Welsh rally driver Tom Cave got his 2015 competitive campaign off to a flying start after last weekend’s opening round at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Despite ongoing electrical gremlins, which caused the engine of his Ford Fiesta R2 to cut out, Tom and co-driver Craig Parry set a series of fastest times to secure fourth place in the championship race.
Last year’s Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy runners-up were pre-event favourites amongst the bunch of 11 talented young hopefuls who lined up at the start of this year’s series. The hungry pack were all chasing the huge prize drive of a fully-paid season in next year’s FIA World Rally Championship 2.
Tom got his challenge off to the best possible start after setting a strong pace during Friday morning’s opening loop of rough, rocky stages to hold a slender 2.1 second lead at the mid-day service halt in Porto. The 23-year-old from Aberdovey dodged the worst of Friday’s rough conditions as he stormed to an early advantage over the new stages.
But an electrical issue on the final speed test of the day saw him drop 40 seconds when the new 1.0 litre turbocharged engine powering his Fiesta cut out during the timed special stage. Forced to power off and restart the machine a few times during the Viano do Castelo stage, he had no option but to push hard to counteract the time loss.
His M-Sport mechanics were unable to locate the cause of the fault during the overnight service halt and the issue continued throughout Saturday’s action, which moved to the mountains east of Porto.
Tom continued to drop time as he struggled with the cutting-out car but the final stage of the day saw him eventually succumb to the rutted roads. A punctured tyre, which he and Craig were forced to stop and change, meant he slipped three places to sixth after losing over three minutes.
With the issue eventually put to bed, Tom restarted the final leg today and blitzed the pack, setting fastest times on every stage – including the famous run over the iconic and spectator-swamped Fafe test. After a fantastic fight-back he eventually finished fifth, just 3.9 seconds adrift of fourth. But he was rewarded for winning a quarter of the total stages and the bonus points on offer edged him into fourth place in the championship standings.
After a spell in the Algarve region, the event had moved north to Porto for the first time in 14 years and offered an arduous three-day route after Thursday night’s ceremonial start in the town of Guimares.
Next up is Rally Poland from July 2-5 where Tom will be hoping to use his experience from last year’s event to good effect.
Tom Cave said: “It’s been a tough weekend and we’ve tackled some of the most challenging stages I have ever driven. The electrical problem was very frustrating as the engine cut out on some very tricky places, like when you needed some power mid-corner. It knocked my confidence a lot as I had no idea when it would happen. Now we just have to look forward to Poland and aim for a better result.
“It does feel great to be back competing on WRC events and gaining experience on the best stages in the world. It’s been a character building start for us, but ultimately it’s great to be back in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.”