Welsh rally driver Tom Cave heads to one of the highlights of the FIA World Rally Championship this week when round three of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy is played out at Neste Oil Rally Finland.
Cave and Oswestry co-driver Craig Parry moved up to third in the series after the last event in Poland and aim to use their experience of the challenging Finnish roads to jump even higher.
Cave’s championship received a boost after finishing runner-up in Poland three weeks ago. He had been battling for the lead across the entire weekend and lost out by just 10 seconds as the fight went down to the final stage.
However, the 23-year-old from Aberdovey is relishing the challenge of Finland’s famous rally stages. Boasting some of the highest average speeds in the WRC and littered with stomach-churning jumps and blind crests, the wide gravel roads are a favourite with both drivers and fans.
Precise pacenotes, which help to define accurate lines over the crests and the exact speeds at which to attack the jumps, are crucial. But Cave is confident. He led the DMACK series in Finland last year until broken suspension left him sidelined and he’s proved he’s at ease with high speed roads after setting a string of fastest times in Poland.
With 11 of the fastest young drivers from around the world piloting identical Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars, the competition will be every bit as intense. Cave has been studying video footage of the stages as he makes his final preparations before the pre-event reconnaissance begins on Tuesday.
The rally starts with a spectator-friendly stage on Thursday night through the centre of host town Jyväskylä. Then the action hots up with a full day on Friday taking Cave and Parry south to Jamsa, which includes two runs over the iconic and frighteningly–fast Ouninpohja test, the longest of the event at 34.39km, with just a remote tyre change during the day.
Saturday moves west for two loops of four flat-out stages before Sunday finishes with just a double run over the final Myhinpaa test. In total Cave will tackle nearly 320km of fierce Finnish roads.
Cave said: “My pace was strong last year and we set a number of fastest times, so I’m hoping we can pick up where we left off. Having experience of competing in Finland during the 2014 Trophy will be of great benefit this year due to the speeds and lines – we can refine our pacenotes hopefully.
“The rally poses a unique challenge and the recce will be crucial, good pacenotes will put you in a fight for the win and bad ones will mean a very long weekend.
“It’s the best rally of the year and I aim to win, taking as many stage points as possible. Like everyone else, I’ll be going flat out. It’s the only way you find a rhythm in Finland and hopefully we will be able to move up the championship standings. We’ve been working hard in preparation and I’m leaving nothing to chance.”