Tom Cave, the UK's first minor international rally driver, accomplished his mission for his 2008 rally campaign last weekend, when he completed the final round of the 2008 Latvian Rally Championship sixth in class.
Not only was this his best result in two years of competition in the Baltic state but it also means that the Latvian Automobile Federation (LAF) will grant him his international rally license, allowing him to compete on the final round of this year's World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB.
Cave has endured a trying season this year, with circumstances seemingly aiming to deny him his coveted international license. A roll on the Talsi Rally in May led to several recurring technical problems with his Group N Ford Fiesta ST. However, a string of mature and determined drives by the 16 year-old, combined with the support from father Peter, co-driver Gemma Price and the technicians from Junior Rallying, which ran Tom's Fiesta this year, all contributed to last weekend's result and with it, the opportunity for him to take the next step in his rally career.
Rally Latvia is the flagship event for the national series and was to be the culmination of two years of competition for Tom in the nation. He began competing there last year and his activity became the inspiration for the Junior Rallying scheme, to develop the next generation of British rallying talent.
Tom's approach to this event was exactly the same as his last three – get to the finish ramp to ensure he collected the final signature he needed for his license to be upgraded to International specification by the LAF, the Latvian motorsport governing body.
As it transpired, it was a textbook drive from the youngster, adopting a mature and long-sighted approach to the event, taking no risks in the Fiesta that was still using a standard road-car gearbox after problems earlier this season. Tom and Gemma finished the event sixth in class, their best result in Latvia to date. They completed the event one place behind the local Fiesta specialist, who also competes in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International, the one-make series that supports the WRC, an achievement they were understandably proud of.
In doing so, the LAF confirmed it will issue Tom with his Latvian International rally license. If Tom's plans now come to fruition, he will become the youngest-ever Latvian license-holder to compete on the WRC, when he takes the start of December's Wales Rally GB.
“It was a huge relief when we got to the end of the last stage. I'm really pleased, both with the fact that we finished and got the international license but also, with the result itself,” he noted. “I think that, had we not been targeting the finish and if the car was fitted with the dog [gear]box, we could have put the local Fiesta driver under more pressure and had a genuine battle for position with him.
“The last two years competing in Latvia have been amazing. It's been a rollercoaster of emotions, ranging from ecstasy to disappointment but that's the nature of rallying. The standard of the competition, organisation and the welcome we always receive over there have been superb and it has been an incredible benefit for me to be able to start rallying there at such a young age.