The rally apprentice usurping his former master in ARA

Tom Williams' father used to battle David Higgins on the stages. But foe turned friend as Williams Jr learns his trade

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If you’re a US rally fan, seeing David Higgins return at Olympus Rally in a Citroen R5 was extremely exciting. If you’re a driver, it was intimidating, but if you’re Tom Williams, it was a family story spanning decades finally coming full circle.

“[When I heard Higgins was competing] I went down into the basement and started getting all these photos out of my dad and David from when David was the same age as me which is weird,” Williams told DirtFish.

Although Tom Williams is the son of famed British rally mentor and manager David Williams, it wasn’t that David who taught Tom how to rally on gravel. It was Higgins.

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“I started my career in about 2015, and I did one year in a junior Tarmac championship, just doing my own thing in Micras,” Williams told DirtFish at Olympus Rally.

“Fortunately, my dad has history of being in rallying and being around it. David Higgins had his Rally School in Wales, and when I went to learn gravel in 2016 – he taught me how to drive on gravel for the first time in a Nissan Micra.

“So yeah, I definitely learned a lot from him.

“I remember seeing a lot of posters of the American championship with him and Subaru back in 2016, and you would never have told me that I would have been competing in America this many years later, especially with David which is really weird.”

Not only would it be weird to compete with Higgins, but surely it was even weirder to beat David Higgins. Of course, Higgins’ Citroën suffered a steering rack failure after the first loop taking him out of the rally, but even before the mechanical, Higgins was trailing Williams by mere tenths of seconds.

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It’s easily argued that Williams had the advantage car-wise but competing in a class with Higgins and putting time on him is no easy feat.

And the crazy reality Williams found himself in didn’t end there.

As David Williams began to move towards retirement in the 1990s, he focused on building up the careers of many young up-and-comers in the United Kingdom.

“When he started to finish with his career, he started helping out Richard Burns and his career in the Peugeot 205, and that was his driver that he helped, but also at the same time he was supporting David Higgins because they were all in the same kind of friends group,” Williams told DirtFish.

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“So, he ran David in a Peugeot 205 when he was the same age as me in a team.”

“They did all of these different rallies, and they were trying to go for the championship with Richard Burns, Robert Reid, and David Higgins and his co-driver, Michael ‘Beef’ Park.

“My dad was finding the sponsorship when [Higgins] went off to do the British Rally Championship. That was the start of his career!

“Quite a weird full circle story.”

Words:Mason Runkel