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Belgium podium finish sees Cave share British Rally Championship lead

Tom Cave’s hard work behind the wheel of his Hyundai i20 R5, coupled with Dale Bowen’s efforts beside him on the notes, rewarded the Welsh pair with an impressive second place in the British Rally Championship standings and an overall result of seventh in the weekend’s Renties Ypres Rally.

Tom Cave and Dale Bowen (left) on the podium in Ypres. Credit: Jackob Ebrey Photography.

The outcome hots-up the race for the British title and with two wins, a second place and a DNF apiece, the scores put Cave on exactly same number of points as defending champion Matt Edwards with two of the six rounds remaining.

[aoa id=”1″]The Ypres Rally is the longest and fastest round of the season and was made even more demanding by the recent exceptionally hot weather. Adding further to the challenge for success in this hugely popular rally was a top quality field that featured a line-up of former and current World and European Championship teams.[/aoa]

Thursday evening’s practice and qualifying runs resulted in Tom and Dale claiming 10th place. Consequently, they had the final choice of starting position at Friday’s draw during the spectacular pre-start ceremonies in the town square and opted to run as first car on the road when the rally began later in the afternoon.

A measured start saw the pair enter the service halt after five stages holding an overall position just outside the top 10 and only eight seconds from BRC leaders Edwards and co-driver Patrick Walsh.

Now with a better feel of how the car and his Michelin tyres working on the Belgium asphalt, a re-run of four of the first loop’s stages in the evening twilight paid dividends. When the crews arrived back in Ypres for the overnight stop, Cave and Bowen had elevated their overall position to seventh and, importantly, were now heading the British Rally Championship field by just 0.4 seconds.

The plan was ‘more of the same’ for Saturday’s 14 stages and, with no let up in the ambient temperature, there was little doubt that a tough day lay ahead.  A perfect run through stage 10 to extend their lead was contrasted by a puncture and a damaged wheel rim on stage 11.

This resulted in a cautious pass through SS12 and the loss of around 40 seconds, albeit the pair maintained a position in the rally’s top-10 and were still second of the British Championship runners.

With a two-minute buffer to third-placed BRC crew, Alex Laffey and Stuart Lowden, Cave and Bowen elected to still push so that, if Edwards and Walsh had any issues, they were in a position to pounce, but at the same time not spoil what would be an excellent result and claim a significant haul of points in the process.

The remaining 11 stages saw Cave and Bowen provide a demonstration of determined and consistent on-the-pace driving that was perfect for the circumstances. They increased their overall position to an impressive seventh and, at the same time, consolidated second place in the British Rally Championship field as the event finished.

“This is one of the toughest events I’ve ever done,” said Tom, who lives in Aberdyfi. “The high temperatures, coupled with the nature of the stages and the level of concentration and raw speed you need to succeed against drivers who are more familiar with the Belgium stages, was really intense.

“But, of course, that makes our result even more satisfying and I’m delighted to have scored a third BRC podium finish and, in doing so, stay at the top of the championship tables – albeit now sharing the position with Matt (Edwards), who drove an excellent rally.

“I must add that I could not have achieved any of this without by wing-man Dale Bowen, who did a fantastic job. I also must thank and congratulate the PCRS team for providing us with the Hyundai that ran perfectly throughout the event, especially as this has been such a difficult week for them.

“My appreciation also extends to all of our supporters, partners and sponsors: Trailhead Fine Foods and its Get Jerky snack brand, Cambrian Training, Michelin Motorsport, Ponsse UK, H. N. Nuttall Foodservice, Go Fetch Ltd, Intervino, Atech Racing, Walero, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Shukers Hyundai of Aberystwyth and Gamme Hyundai in Ypres.”

Cave and Bowen reconvene their successful partnership on August 16 and 17, when they head to Northern Ireland for the Today’s Ulster Rally, fifth round of the championship.