FIESTA CHAMPIONSHIP OPENS 2020 AT CADWELL PARK WITH A TRIO OF WINNERS

The new season for the 2020 BRSCC Fiesta Championship racing with MRF Tyres began in earnest under warm skies at the superb Cadwell Park circuit in Lincolnshire, dubbed as the “mini Nurburgring” and a venue that provides a true driving test.

For this first round of the delayed start to the season, caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forcing the postponement of motorsport in the UK until the end of June, the Fiesta Championship drivers would share a grid with the Hyperdrive ST-XR Challenge, meaning on-track traffic was certainly going to be a factor with almost 30 cars competing at once. Alongside the regular Fiesta ST150s and a sole Fiesta Zetec S were a pair of newer Fiesta ST180S, with turbocharged engines and an uprated performance to that of the other Championship cars on the grid. Both cars were driven by series stalwarts John Cooper and David Nye, and while still under development, both would give a glimpse as to what the future of the Fiesta Championship potentially had in store…

Back with the points scoring competitors, and there were some new faces taking on the established names, espcially the man who took pole position for Race 1. Last year’s Fiesta Junior champion Olly Turner made his first senior appearance since graduating from the junior ranks, and promptly showed his ability by sticking the car on pole position ahead of Samuel Watkins. Luke Pinder, a former Michelin Clio Cup and Ginetta racer, marked his Fiesta debut with 3rd on the grid alongside Joshua Watkins (brother of Samuel), while two more newcomers took up the third row with rookie Spencer Stevenson landing an impressive 5th fastest time to start alongside Rob Smith, father of new FJC racer Sid. Jamie Going and Ethan Rogers came next, followed by another rookie in Dominic Bush and Marco Ricci in the lone Mk7 Zetec S.

Sadly for Turner, he never got the chance to convert his pole position into a potential victory or podium in Race 1, as a driveshaft problem forced him out of the race before it had even started, just as he was leaving the grid. This left Sam Watkins on his own on the front row of the championship cars, with the two Invitation class turbo Fiesta ST180s of Cooper and Nye ahead of them on the front row, but starting a lap down in order to remain out of the way of drivers scoring points. Watkins led the opening two laps with Pinder and a fast-starting Jamie Going in 3rd, but Luke managed to use all his front-wheel-drive knowledge claim the lead 0n Lap 3, before Sam Watkins took it back again. The pair were able to quickly pull away from the rest of the pack, leaving Going to deal with attention from Joshua Watkins, Smith, Bush and Rogers.

Out in front, the top two were close together and it looked as though 20Ten Racing were on for a 1-2 finish to kick off the 2020 season. However, on the final lap the worst possible situation occurred when an attempted move on Sam Watkins from Pinder resulted in the two cars making contact, leaving Watkins in the tyres at the Hairpin and ultimately out on the spot. Pinder still drove on to take the chequered flag and despite a discussion about the incident with the clerk of the course, he was cleared of any wrongdoing with the collision declared a racing incident. Jamie Going had crossed the line in 2nd place, but a technical infringement found post-race left him disqualified from the result, promoting two more of 20Ten’s driver up a place with Joshua Watkins in 2nd and Ethan Rogers in 3rd. Rookies Stevenson and Bush drove brilliantly to finish 4th and 5th respectively, while David Nye was the lone Invitation class ST180 home after Cooper stopped out on track with a couple of laps to go.

Pinder started on pole for the second race as a result of his win, but couldn’t take advantage on it on the first start due to a red flag caused by an incident between two of the ST-XR competitors. Once the circuit was cleared up and the race got underway, Joshua Watkins beat Pinder off the front row and led the race from start to finish, while his brother Samuel charged up from 8th on the grid to move into 2nd place by Lap 3 of the 5-lap restart, shortened due to the red flag delay. Pinder seemed as though he was going to be the third element in another 20Ten 1-2-3, but a resurgent Turner made up for missing the start of Race 1 by carving his way through his rivals to take 3rd place on the final lap, despite the damp circuit conditions thanks to rain late in the day. As such, the Watkins brother took a 1-2 finish with Joshua ahead of Sam, with Turner, Pinder and Stevenson completing the top five.

The top six drivers from Race 2 were reversed for the final race of the weekend on Sunday, allowing Ethan Rogers to start on pole with Stevenson alongside him for company.  Despite starting back in 5th, Sam Watkins made a storming start to claim the lead by the end of the opening lap with Stevenson maintaining 2nd place and Turner charging up to 3rd. With Watkins leading, the main fight ended up for 2nd between Stevenson and Turner, with the FJC champion managing to get through to hold the position for a few laps, but ultimately lost out on the final lap when Stevenson found a way through once more. By that time the battle for fourth had also caught up, ensuring that the top five ran close until the chequered flag.

So it was that Sam Watkins drove on to claim the win his missed out on in Race 1, ahead of Stevenson in 2nd and Turner in 3rd with Rogers and Pinder on their tail in 4th and 5th respectively. Behind them, David Nye made sure it was three Invitation class wins in the turbo Fiesta ST180, adding to his further success in Race 2 to ensure a clean sweep.

Next up will be a trip to the Welsh coast as Anglesey beckons on August 22/23. Will it be another 20Ten domination, or will the JamSport charge led by Olly Turner catch them up?

Scott Woodwiss

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