Date of birth: 4 December 1998
Place of birth: Oxford, UK
Rally debut: 2015
Hobbies: Music, Travel, Boxing and Design
Location: Reading, UK
In 2019, Tom Williams will, once again, be the youngest driver – and only British driver – in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship.
The 20-year old Englishman has come a long way in a short space of time, having made his rallying debut in the Formula 1000 Junior Rally Championship just five years ago.
Having started his first rally at car number 112, Tom has been quietly gaining the skills required to be a fast rally driver – working hard on his physical and mental fitness, amassing mechanical skills by building and repairing his own car and fine-tuning his all-important pace notes systems. He also hasn’t returned to the same events year after year, but instead progressed to the FIA World Rally Championship – the pinnacle of the sport, where event experience is vital.
The sport’s aficionados might recognise this master plan, and it’s no coincidence that it has previously been employed with great success by Richard Burns. It was Tom’s father David who took Richard from the Under 17 Car Club to become the 2001 World Rally Champion, and David is naturally instrumental in his son’s career now. And in a nice twist that will forever keep the two English rally stars aligned, Tom is the Godson of the legend that will always be affectionately known as ‘Burnsie’.
Back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, dad David was no mean driver himself, and was well known in British rallying for some spectacular exploits in cars such as a Nissan 240RS and Metro 6R4. More recently, David and his wife Sadie teamed up together to win the 2007 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge in a 1938 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe.
It was my no means obvious, however, that Tom would follow the family tradition and move into rallying. In fact, Tom was following in his father’s natural gift for art and design when, aged 16, he started to compete in the Formula 1000 Junior Rally Championship. He finished sixth out of 23 drivers (thanks to three fourth-place finishes) in a Nissan Micra, with some impressive performances gaining him the 2015 Rookie of the Year Award, much to the delight of his friends at Shiplake College near Henley-on-Thames, who had previously witnessed Tom’s sporting prowess on the rugby pitch and rowing on the River Thames.
Having turned 17 in December of that year, Tom was too old to contest the 2016 F1000 Junior series. It was therefore the ideal opportunity to step away from airfield events and head into the forests for the first time, to gain experience of loose surface competition.
His first gravel rally wasn’t made any easier when torrential rain and low cloud descended on a very wet and muddy Red Kite Stages. Tom had only passed his driving test a few days before and everything was going well on the mid-Wales based rally until he hit a rock and span his Fiesta R2 off the road. Tom then drove a Fiesta R1 for much of the year, quietly gaining in confidence as his experience grew and regularly finishing inside the top three of the BTRDA Rally First category.
The year ended in style, with Tom becoming the British Rally Championship BRC5 Champion (thanks to a maximum points score on the Pirelli Rally) and making his FIA World Rally Championship debut, finishing 2nd in the RC4 class and 45th overall on Wales Rally GB, driving a Fiesta R2.
Selected World and British Rally Championship events in a Ford Fiesta R2 followed in 2017, together with MSA Academy AASE course studies at Loughborough College. Tom also made his overseas WRC debut that year at Rally Finland (finishing, but finding himself excluded after a technical infringement), followed by 14th in the RC2 class and 54th overall on Rally Germany. He also contested two events in Belgium, the Border Counties, Pirelli and Scottish rallies, and a number of other events designed to give him the maximum amount of experience in the shortest and most cost-effective space of time. The year once again finished with Wales Rally GB, where he finished 5th in the RC2 class and 48th overall.
It was time to step up a level and gain WRC experience, so for 2018 Tom committed himself to the FIA Junior World Rally Championship – and not just the five qualifying events, but all the physical, mental, pace note and route preparation that is required to compete with the world’s best young rally talent. Continuing the partnership with co-driver Phil Hall that had begun at the end of the previous season, Tom drove an M-Sport Poland prepared Fiesta R2T in the JWRC, twice finishing sixth (in Finland and Turkey) out of the 15 drivers – despite being, at 19-years old, the youngest and least experienced driver in the series.
Tom also did the recce for many other WRC events and contested Rally Mexico (but was forced to retire when the car stopped when a fuse malfunctioned), Rally Spain (finishing 9th in the RC4 and 40th overall after a roll) and Wales Rally GB (winning the WRC3 class and finishing 2nd in RC2 and a magnificent 28th overall).
He also drove an ex-Richard Burns Subaru Legacy RS and Impreza S7 WRC01 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, worked as a rally instructor at the both the Forest Rally Experience in Wales and the John Haugland Winter Rally School in Norway, tested a Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time and attended Formula Medicine training camps in Europe.
2019 promises to be another busy year, with a second full season in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship – this time driving the all-new EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R2 – and gaining further experience of the WRC.
Selected rounds of the British and World Rally Championship
Competing in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5
FIA Junior World Rally Championship
8th JWRC / 40th o/a, Rally GB 10th JWRC / 48th o/a, Rally Finland DNF (retired after final stage with hole in sump), Rally Italy Sardinia 5th JWRC / 31st o/a, Tour of Corsica 4th JWRC / 33rd o/a, Rally Sweden DNF Arctic Lapland Rally