Welsh rally driver Tom Cave dominated the two wheel-drive category of this weekend's Somerset Stages Rally, taking the class stage win on each of the event's 11 stages. He and new co-driver Ieuan Thomas brought their Morris Lubricants-supported Citroen DS3 home in ninth place overall and first in 2WD on an event they were contesting as a warm-up for their 2013 MSA British Rally Championship campaign.
Tom has fond memories of the event, which he won the Group N class in 2011 on his way to becoming BTRDA Production Cup champion. However, this spring's unusual bad weather had meant the cancellation of two crucial test events - the BRC Media Day and his entry for the Border Counties Rally, as well as the first round of the BRC, the Morris Lubricants Rally of North Wales. Therefore, he elected to contest the Somerset stages as a warm-up for the now first round of the BRC, the Pirelli Rally in two week's time.
The plan was simple - enjoy the rally and get some competition seat time to get used to being back in the car and ensure that the systems he and Ieuan had put in place ahead of the season worked. While testing and practice are very useful, it's not until actual competition that any shortcomings show up and both Tom and Ieuan, as well as the Davies Motorsport Services team, which run the car, were keen to check everything was ready for the start of the BRC season.
With most of the UK basking in welcome bright sunshine and the warmest temperatures seen for months, the field headed off for the first stages. Immediately, Tom and Ieuan were on the pace; the set the fastest 2WD time on each of the 11 stages and on the sixth timed test, were third fastest overall, beating several World Rally Cars and Group N cars. The next stage, they were fourth fastest and by the time they arrived at the end of the event, had secured ninth overall, first in class and first 2WD car home.
Commenting at the end of the event, Tom said: "It was a really good day - lots of fun, we really enjoyed it and of course, I am delighted with the result.
"We approached the event knowing that we needed to get as much mileage as possible to prepare us for the season, to make sure that Ieuan and I worked well in the car and that mechanically, it was ready after a fair bit of work over the winter.
"I deliberately told Ieuan I didn't want to know any times or positions to begin with and it wasn't until the first service that I realised we were doing quite well! We made a couple of set-up changes part-way through the day and kept the pace up and got the ideal result.
"Ieuan and I bonded very well together in the car, as I expected we would. It took a couple of stages to get fully tuned-in to each other but once we'd done that, it was really good. Testing is one thing but you really need actual competition to check everything works as it should and by the end of the day, it felt like we'd been competing together for ages.
"The car was perfect all day - the DMS guys did a brilliant job getting it ready for the start of the season and it didn't miss a beat all day.
"There was a huge amount of interest, thanks to the support from our new partners Morris Lubricants and I am really looking forward to the Pirelli Richard Burns Foundation Rally, which will finally see our MSA British Rally Championship campaign get going."
The Pirelli Rally, supported this year by the Richard Burns Foundation, will now be the BRC season opener and takes place in two week's time, 4 and 5 May. Based at the Carlisle Racecourse, the event sees crews tackle stages in the infamous Kielder Forest over two days.