Tom Cave finished Rally Poland last weekend in 31st position overall and seventh in the N3 class, despite winning all but one stage he drove competitively and a head gasket failure mid-way through the event.

The event began exceptionally well for the youngster and co-driver Craig Parry and they set the fastest N3 and Ford Fiesta time on every stage that formed the first leg, with the exception of just one. In the end they finished the opening day with a lead in the N3 class of almost 1 minute 40 seconds.

On Saturday they continued where they had left off with the fastest time on both of the day's opening stages.

However, approaching the start of the day's third stage, the 30 kilometre Wydminy test, the temperature on their Ford Fiesta ST's engine began to climb and they were forced to stop several times to top up the engine coolant, losing ten minutes in the process.

They then nursed the car back to the service where a faulty thermostat was removed and they headed back out.

It soon transpired though that the head gasket had failed and the crew was forced to retire from the leg, while the DMS technicians set about removing the engine and replacing the head gasket, with help from M-Sport as well as other competitors.

The technicians eventually finished their work at 2am on Sunday morning and placed the car in parc ferme, so that Cave and Parry could restart under the SupeRally regulations. However, the ten minutes lost on SS10 combined with the further 15 minutes of penalties for the three missed stages, dropped them well down the order, to 7th in class.

With the car now back on song, Cave began Sunday in the same groove, keen to demonstrate his pace and repay the efforts of the mechanics and all those who had helped to ensure he could continue.

Cave and Parry picked up where they left off, claiming the stage win in the N3 class on each and every stage that made up the final leg, bringing their total tally over the course of the event to 13 stage wins from 15 stages contested, including where they encountered the engine problems.

By the end of the event, Cave and Parry finished in 31st overall and 7th in N3, just under 16 minutes behind the class winner, having lost 25 minutes in total thanks to the head gasket failure.

"While I'm obviously extremely disappointed that we didn't get the result we hoped for, we can definitely take a lot of positives from this event," reflected the 17-year-old.

"Fastest stage time in class with the exception of one proper stage shows that our notes were working very well and the car was perfect, except for the engine problem. I think this was the weekend where everything seemed to come together - at the beginning and the end, at any rate!

"This was definitely the toughest rally I've done though. The temperature on Sunday was in the 30s and it required a huge amount of concentration to get the car through to the end of the event. We had a few temperature variations on Sunday, so I was watching those and we picked up a vibration that felt like a puncture. However, we checked and it wasn't, so I spent most of the day trying to drive quickly, while keeping an eye on the temperature and wondering what the vibration was and if something would fall off!

"In terms of motivation on the final day, I guess there was nothing for us to lose and potentially, everything to gain. We were almost last in class and I thought that if I pushed and set some decent times, if any of the other N3 drivers had problems, we could capitalise on them. Claiming the stage win on each run was fantastic but there just weren't enough stages left for us to get any further up.

"There are a host of people I have to thank for their efforts this weekend. First and foremost, Mikey, JJ and Mark from Davies Motorsport, who worked like mad all weekend to make sure we kept going. They changed three windscreens and were at it until 2am on Sunday morning, getting the engine out and changing the head gasket.

"The guys from M-Sport were also extremely helpful, even though we're not running as part of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy international, as were the guys from Team Abu Dhabi and Castrol Ford Team Turkiye.

"I also have to thank Yokohama for supporting us with tyres this weekend. Once again, they worked perfectly; we had exactly the grip we needed when we needed it, they were incredibly consistent and we didn't suffer any damage or punctures all weekend.

"We need to have a good think about our next step once we get home, since we seem to keep having problems with this car and I can't help but wonder if we're approaching the limits of what it is capable of now. So we'll get home, take stock and come up with a plan for the rest of the season once the dust has settled on this weekend."

Meanwhile Cave now heads to the Goodwood Festival of Speed this coming weekend, where he has been invited to display his car on the International Rally Drivers Club stand, as well as demonstrate it on the event's famous rally stage.


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