After many seasons racing in Ireland in the various Fiat classes and the few odd outings in England with the English Alfa Romeo series Dad felt it was time to move on to a new challenge. (William is being modest about his Dad’s achievements here- Alastair is one of only two drivers to win titles in Unos, Punto 1400s and Abarths.- Leo)
Back in 2011, he had raced a Ford Fiesta ST at the Formula Ford Festival and scored two top 10 finishes in a 30 car grid. He always kept an eye on this class after that and during the end of 2014, made the decision to build a MK7 Fiesta Zetec S for the class D section of the series. It’s a class in which numbers are growing race by race and he felt it was the perfect class to race in.
Turning up for the first round at Silverstone on Easter weekend was the start of the campaign. After a brief shakedown in Mondello we began to start making setup adjustments during testing and got some decent running in both wet and dry conditions. After qualifying third behind ex BTCC racer and former Fiesta champion David Nye and multiple Fiesta champion David Abbott, it was all to play for in the race. A cracking start in race one put him into the lead into Copse which he held until a wild moment at Brooklands left him spinning 180 degrees in the middle of the road. A charge back through the pack rewarded him with P2 and a sense that we had the pace required to run at the front. Race 2 was a hard fought affair between Dad and Abbott and he only just held on for 2nd. A double podium was more than we’d expected though and we were already looking forward to the next round.
Two weeks later we made the long journey to Snetterton on the 300 circuit. Qualifying left us P3 knowing the race would turn into a long slipstreaming affair. Another brilliant start got him into the lead into turn one but a problem which was to become a factor throughout the season was catching the slower Fiesta STs which can either delay you or delay your rivals. This time round they delayed us and Dad dropped to 3rd and stayed there until the end. A much more spread out race 2 left us a lonely 2nd but we collected good points for the championship.
A month later we arrived at Donington Park for rounds 5 and 6. With no testing available, the 20 minute free practice was crucial to nail the setup. Having missed out on pole by 0.15, Race 1 brought drama from the off as a spinning ST down the Craner Curves caused David Nye to spin off and left us with a decent class lead right up until the penultimate lap when oil at Goddards left him heading off the track and ending up finishing 2nd to Abbott. Race 2 was the highlight as Nye charging up from the back caught us and put enormous pressure on but we held on for our first win which was a great feeling and more than made up for race 1.
Next up was a return to Snetterton this time on the 200 layout. Race 1 was made all the more difficult as a downpour followed by a burst of sunshine left tyre choice a total lottery. A late decision to fit full wets looked good as we pulled a 12 second lead over the slick shod cars until with 3 laps to run, the track dried too much and the race ended with Nye right on the back bumper of the Express Spares Fiesta but crucially, we took the win. Race 2 was more straightforward although Nye had slightly more pace and took the win but 2nd was good and the points, as ever, were very useful.
3 weeks later it was a visit to Castle Combe, a track we’d never been to. With testing unavailable, we weren’t confident about pace as our rivals had much more experience than us at this circuit. Standing in the pitlane relaying the info on the pitboard, I was shocked to be suddenly looking for the number 1 for the board! A first pole of the season. Race 1 however was a total disaster as on the warm up lap Dad noticed gears were hard to get and after 3 laps the gear linkage came off. Gutted we set about preparing for Race 2. With all four classes combined We were forced to start dead last in 27th place with our main championship rivals 9th and 10th on the grid. Dad really enjoyed the charge through the pack and got up to 10th overall and second in class. Although that weekend pretty much signalled the end of our championship campaign as with only two dropped scores and being absent from the next two rounds in Silverstone due to holidays.
Last weekend we returned to the championship at Rockingham. After a race in the Abarth here in 2011 we at least had some track knowledge. With two free practice sessions we decided to play around with setup and learned that all our changes somehow left us 2.5 seconds off the fastest class D. After reverting back to the normal setup, we nailed some quick laps in qualifying to end up a second clear of the pack. Rockingham was the first time we would race without the ST’s so we lined up right at the front of the grid. A decent start and making sure not to go straight on at Deene hairpin gave us a 2 second lead which was ruined by a safety car intervention. After the restart Dad pulled a small gap until the tyres fell off a cliff and he only just kept Abbott and Nye behind despite Abbott trying everything over the last few laps. Race 2, and the drama kicked off into the hairpin on lap 1 as Abbott and Nye sailed straight on and left us with a 5 second lead after one lap. Nye retired with gearbox issues and Abbott was on a charge through the pack. The pitboard showed the gap decreasing but he could control it to the finish to record a double win and and almost perfect weekend just missing out on the two fastest laps.
Now it’s onto the final two rounds at the Formula Ford Festival at Brands, a weekend the Irish generally do well and we are out for two wins and hopefully 3rd in the championship!