Teenage rally driver Tom Cave suffered a disaster on the opening day of this year's GEKO Ypres Rally, when the engine on his Proton Satria Neo Super 2000 failed on the fourth stage of the event.
The youngster was settling into the event and establishing a good feeling with the car when the failure occurred, on the same stage as a similar fate befell the two official Proton cars of Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae.
It was clear from the outset that this would not be an easy event. On the first stage, the 29 km Hollebeke test, Cave was caught out by unexpected gravel on the racing line through a left hand corner, dragged onto the road by preceding cars cutting the corner. He slid wide and his Proton gently tipped into the ditch by the side of the road.
While the car suffered minimal damage, it took three minutes for the numerous and extremely helpful Belgian rally fans to get the Proton back on the road. With the time loss, he and co-driver Craig Parry had dropped to 68th overall.
The second stage was better for him, as he worked to build his confidence amid the very tricky conditions but it was on the third where he began to show what he was capable of. His time was just six seconds shy of McRae over 18 km, promoting him to 58th overall, a gain of ten places in just two stages.
At the mid-leg service, the Davies Motorsport technicians checked the car over thoroughly and finding no significant damage, sent it back out for a repeat of the first three stages.
However, problems soon arose. Close to the end of the end of the first stage, Cave felt the engine fail as he was changing up into fifth gear. Realising the situation, he shut the engine off immediately and parked within the stage, waiting for the DMS technicians to recover him and the car once the stage was complete.
With the car returned to the service area, the team investigated the damage and found that it was too extensive to allow repairs to be carried out and Cave to return on the second day. Therefore, he retired from the event.
"It's a very disappointing end to the event but as we have found, that's rallying!” Cave reflected. "I made a bit of a novice mistake on the first stage, not anticipating how slippery one particular corner was and slid onto the ditch. The car was okay but couldn't get out on its own and we had to get some spectators to help. Over the next two stages, I just concentrated on getting my confidence back again and settling into a rhythm.
"I was quite surprised by our pace and how close we were to Alister on the third stage, particularly as we weren't pushing at all at that point. And that makes it all the more disappointing that the event ended like this, particularly as all three cars had problems. All we can do now is find out what caused it and make sure it doesn't happen again."