Popular Motoring - Feature: Fiesta Race Championship
"Fiesta time"
July 1981



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Feature: Fiesta Race Championship

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.....and the fat Klebers would just spin on the wet tarmac.

I decided on 3,500rpm, which proved to be too much, as the wheels slithered for grip and a couple of cars from the row behind overtook me.

I was well down in the Fiesta train as it circulated Snetterton in a big cloud of spray during the first lap or so. Batting down the back straight at over lOOmph and only knowing you've reached the end when the car in front's brake lights come on is a bit frightening.

My experience of the circuit was paying off (either that or the others realised the consequences of going too fast in the wet) and I managed to get past a few cars and up to fourth place.

It didn't last, of course, on lap four at Riches spray from the cars in front meant I couldn't see where to turn in and consequently went too wide. Realising my mistake I braked hard - too hard - the rear brakes locked on and the Fiesta changed ends a couple of times.

The elation of being well placed in a race changing to the pure anger and frustration after you've made a mistake has to be experienced to be believed. You don't half call yourself a few nasty names. Well, I did anyway.

The Fiesta ended up in the mud on the edge of a cornfield, which was a bit tricky to get out of 'cause semi-slick Klebers aren't much good for off-road going.

Back on the track after losing a few seconds I managed to claw my way up to about fifth position by overtaking a few cars and going past a few more who'd also spun off in the very slippery conditions.

I really got the adrenalin flowing and was charging on quite well; I even carried out a couple of do-or die manoeuvres taking cars on the outside at the fast Coram then diving inside them going into the left and right Russell before the start and finish straight.

I guess I got a bit too confident around Coram because on the seventh lap I went round there on my own just a touch off the best line. The Fiesta's wheels splashed into and aquaplaned over a puddle the size of Lake Coniston which had accumulated throughout the race.

Once again the Fiesta spun, this time at about 90mph, eventually slowing down a long, long way into the infield, just missing a marshal's post and a couple of advertisement hoardings. I guess my Minicross racing experience (Angry Minis October 1980) must have helped there.

Needless to say I lost more than a few places through that excursion, but I decided to press on. I'd indicated the previous spin to Terry and the PM fan club in the pits by twiddling my fingers as I went past the next lap, but there was really no need to repeat that after going off at Coram - they saw the whole embarrassing episode.

For the remainder of the race I managed to nip past a few cars even though the handling felt a bit strange, with rubbing noises on every right-hander. It transpired I'd repositioned the rear axle a couple of inches against the Coram kerb . . .

I crossed the line with absolutely no idea where I'd finished, and was consequently more than a little surprised to learn I was ninth on the road and then promoted to fifth when four drivers were excluded for persistent course cutting. It was obviously worthwhile slipping the marshals a fiver each . . . only joking, honest.

So we came away from Snetterton feeling rather chuffed at finishing in the points in our first ever circuit race. We nevertheless realised that our car still needed a lot of work to get it properly into shape; not least that we needed to hack an inch or so off the springs to drop it down to the same ride height as the other cars in the series.

Unfortunately the time taken to get the rear end in some sort of alignment and give the car a lick of paint (Terry Gray tells how he did that elsewhere in this issue) meant we didn't have a lot of time to make any 'improvements' before Brands Hatch on April 5th.

Once again we'd almost finished preparation late on the Saturday before the race, but this time we thought we'd just have time to put a little more negative camber on the front wheels . . . what a mistake.

Adjusting the camber obviously threw out the tracking as well and we couldn't get it right with our limited facilities.

Of course, there weren't any garages open in or around Peterborough with steering geometry alignment equipment, and it looked very much as if we would be calling off the following day's racing.

However, we dragged out a guy from a local Ford dealer and my wife Sally had the brainwave of putting out a call on our local radio station, Hereward, for someone with the proper equipment......

Captions -

Top-Right - What the papers say: don't just take our word that the Fiesta races are close and exciting. These enthusiastic reports are from the sporting weeklies Autosport and Motoring News.
Bottom - Romford driver Stuart Cole finds two wheels better than four at Snetterton's Russell bend.