Tom Cave and co-driver James Morgan got their MSA British Rally Championship title hopes off to a flying start last weekend when they finished the first of this season’s seven rounds – the Mid Wales Stages – in an impressive third place.
Driving the Spencer Sport prepared, Trefeddian Hotel supported Ford Fiesta R5, they overcame the difficult conditions to claim a well-deserved podium position in an event that heralded the start of a new era for the BRC.
Following an accident on the Red Kite Stages two weeks ago, when the Fiesta was extensively damaged, the Spencer Sport and M-Sport teams worked tirelessly to rebuild the car in readiness for this weekend’s event.
After a quick shakedown on Thursday evening and, seeded fourth of the 66 crews on the rally, Tom and James were poised to start their British Rally Championship campaign.
However, it was clear during Friday’s recce that the snowfall leading up to the rally together with the icy conditions were going to make things interesting – especially as the first of the Newtown-based event’s two stages on Saturday evening took place in the dark.
Making the task even more challenging was the quality of the field, where the best of British – and some overseas – crews would be competing in similar four-wheel-drive machinery.
A copybook start through stage one saw Tom and James begin how they were to finish – in third place. But then a rear puncture on stage two meant they returned to Newtown for the overnight halt in fourth.
Determined to make up the deficit, they headed off for Sunday’s four stages to find that the wintery conditions were still prevalent on higher ground. Straight away, Tom and James were on the pace and set another third-fastest time, which elevated them back to third place on the BRC time sheets.
With this their first season together, Tom and James’ partnership was quickly developing. So much so, they went on to deliver a consistent performance by setting the third-fastest time on the remaining three stages and, in doing so, assured themselves a place on the podium.
Elfyn Evans won the rally, with Fredrik Ahlin in second – both regular competitors in the WRC and also driving Fiesta R5s.
“We were aiming to finish on the podium this weekend and that’s exactly what we did,” said Aberdyfi-based Tom at the finish. “After the accident a couple of weeks ago, to claim third place in the first round of the new BRC and with so many top competitors taking part, is a great feeling.
“As the rally went on, things really started to gel between James and me and this added to our pace. The Fiesta ran faultlessly and I must thank Spencer Sport and M-Sport for getting it fixed in such a short space of time. This has been a fantastic start to the season for us.”
Tom’s next event will be the second round of the MSA British Rally Championship, the Belfast-based Circuit of Ireland Rally, which takes place on April 8 and 9 and represents the first asphalt encounter of the season.