2014 SEASON REVIEW: BRSCC FIESTA JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
The Rockingham weekend proved pivotal in Geri Nicosia's title challenge. Photo: www.bournephoto.co.uk
The Fiesta Junior Championship moved under the direct auspices of the BRSCC for 2014, with Julieann Bates joining as co-ordinator just before the first round at Silverstone on the National circuit.
Eight drivers contested the first round including debutant Jessica King. Rob Cox, the 2013 runner-up was the only driver who had previously even been on the podium in a Fiesta Junior race, with twelve of those including three wins during 2013. Not surprisingly he was installed as pre-season favourite, a billing he looked like living up to effortlessly, as he took the first pole position of the season from Michael Higgs and Geri Nicosia, the three drivers just a quarter of a second apart in a damp session. On race Sunday, Cox had an easier time taking wins in both races and fastest lap in the second, Nicosia having taken fastest lap in the first race on a drying track. Both races finished Cox, Higgs, Nicosia, points after the first round reading Cox 63 (out of 64), Higgs 56, Nicosia 55. Aaron Thompson had too much excitement in race one hitting the wall outside Becketts, the damage to the car preventing him from starting race two.
Two weeks later, Thompson’s car had been rebuilt and the same eight drivers contested round two on the Snetterton 300 circuit. On such a long and technical circuit Cox’s experience came to the fore, leading the free practice session by more than 2.5 seconds, and taking pole from Nicosia by 1.4 seconds with Higgs very close behind in third. Cox dominated race one as expected winning by 13 seconds from Nicosia who took second after swapping places with Higgs two or three times during the race, Higgs ensuring the same three drivers had now taken the podium in the first three races. Race two looked to be going the same way; Cox had a 9 second lead before pulling out with driveshaft issues. Nicosia had started badly, so Higgs was in place to inherit the lead, and despite Nicosia chasing him down over the final laps, Higgs took his first FJC win by 0.7 seconds, Grundy won a tussle with Watkins to take third. Higgs now led the championship 113-111 from Nicosia, with Grundy up to third on 106 – but Cox’s DNF would count as a dropped score and bring him back into contention when taken into account.
Round three was the long trek (for most) to Anglesey to race on the Coastal circuit. Weather conditions changed all weekend long, often multiple times during any session. Qualifying had started off dry but by the time the drivers went out on track, the rain was coming down and wet tyres were needed. Thompson (with 4 DNFs in 4 races) was on to wets straight from the assembly area into pitlane and set the early pace. It looked like Thompson would get pole with Nicosia joining him on the front row, but late in the session Cox ran off three quick laps, all faster than Thompson’s best to take his third pole from three events. Race one would prove a tyre choice race, with Cox and Nicosia gambling on dry tyres, Higgs on a wet/dry combination and the others on wets. Just as Thompson’s team were regretting their choice, so the rain came down as the cars left the assembly area again. A six second lead after one lap showed wets were the correct choice, by the end of the race Thompson was 30 seconds clear of second placed Higgs to record his first win, the day before his fifteenth birthday. Cox held on to third with Grundy fourth, Edwards fifth and Nicosia back in sixth. More rain meant some of the drivers went to the assembly area on wets but made late changes to dry tyres, none later than Nicosia who only just got out in time. An accident on lap two saw Cox and Grundy out of the race, so Higgs led from Nicosia behind the Safety Car. With the race back on Thompson got up to second for a couple of seconds before Nicosia regained the place and chased down Higgs. This time he was successful, a penultimate lap move at Rocket being enough for Nicosia to take his first FJC win, again as a fourteen year old and a month younger than Thompson, by just 0.4 seconds from Higgs, with Thompson third. Dropped scores were now taken into account, so Cox’s two DNFs no longer affected him, Cox leading on 123 from Higgs 115 and Nicosia 114.
