Fresh from an impressive showing at the 2018 Wales Rally GB, RedHanded catches up with Wales' very own speed king, Tom Cave.
RedHanded: Sounds like you had an exciting World Rally Championship – what was the highlight for you? Tom Cave: Without a doubt it was setting the fastest WRC2 times on four of the stages. To do that against crews in the factory-supported Skodas, Fords and Citroens really boosted our confidence and proved to us that we can compete against the world’s best. RH: How did it feel to do so well in your ‘home’ rally? TC: It’s always great to do well on your home rally, as you’re competing in front of people you know and therefore the support is fantastic. There is another side to it though, as some will say we did well because we were familiar with the stages. This may help in some sections, but definitely not everywhere.
RH: How and when did you get bitten by the rallying bug? TC: My introduction to rallying came from my Dad when I was a kid. He was a very competent driver in his own right and I used to love going to watch. He saw how keen I was and gave me the chance to get behind the wheel of a rally car when I was 13 at a local rally school. I then started competing when I was 15 in Latvia, where it’s legally possible to drive at that age. I did a second season over there when I was 16 and, with my birthday in November, I entered the 2008 Rally GB five days after passing my UK driving test. It means that I am the youngest driver ever to compete in a WRC event. For the record, I won Class N3 by 15 minutes! RH: How helpful was it to come from a family that’s always been involved in rally driving? TC: It’s everything to be brought up in a family that’s involved with rallying and in many cases, it’s clear that the genes are passed down through the generations. But to get to the top you have to have the natural ability too. RH: F1 is spectacularly glamourous and lush with money. How does rallying compare? TC: Both can be generically covered by the term motorsport but they are two very different driving disciplines. F1 and circuit racing will always be able to generate more money, as the events take place at purpose-built venues catering for spectators and hosting huge levels of corporate hospitality. Whilst racing is far better commercially, rallying is a purer form of motorsport, far less clinical and more about raw natural ability and car control than consistent high speeds over the same stretch of perfectly laid asphalt. But I would say that...
RH: Is it a financially difficult sport to compete in? TC: It’s hugely difficult to compete in motorsport at the top level. For those that don’t know what it costs, the figures can sound crazy, but when you break it down you can see where the money goes so it makes more sense. I do have a number of regular sponsors and supporters who have really helped out over the years and I couldn’t have done it without them, but it’s also meant putting in some personal funds too on occasions. RH: How did you hook up with Trailhead as a sponsor? TC: I’ve known the owner of Trailhead Foods, Arwyn Watkins OBE, for some time, as he’s a highly respected catering consultant and has worked with us at the hotel in the past. Having just taken on the ‘Get Jerky’ brand, he was looking for a way of launching the products and us doing the Rally GB worked well in terms of timing. We hope that the association will continue into next year.
RH: What would your advice be to anyone trying to get into the sport? TC: Start small and work up. That way you learn as you go and don’t invest more than you need to at the beginning. You’ll quickly know if you have the ability to progress and then have an idea where you want to get to in the sport. It’s then important to come up with a plan of how you intend to get there. Alternatively, you can just do it to enjoy it. Rallying is like that. If you can’t commit to a full championship, you can just enter the events you want to do and still get a huge amount of satisfaction and enjoyment from the experience. RH: Best and worst things about rally driving? TC: The best: Because rallying demands so much from you: speed, skill, bravery, commitment, teamwork, determination, and stamina, to do well takes a supreme amount of effort. Winning means so much, as to be better than anyone else because of the demands gives you a high like no other. The level of satisfaction is off the scale! However, having said that, just driving quickly through a stage is one of the best feelings in the world. The worst: Because the highs are so high, the lows are very low. Mistakes and accidents are by far the worst aspect of a sport that involves speed and risk. Cost is also a big factor, as in all types of motorsport, money usually means you go quicker and can do it more often. However, it’s great to win when you’re regarded as the underdog!