Tom Cave in action on the Bulldog Rally, but could Sponsor issues force the championship leader out of the competition?
The current leader of the 2012 MSA British Rally Championship, Tom Cave, is heading for the third round of the series, the Pirelli International Rally in a bullish mood after his first international rally win on the previous round. And he is refusing to allow the loss of a major sponsor to affect his plans for the event, even though the rest of his season now hangs in the balance.
Following on from his exceptional performance on the Bulldog Rally in a rented car, Tom and the Davies Motorsport Services team have rebuilt his Citroen DS3 R3, which was damaged and thought written-off following component failure on its first test last month. A steering component broke after a small jump and the car came to rest submerged in a pond at the Sweet Lamb venue in Wales.
However, after it was confirmed that the initial offer to cover the costs of the rebuild had been withdrawn, Tom and DMS were delighted to find that the damage was not as bad as first thought. Once the car had been dried out and the centre control unit within the cockpit changed, the engine fired first time and the major systems appeared undamaged. The only other component which required changing was the radiator and the car was ready for a shakedown test using parts which formed the included spares package.
A short test demonstrated that the DS3 was back to form and Tom is now looking forward to another pre-event test where he hopes rain will feature, so that he can develop a wet weather set-up for the car, since he is happy with the dry settings he developed for the Bulldog.
However, he suffered another blow when his major sponsor confirmed it would not be able to continue to support his 2012 BRC campaign. While Tom has sufficient funds for the Pirelli International, he finds himself in the unenviable situation that without securing additional support, his season may well be over halfway through and potentially, with him leading one of the world's most prominent national rally championships.
Commenting, Tom said; "I and the DMS team were so pleased when the engine fired up for the first time and we realised that it was OK. We'd spent a fair bit of time to get to that point and frankly, if the engine needed rebuilding, I think that would have been the end of the season. But it didn't and we had a short shakedown test yesterday [Wednesday] to make sure the car worked.
"We've now got a proper pre-event test at the Higgins facility in Wales before we head north for the Pirelli. I really hope the weather is wet, as I need to get a good wet set-up of the car. I'm really happy with the dry one we have, from the Bulldog but if the conditions are typical Pirelli, then I'll need that information.
"I think the goal for the Pirelli is a podium finish - if we finish in the top three, then hopefully we'll maintain the lead in the championship. But of course, after the Bulldog, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't aiming for another win. Everything seemed to come together on my 'home' round and the result showed what I have felt for a while - when we manage to shake off the bad luck, we can get a good result.
"Of course, it's entirely possible that the Pirelli could be our last event in the BRC this year. Our main sponsor isn't able to continue with us, which is a real shame. I can just about fund the Pirelli myself but after that, the cupboard is bare, so to speak. We're in discussions with several possible sponsors at the moment but without support, I don't think we'll be able to do the Jim Clark, let alone the rest of the championship.
"With all the bad luck we've had over the last couple of years, it's unbelievably ironic that this happens when we're leading the British Rally Championship! But we'll carry on as best we can."
The two-day event is based at Carlisle Racecourse and features two stages run on the evening of Friday 27 April with a further ten stages on Saturday 28 April. The first crews are expected at the finish at 7pm.