on control DMACK tyres – with the format delivering some intense rivalry.
The 23-year-old from Aberdovey was one of the series front-runners in 2014 and narrowly missed out on the spoils as the championship battle went down to the last loop of stages. But he returns full of confidence and knows he’s one of the title favourites once the action kicks off on Thursday night near Porto.
With British rally drivers currently causing a stir in the WRC, Tom will be focusing on a strong haul of points next weekend. After leading every single event at some point last year, he’s hoping to carry through that advantage as he battles against some of the world’s top young rallying talent.
The prize, a fully funded drive in next year’s WRC 2 Championship, is currently the biggest in the sport and Tom has been leaving no stone unturned as he ensures his preparation for the event is the best possible.
However, there are a few unknowns. After 14 years, the rally moves back north to Porto and features new stages which are unfamiliar to everyone. Series organisers M-Sport have also introduced an exciting new Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre turbocharged car packed full of new technology and improvements. Tom has driven the car briefly and quickly felt at ease with the new machine.
The new route will see crews tackle a diverse range of gravel roads across the north Portuguese countryside, including soft, sandy tracks and rough mountains roads. After a start in Guimareson Thursday night and a 3.36km super-special stage at Lousada, the rally moves north for a three-stage loop near the Spanish border.
Saturday is the longest day and includes two passes over the 37.67km Fridao test before Sunday sees the return of the iconic Fafe stage, an area steeped in WRC history, which is set to be swamped with tens of thousands of energetic rally fans.
“It’s set to be another seriously competitive championship,” said Tom. “This year, no-one has got any experience of the new car and the stages of the rally are completely unknown, so it really is going to be an interesting event.
“The new roads place even more emphasis on accurate pacenotes and that’s an area where I can be confident. My pace was strong last year, we were battling for the top spot on every rally, so I hope we can be setting the pace again this year.
“We’ve been preparing as much as possible for the rally as it’s the little things which can give you an edge in a one-make series like this. Last year, I underestimated how important the extra points for stage wins would be so I will have one eye on setting fastest times while still taking a long-game approach to win the rally.”