Tom Cave secured a convincing class win on his record-breaking appearance on Wales Rally GB, where the 17-year-old became the youngest driver in the history of the event.
Cave only passed his driving test in the week leading up to the event, allowing him to make his debut at WRC level, but survived tough conditions to bring his Fiesta ST home to the finish in 30th place overall and 15 minutes clear of his nearest class rival.
Having elected to take a steady approach to the three day event, which was beset by icy conditions, Cave also finished second amongst the two-wheel drive entrants in the Welsh forests.
“This is an absolutely fantastic result, for me, Gemma and the team,” he said. “I'm over the moon to finish my first WRC event, particularly as it's my home round but to do that and win our class is an unexpected bonus. Everything seems to have worked perfectly for us this weekend; the car performed without fault, the Yokohama tyres were excellent and I really could not have asked for more.
“There was a lot of black ice on the final four stages and this gave us a few heart-stopping moments here and there. But again, we found a good pace and rhythm for the stages that we felt would get us to the end, stuck to that pace and achieved what we set out to do.
“Before the event, I said I just wanted to finish but deep in my heart, I secretly hoped we might be able to get close to the class top three and perhaps to top 70 overall. I couldn't have dreamed that we would win the class and be in the top 30 of the event outright. The result really surprised me but it's unbelievably encouraging to see what we are capable of, as a team.
“The reaction to us here this weekend has been absolutely amazing. There was a lot of media interest around me passing my driving test and becoming the youngest driver ever to do the event but more encouraging than that was the reaction from the other crews, the marshals and of course, the fans.”
Cave also took time to thank the various different people who had made his debut at WRC level possible.
“There are so many people I need to thank for this opportunity,” he said. “My father has been the inspiration for my rallying and ultimately, has given me this chance while my mum and my sister have both been behind me all the way. Gemma's support and experience have been invaluable, both in Latvia and of course, here this weekend and the help that Martin [Rowe, former Production car World Rally Champion] has given us also contributed to our success.
“I also have to thank the m3motorsport team for making sure the car ran without a fault this weekend and Yokohama for providing us with exactly the tyres we needed for the conditions, as well as technical support throughout the event. And of course, I have to say an enormous thanks to the Latvian Automobile Federation, whose support ultimately led to my International Rally license and two years of experience, both of which were essential in this weekend's result.”