Ritmos, Fiestas & racecars on the road! – Motormouth’s Mutterings

At the last Mondello Rallycross meeting, I noticed something a bit different in the paddock. Amongst the usual influx of cars, Jeeps and vans with trailers, and the odd  camper, was a 1.25 Zetec Fiesta. Nothing unusual there, you might think. Except, there was- this car was competing, and was both taxed and insured! Peter Campbell had built his race spec Fiesta gradually and was still driving the car on the road when he first tested it at Mondello. Again, I have seen this happen before, but only pre-build. Peter had taken the unusual step of continuing this once the car was built, and competing. To drive to a race meeting, race the car and drive home is brave- to do the same at a Rallycross event, when a little contact is nothing unusual, is positively crazy!

Back in the day (I know, I know, I sound like Uncle “during the war” Albert!) it was not unusual for racers to

Spot the windscreen discs!

Spot the windscreen discs!

drive to and from the track. In the days of production saloon racing, the likes of Des Cullen, Pat Murphy and Mike Armstrong used to drive their 1300cc contenders to and from the track, and in a lot of cases they weren’t joking when they referred to it as the wife’s shopping car. In fact Murphy Prototypes founder Greg Murphy has fond memories of being dropped to school in his Dad’s Fiesta 1.3 S racecar as a kid. The advent of the NCT, as well as the fact that most race cars nowadays would be pretty much undriveable on the road, has made this very much a thing of the past, but it seems nobody told Peter. He ran competitively all day, winning a couple of heats and then drove home, complete with a scar of battle on the rear quarter panel. Impressive stuff, hats off to him.

I remember back in 1998 I bought a Ritmo to do the Phoenix Park races. Marty Fagan prepped the car and double drove with me. I somehow managed to battle my way to the front and hang on for the win. Having dreamt of a win in the Park since I was a kid, the slow down lap was a bit emotional- but I soon got over it and concentrated on the celebrations. The first stop was a visit to the kids face painter to get a huge chequered flag and “Race Winner”Ritmo Roof written on my head, then it was down to the Hole In The Wall for a few celebratory pints. Upon our return to the paddock we met Steve Griffin’s team, who happened to have beer on tap- so I refilled the bubbly bottle and sprayed everyone- again. I may have slipped off the roof of the car whilst spraying the beer again in the early hours, it’s unclear. The relevance of this story? Well we had borrowed a trailer from one of our Ritmo competitors and done a double run to get the car to the Park on the Friday afternoon but the same competitor, not as enamoured with our victory as we were, decided he was in a hurry on Sunday and left us in the paddock sans trailer. Undeterred, Marty attached a rope to the back of a Nissan Vanette and onto the front of our race winning machine with me at the helm, and off we went. When the rope broke for the third time, I decided enough was enough and hit the starter button. She fired and I was away down the road like the proverbial clappers. If you remember the one make Ritmo class you will know that they ran an open exhaust…… I decided to head to my then girlfriend’s house in Clonsilla and dump the car there. She was in the kitchen with her mother and they heard me on final approach, from a considerable distance away- heel and toeing like Juan Manuel Fangio (in my head). Suffice it to say, they were less than impressed….

Leo

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