Tom Cave will be looking to take another step closer to his all-important international rally license next weekend, as he tackles his penultimate rally in Latvia in 2008, the Aizpute Rally.
Cave needs to finish both next weekend's event and the final round of the Latvian Rally Championship, Rally Latvia in October to secure his international license, which will then allow him to move on to the next phase of his rally career.
Next weekend's event will mark the approach of the culmination of two years of competition in Latvia for Tom, who was the first UK minor to compete internationally. Cave began his rally career in Latvia since the nation has a forward-looking approach to the sport, allowing drivers from the age of 14 to compete and this led the then 15 year-old to the Baltic state.
It was Tom's activity that in turn led to the creation of the Junior Rallying scheme, an exclusive partnership between the UK company and the Latvian Automobile Federation and Tom remains the figurehead for the scheme.
So far this year, he has inspired five young British drivers to compete in Latvia and the next few weeks will demonstrate that there is now a viable route into the sport for young drivers and a clear progression path.
The Aizpute Rally is the final round of this year's RallySprint Championship and as such, follows a familiar format.
The 55 kilometre rally begins with a tarmac superspecial stage in the town centre on the evening of Saturday 20 September before the action proper takes to the gravel roads around the town on Sunday.
Since Tom's goal is the coveted license, his aim for the rally will be the same as for recent events; ensure he gets to the finish and collects another upgrade signature for his license. However, as he didn't compete on this event last year, he will be starting from scratch when it comes to the roads and his pace notes for the event.
“I don't know the roads,” he explained, “but I'm guessing they will be similar in nature to what we've seen this year; a combination of fast, flowing roads on gravel that are both challenging but also, rewarding.
“As with the last few rallies, the objective here is to get to the finish to ensure that I get my license. I need to finish this event and Rally Latvia in October with no driver errors and then, the LAF will issue my international license, which means I will be able to move on to the next level of my rallying career. So this weekend, again there is nothing to prove, just get to the finish ramp.
“That may sound easy but it's actually quite difficult. Finding the right pace and rhythm to make sure I'm pushing hard enough to remain focussed and concentrating enough on the stages but not too hard and risk making a mistake can be tricky sometimes. But I'll treat this event as a test and concentrate on refining my pace notes and having a clean, tidy run.”
Tom will be hoping for an easier time of it next weekend than his last outing, the Gulbis Rally in August. There, his Fiesta suffered a series of mechanical problems related to the roll he suffered on the Talsi Rally in May and as a result, he and co-driver Gemma Price nursed their car through the event to the finish, with the gearbox held in by a single bolt and a ratchet strap. However, the Junior Rallying team, which runs Cave's car, is confident that they have resolved any issues and that the car will be 100 per cent for this event.