DOUBLE TOP FOR COOPER AS FIESTA CHAMPIONSHIP BEGINS NEW ERA AT CROFT
A new era began in earnest for the BRSCC Fiesta Championship as the latest specification turbocharged Fiesta ST180s made their official class debut at the opening rounds at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire this past weekend. Providing a natural evolution from the regular ST150s, 10 of the new cars were present for the first races of the year with the premise of more still on the way as the season unfolds.
First pole of the season went to Zachary Lucas as he started alongside John Cooper, the man who had done more mileage in one of the new turbo cars than anyone else across 2020, as the ST180s (now designated the ST240 class name due to their uprated power output) had been run as Invitation entries while they spent the season being developed by a variety of drivers, including Jess Hawkins, Paul O’Neill, Josh Cook and Jade Edwards among many. Spencer Stevenson and Rob Smith would start on the second row ahead of David Nye and Luke Pinter, followed by old sparring partners Jamie Going and Simon Horrobin, Dominic Bush and then the first of the ST150 class cars with Ethan Rogers starting 10th overall ahead of Jack Youhill.
Cooper got the better jump away from the front row to lead teammate Lucas into Clervaux, who got sideways on corner exit but caught it quickly enough to carry his momentum through. Smith and a fast-starting Pinder quickly joined them an initial breakaway quartet, leaving another five ST240s in their wake headed by Jamie Going. Cooper remained in front on the opening lap with Lucas in tow as the pair tried to make an early getaway in the lead, but it was Lucas that was getting crossed up in 2nd place that was allowing the two cars behind to stay in touching distance. Back in the second group, Going still headed the quintet while Horrobin managed to make a move on Stevenson into the first corner to claim 6th with Nye following him through a couple of corners later.
The race order remained the same over the next couple of laps, but only got a shake-up when Lucas appeared to clip the back of Cooper’s car heading into Sunny In, forcing him wide and eventually to park up with suspected damage as a result. Cooper carried on regardless, but the tell-tale sign of a touch between the two teammates was his loosened rear bumper flailing around. Smith and Pinder realized this was their chance to pounce and continued to apply the pressure in close attention as the second half of the race materialized. A change almost occurred when the leading three came up to lap Rosie Hunt’s ST150 at the Esses as Pinder tried to claim 2nd from Smith to no avail, but all this did was bring both Going and Horrobin into play with just a couple of minutes left.
Eventually, Pinder muscled his way into 2nd past Smith as the pair touched doors heading through the Esses which put Smith wide on the exit and under attack from Going and Horrobin, but all of this played perfectly into the hands of Cooper who managed to create a small gap as a result, enough to ensure he was unchallenged to the flag. He took the first win of the season with Pinder and Smith joining him on the podium, followed by Going and Horrobin in the top 5 and then Stevenson, Nye and Ricci in the ST240 ranks ahead of ST150 class winner Ethan Rogers in 9th overall with Youhill 2nd in class and P10 overall at the flag. Rosie Hunt survived to claim an excellent 3rd in class on her Fiesta debut.
Moving into Sunday for the second race of the weekend, the conditions had changed with rain from the night before ensuring the circuit was saturated with one or two small patches of standing water around as an extra challenge. Pinder had originally been set to start from the front row, but he made a late call on the formation lap to the grid to pit for a tyre change, meaning he would end up at the back of the field as the race got underway. Cooper kept his lead from pole with Smith and Going in tow, while a recovering Lucas managed to charge his way into 5th by Tower Bend before challenging Horrobin for 4th at the Sunny corners. He was able to pass moments later and immediately set about pressuring Going.
His efforts worked as in just a couple of laps he was able to slip by at Clervaux, giving Horrobin a chance to also move past but not without a little touch of wing mirrors as he drove by on the back straight. By this point, Smith had already pressed Cooper into a small mistake for the lead but hadn’t managed to get through and was keeping him at bay nicely. Lucas was making steady progress in his efforts to catch the top two and had them in his sights as he slowly reeled them in with the minutes ticking down. The podium places looked fairly set in stone with the end of the race in sight with the first three cars spread out evenly, but this changed when Lucas made a mistake at Tower Bend on the penultimate lap that only allowed Horrobin to take full advantage and glide by into 3rd place.
There were no such dramas for Cooper, meanwhile, as he completed a double to begin his season in the best possible way, with Smith just over a second back in 2nd place. Horrobin made a welcome return to the podium in P3 with Stevenson taking 4th ahead of Going, a recovering Pinder in 6th, Nye, Lucas and Ricci, while Rogers again took ST150 honours in 10th overall ahead of Youhill in 2nd again and Briannie Davis marking another first-time podium finisher with 3rd in class in her first weekend of senior racing after graduating from Fiesta Juniors.
Next on the calendar is a trip to Oulton Park in Cheshire on June 19th, the first time the championship has visited the venue in several years. It’ll be a new experience for many drivers who may not have driven the circuit very much, if at all, so the potential of a brand new winner is certainly very real. We’ll find out in a month’s time as it’s certain to be an excellent day of racing.