Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Paul Evans

That’s Tom the rally driver”, said a fel­low pupil at Shiplake Col­lege, as Tom Wil­liams walked onto the cricket pitch for a pho­to­shoot in his rally over­alls. It’s a pretty cool school nick­name, by any­one’s ad­mis­sion.

In his first sea­son of ral­ly­ing, Tom won Rookie of the Year in the For­mula 1000 se­ries, af­ter three fourth-place fin­ishes in his Nis­san Mi­cra saw him fin­ish sixth out of 23 driv­ers. Hav­ing turned 17 in De­cem­ber, Tom is too old to re­turn to the Ju­nior cat­e­gory, so in­stead the fam­ily has bought him a Ford Fi­esta R2 in which he’ll con­test a va­ri­ety of small gravel ral­lies to gain ex­pe­ri­ence ( see above).

It’s per­haps writ­ten in the stars that he’d take up ral­ly­ing. His par­ents, David and Sadie, won the 2007 Pek­ing to Paris Mo­tor Chal­lenge in a 1938 Chevro­let Fan­gio Coupe. In­deed, David was well known in Bri­tish na­tional ral­ly­ing in the late 1980s and early ’90s for his ex­ploits in a Nis­san 240RS. And he is even bet­ter known for guid­ing Richard Burns from the Un­der 17 Car Club to be­come a World Rally cham­pion. Burns was a man Tom Wil­liams could call his god­fa­ther.

Tom is now fol­low­ing the same hard work ethos that Burns did. There is no way Burns would have been al­lowed to start a round of the Peu­geot Chal­lenge un­less ev­ery square inch of his 205 was im­mac­u­late, and now, 26 years later, it’s Tom who has to pre­pare his own car, pol­ished to his father’s very high Gen­e­sis De­sign stan­dards. And, like Burns be­fore him, Tom has to learn to rally drive in an un­der­pow­ered car on small events be­fore there is any talk of mov­ing up.

“I’ve al­ways liked cars, and two years ago my dad took me to watch Ral­lye Deutsch­land and I’ve been hooked on ral­ly­ing ever since,” says Tom. “I did a cou­ple of rally school driv­ing days when I was 15, and one morn­ing my dad left the house at 0500hrs. He’d done some re­search on how to start ral­ly­ing and was off to see a round of the For­mula 1000 se­ries! There he met Si­mon Mauger from Ma­jor Mo­tor­sport, and that’s how my first sea­son of ral­ly­ing came about.

“At 16, I was a lit­tle late into the Ju­nior cat­e­gory, as most of the other driv­ers had done kart­ing and were in their se­cond year of ral­ly­ing. It was great fun, I’ve made some good friends and I would have scored my first podium, had I not put the Mi­cra up on two wheels on the last stage at Pem­brey and missed out on third place by one se­cond!

“I would have liked to re­turn to For­mula 1000, but now I’m 17 and too old! In­stead, we’re go­ing to con­cen­trate on gravel ral­lies in 2016 in a Fi­esta R2. I want to be com­pet­i­tive and not drive around at the back of the field, but I’m also un­der or­ders not to crash the car. We want to do small ral­lies, learn the trade and get quicker step-by-step.”

The left-hand-drive Fi­esta R2, with its se­quen­tial gear­box and more power, is very dif­fer­ent to the Mi­cra. Tom will have a num­ber of driv­ing train­ing ses­sions with David Hig­gins. He’s an­other Bri­tish driver his father helped in his early ca­reer.

Un­der the guid­ance of Wil­liams Sr, the mul­ti­ple Amer­i­can rally cham­pion once used to pre­pare his own Peu­geot Chal­lenge car out of the same garage that Burns did a few years be­fore him.

They all be­came close friends, with Hig­gins do­ing gravel notes for Burns in the Asia-pa­cific and World Rally cham­pi­onships.

“Noth­ing in ral­ly­ing has changed since David helped the likes of Richard and my­self in our ca­reers, so his way of do­ing things works as well now as it did all those years ago,” says Hig­gins. “Noth­ing is handed to you on a plate. You have to do the hard work your­self and learn from the bot­tom up. So many peo­ple fall at the first hur­dle or have too much too soon, but he didn’t al­low that to hap­pen to Richard or my­self and he’s not go­ing to let it hap­pen to Tom ei­ther. It was a real hon­our when David phoned to ask if I could help Tom. Tom wants to learn and do it right. He hasn’t come into the sport too young, and the way Bri­tish ral­ly­ing is on the up, I think the tim­ing could be just about right for him.”

Only time will tell if Tom’s ral­ly­ing ca­reer takes off, but with a god­fa­ther and fam­ily friend in Burns and Hig­gins, he’s got a bet­ter chance than most.

Ju­nior F1000 rookie of the year Wil­liams

Burns: Wil­liams’ god­fa­ther

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