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



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Feature: Fiesta Race Championship

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.....After a lot of dashing around, cursing, swearing and grazing our knuckles we eventually set off for Brands very late on the Saturday night.

I'd like to say we'd got the car sorted out properly, but a few laps around the tricky Brands Hatch circuit soon proved otherwise. It was really bad, darting spontaneously in either direction. Aaaarghhh, or words to that effect.

With help from the PM team, Terry Gray in particular, and Terry Bradley from Ford we got the car just about set up right in time for the race.

Unfortunately my poor practice times meant I was back down the grid in 12th place, and on the outside for the hectic charge down to the adverse camber Paddock bend. I'd heard people say going round that corner is like driving off the end of a cliff and I now know what they mean.

I started 12th and finished 12th after a very hectic race with former World Hot Rod Champion Barry Lee. That was the closest race I've ever been in - and the sporting weeklies both said that it was one of the best races seen at Brands for a long time (see our cuttings). I finished just 10 seconds down on the leader, which ain't bad after 10 laps. And it didn't rain.

The thing with Fiesta racing is that all the cars are so close it comes down to driver ability and circuit knowledge. And as I was a novice racing at Brands for the first time I just couldn't get through.

We had a fortnight to twiddle with the car before the next race at Brands once again on Easter Monday, but for a number of different reasons we didn't, which was a pity because some of the others obviously did. I could only qualify in 11th place despite trying really hard. Well I thought so anyway.

I actually made an initially good start as the lights changed from red to green and was gaining rapidly on the cars on the next row of the grid when the Fiesta just refused to go into second gear. I could have cried when the whole of the field came streaming past while I struggled with the gear lever.

Luck was partly on my side when, as I powered into Paddock for the first time, the other cars were split up in a big way by veteran Stuart Cole partially spinning. This helped me get past a couple of cars but, after a long and close battle with London driver Garry Mclnerney, I slipped back to 12th position at the flag.

I was more than a little despondent at the result but the sporting Brands Hatch marshals at least made me smile by applauding our back-of-the-race scrap and imitating my wheel-twirling antics due to the terminal understeer which plagued the car during the latter stages.

This race made us realise we'd a lot of work to do on the car. Back at the PM workshop we finally lowered the springs to get rid of the excessive roll and tweaked up the brakes to alleviate the fade and excessive pedal travel which occurred towards the end of the Brands race.

Also on our list is to fit a new roof panel, not only to smarten up the car but to rid us of the weight penalty of all that filler. Like I said, motor racing can be full of ups and downs . . . but we'll be back there amongst them at the next race.

Stop Press: Some of our modificaions seemed to work because the Fiesta finished fourth in the Belgian round at Zolder on April 26th in the hands of local champion Jean Michel Martin. We had to straighten out a few body panels after his, er, forceful driving tactics, but it was worthwhile to get the car sorted.

The points table so far in the Popular Motoring Ford Fiesta championship is featured in our News pages.

Captions -

Top-Left - Hectic first bend action at Brands Hatch; it stayed this close for much of the race. Eventual winner Tippet is on the far right.
Middle-Left - Racing cars can't have steering locks fitted - a fact we never found out until the Fiesta failed scrutineering.
Middle - Ace wrenchman Gray checks the Fiesta's wheel alignment after frantic adjustment in the Brands Hatch paddock.