The first season for Junior Rallying could not have gone any better, scheme manager Gemma Price has said following the Rally Latvia at the weekend, the final round of the 2008 Latvian Rally Championship, which marked the culmination of Junior Rallying's activity in the Baltic state for this year.
The event was contested by two Junior Rallying drivers, namely Tom Cave, who was aiming for another finish to allow him to secure his international rally license and Tom Clark, who was stepping up to a national event for the first time, after a series of exceptional results in the RallySprint championship.
Cave approached the event with a single objective – to get to the finish and gain the final signature required to achieve his international license and with it, the next phase of his rally career. He drove a considered event and reached the finish ramp sixth in class.
This means that the Latvian Automobile Federation will now issue Cave with his International rally license, allowing him to enter and, pending passing his UK driving test, compete on the final round of the 2008 World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB. This demonstrates the validity of the Junior Rallying proposition, in providing young British drivers with two years of crucial rally experience and a significant advantage over their peers by the time they reach their 17th birthday.
If he passes his driving test and competes in Wales, he will become the youngest Latvian license-holder to compete in the WRC, with the Latvian flag next to his name on his car - a fitting tribute to the effort and support given to Junior Rallying by the Latvian Automobile Federation (LAF).
Tom Clark's event didn't go so well, however. He was invited to take part on the final round of the National Championship by the LAF. From the word go, he realised that competing on a national event was a much harder proposition than he was used to.
By the end of the recce, he had a better idea of what was involved. He was surprised by the length of the stages on the event and their technicality. In the RallySprint series, he was used to stages ranging from 2 km to 9 km. However, on Rally Latvia, he would have to tackle 28 km stages with combinations of corners on the fast and flowing gravel roads, testing he and co-driver Aggie Foster's mettle.
His problems began on the first superspecial stage in Jurmala. The rear of his Suzuki Swift Cup car stepped out and he clipped a kerb, bending the rear beam. He limped through the rest of the section and the Junior Rallying technicians carried out running repairs to allow him to continue. He went on to set the fastest class stage time on stage nine of the event, a remarkable feat on his first national rally. However, it was on the penultimate stage of the event, the 28 km Parex Lizings test where the drama would occur.
Tom misheard a pace note, warning of a fork right following a crest and left the road and went into the field between the two forked roads. As the car went off the road, the nose dug in and the Suzuki rolled end-over-end, landing on the rear of the roof, collapsing it and the roll cage. Both crew were unhurt in the incident but clearly, their event and the rally career of that particular car were over.