Brands Hatch 25/26 October 2014 - Ford Fiesta Junior

Fiesta Junior:
The final rounds of the 2014 BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship took place as a support to the Formula Ford Festival, one of the highlights of the season and a chance for the young drivers to compete in front of a large crowd.

Geri Nicosia sat out the final round as the championship was already won, as did Rob Cox, but with two new drivers in Connor Grady and Cameron Pugh, as well as the returning Alex Tait, there were still 10 drivers in the field for the weekend. Alex got out on track after sterling work by Specialized Motorsport who built a new car from scratch in seemingly no time at all.

So we spent the weekend at the circuit, showing off the car with its new 2014 Champion sunstrip, with all minor damage accrued during the season repaired, and talking to prospective new drivers and parents about 2015 and beyond.

Second place in the championship was still up for grabs, Michael Higgs led Thomas Grundy by just 7 points, but circumstances existed that could see Sam Watkins, Nathan Edwards and Jessica King also finish the season anywhere from 2nd place down, such is the competitiveness of the championship.

Practice 1:
With the busy schedule for the Formula Ford Festival, there was only time for one free practice session, unlike in recent race weekends. However, the juniors were first out on track, as is now the norm. Overnight rain had left the track damp, times in the first session reflecting this with one minute plus laps being the order of the day, as opposed to the 57.0 junior lap record. Thomas was fastest out of the box and first into the sub-60s with 59.475 on lap 4. By the time Michael has broken the minute barrier on lap 8, Thomas had lowered the mark to 58.822. Sam was next into the 58s, taking a temporary lead on 58.520 before lowering the mark further to 58.274 on lap 12. But this would only prove good enough for second as Thomas broke into the 57s taking the top spot on 57.756 from Sam and Michael, just 0.12 behind Sam. Aaron Thompson was 4th, another 3/10ths back before a bigger gap to debutant Connor who just pipped Jessica King to 5th. Nathan Edwards was 4/10ths behind Jessica, with Elliot Wilson, Alex Tait and Cameron Pugh completing the time sheet.

By the lunch time qualifying session, the track was totally dry. Aaron was straight on the pace with 57.369 on his first flying lap, 57.351 a couple of laps later, before sealing his first ever pole with 57.297 on lap 12. Thomas looked to be struggling compared to the earlier session, a 57.522 being his best before a pit stop for a check over, after which he was unable to get closer to Aaron. Still, by taking the second front row slot, Thomas would start ahead of main rival Michael in the battle to come second in the championship.

Michael took 13 laps to break into the 57s, a 57.701 being good enough to secure 3rd place from Sam Watkins (57.865). Jessica showed well in 5th, just ¼ second behind Sam with Nathan an equally impressive 15/1000ths behind Jessica. Connor slipped back to 7th, still a creditable first qualifying session and only ¼ second adrift of Nathan, and 3/10ths ahead of fast improving Elliot. Alex narrowly beat Cameron to 9th place, both drivers going fastest on their final lap.

Race 1:
Last race of the day on Saturday, but with fine and clear weather, unlike the equivalent race in 2013 which was run in almost darkness and pouring rain. Drama on the green flag lap as Aaron managed to fall off onto the infield going round Paddock, luckily avoiding hitting anything and able to retake his place at the front before the grid formed up.

Aaron was unperturbed by this, a flying start saw him cleanly into (and out of) Paddock ahead of Thomas, Michael, Sam, Jessica, and Nathan while Elliot had made the only gain on the first lap by passing Connor for 7th. Aaron ended the first lap already over a second in the lead, but more drama on lap 2 as Nathan spun off at Paddock and into the gravel causing a safety car to come out and circulate for 4 laps while Nathan’s car was retrieved. Alex and Cameron gained places as Connor and Elliot came together taking avoiding action as Nathan spun and fell to the back of the pack.

Lap 6 and the safety car was in, Aaron almost went too soon, having to brake in Clearways as he looked likely to catch the safety car before the pit lane entrance, but when he went again, he got the drop on the following cars and led across the line by 0.7 from Thomas with Michael 4/10ths behind, then Sam a further second ahead of Jessica. Alex remained in 6th place a couple of seconds behind Jessica, while Cameron had been slower to react to the safety car leaving the circuit with Connor trapped behind him unable to overtake before the start-finish line.

Aaron was right back on the pace and straight into the 57s next lap, within 2 laps the gap back to Thomas had opened up to 2.4 seconds. