Date of birth: 4 December 1998
Place of birth: Oxford, UK
Rally debut: 2015
Hobbies: Music, Travel and Design
Location: Reading, UK
The 22-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. Also he also has not 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 by no means obvious however, that Tom would follow the family tradition and move into rallying, aged 16, he started to compete in the Formula 1000 Junior Rally Championship. He finished sixth out of 23 drivers a Nissan Micra, with some impressive performances gaining him the 2015 Rookie of the Year Award.
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.
The year ended in style, with Tom becoming the British Rally Championship BRC5 Champion. 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, 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 and 2019 Tom committed himself to two seasons at the FIA Junior World Rally Championship. This meant he had to increase all the physical, mental, pace note and route preparation that is required to compete against 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.
2020 has been such an unusual year, due to Covid-19, which effected everything. Tom took the opportunity to carefully select events that could be used for learning the next step in rallying, 4 wheel drive. He drove the M-sport Ford Fiesta Mark 1 on gravel and tarmac, developing his skills.