Junior Rallying, the scheme to develop the next generation of British rally drivers, enjoyed a 'superb' outing last weekend, said the organisers.
No less than five drivers competed under the Junior Rallying banner on the Gulbis Rally, the penultimate round of the Latvian RallySprint championship and all but one achieved excellent finishes on the Latvian stages.
The event marked the largest entry for Junior Rallying since the scheme began in January this year, with five under-17 drivers competing on the six-stage, 180 kilometre round based around the town of Gulbene, 150 kilometres east of Riga.
Top Junior Rallying finisher was Tom Clark, driving his Suzuki Swift Cup car. He finished the event 34th overall and fifth in class, exactly the target he set himself in the run-up to the event.
Even more impressive is the fact that this is his fifth finish out of five starts, with his results improving consistently.
Other than a puncture on the fourth timed test of the event, his and co-driver Aggie Foster's day was an uneventful one, despite a gearbox change prior to the event, a result of a manufacturer recall on that particular model.
Not only did the 16 year-old impress the Junior Rallying team again, his performance also caught the eye of the scheme's partners, the Latvian Automobile Federation, who plan to invite Tom to compete on Rally Latvia, the last round of this year's Latvian National Championship in October – a fitting end to an excellent debut season.
Second of the five British drivers was Conor Flynn, who was 38th overall and 10th in class. He was particularly pleased with his and co-driver Tim Young's achievement, since his Mk3 Volkswagen Golf is in a much lower state of development than some of the other machinery used by the Junior Rallying drivers. His right foot, which he damaged playing football before the event, held up to the stresses of the event and clearly had no effect on his performance.
Next was Jamie Brown, driving his Honda Civic and partnered by Craig Burgess, who also continued to improve, finishing 41st overall and seventh in class. This was only his second event and on his first, he finished in the 70s against a comparable entry field, so a 30-odd place improvement is testament to his potential and achievement.
The fourth Junior Rallying driver was Tom Cave, inspiration for the scheme. He led his fellow British drivers over the first loop of three stages but a near-terminal gearbox failure meant that he had to settle for a pace which would ensure he reached the finish of the event once the Junior Rallying technicians had repaired his car. He eventually finished 45th overall and first in the 1600+ Open class, despite his gearbox being held in by a single bolt and a ratchet strap for three stages.