June saw the FJC drivers at Cadwell Park. Once again Cox took pole, but the gap to Nicosia was down to a quarter of a second as the other drivers were now gaining in experience. In race one in damp conditions, Cox ran wide at the Mountain allowing Nicosia to lead after two laps. Some close attention ended in a move into Mansfield where Cox ran off the track and fell back to seventh. Nicosia took full advantage and upped his pace to win by thirteen seconds from Grundy who took an excellent second away from Higgs despite having not been to Cadwell before. Post-race controversy saw Nicosia excluded as a broken exhaust bracket saw his car fail the ride height test, Grundy now awarded the win from Higgs and Cox. In race two, Thompson who recorded yet another DNF in race one, started seventh on the grid with only Nicosia behind him – the latter also having to suffer a safety delay as further punishment for his race one exclusion. Thompson made a storming start and was straight up to second place almost out of the first corner, while Higgs looked comfortable at the front until his car expired robbing him of his second win of the season. Midway through the race Thompson was leading from Cox, Nicosia had caught up and the three cars ran in close formation. On the last lap, Nicosia got by Cox at the end of Park Straight and looked to get a run on Thompson, but Thompson held on to win by 0.4 seconds from Nicosia with Cox in third. Nicosia’s exclusion could not count as a dropped score, so at the season midpoint he looked to be out of the running, as Cox led 180-171 from Higgs, with Grundy third on 162, then Edwards (149), King (148), Watkins (147) and Nicosia back in seventh on 142.
The July round was at Donington Park where we welcomed a new driver, Alex Tait. Cox’s car looked out of sorts and Nicosia took full advantage by taking his first pole of the season, the first time Cox hadn’t won pole during qualifying. Saturday had been hot and sunny, Sunday morning was cooler and drizzly so most drivers went to wets. Nicosia led from lights to flag controlling the gap back to Grundy to win by a little over a second, with Thompson third, then Watkins, Higgs, Cox. On a dryer track in the afternoon, Nicosia again won from lights to flag, this time by six seconds from Grundy, then after a post-race appeal Watkins was awarded third place. Cox took just 49 points from Donington, but with Higgs having also scored low, still led the championship – until the next day when the news came through that Nicosia’s appeal had been upheld by the MSA and his Cadwell Park win and points were reinstated. Nicosia now led the championship by 9 points from Cox 236-227, with Higgs 222 and Grundy 217.
It was back to the Silverstone National circuit for the August round; a dry qualifying session saw Cox back on pole from Nicosia but by just 0.08 seconds. A wet Sunday saw tricky conditions for the drivers. Nicosia led the early laps but fell back to third with Cox winning from Grundy. In race two, on lap two the three leaders (Cox, Grundy and Nicosia) went into Luffield so close a blanket would have covered the three cars, but Nicosia put a wheel onto the kerb spinning off and back to eighth. Cox and Grundy crossed the line side by side, but next time round Grundy would take the lead with Watkins now third and holding station just behind the lead pair. Grundy and Cox battled closely until lap fourteen when Cox tried to go round Grundy into Luffield, ran onto the wet grass and crashed into Grundy as he re-joined at Brooklands. Watkins took advantage and went on to record his first win of the season, the fifth driver to win an FJC race, Higgs also getting past Grundy who could only recover to third. Nicosia got back to fifth, but as only his second non-podium finish, would drop this result. As Cox finished eighth, the upshot of the weekend was that Nicosia lost only 1 point to Cox and Grundy and matched Higgs – with two rounds to go it was Nicosia 290, Cox 282, Higgs 276, Grundy 272. Watkins’ win brought him up to fifth on 255, but too far back to compete for the title.
September ‘s action was at Rockingham, where Nicosia completely dominated the weekend, winning both free practice sessions in which he took part, taking pole, two lights to flag victories by fourteen and six seconds, two fastest laps and setting a new FJC lap record. With Cox having broken down in race one on the start line, and despite Higgs taking two second places, Nicosia had enough points not to compete in the final round and still be the 2014 FJC Champion. There was also a new driver out at Donington with Elliot Wilson joining the series.
The final round was at the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in October; two more new drivers joined the series, Connor Grady (just 14 a couple of weeks before) and Cameron Pugh. This would have given a grid of twelve, but Nicosia elected not to race to protect his title and Cox did not race. Thompson took full advantage matching Nicosia’s feat from the previous round with a clean sweep of pole, two lights to flag wins and two fastest laps.
In the final standings Nicosia won with 403 points from Higgs 387, Grundy 376, Watkins 360, Edwards 338, King 338, Cox 307 and Thompson 283.
We now look forwards to 2015 with much interest from new drivers to replace Cox, King, Grundy and Watkins who will all move up to senior racing.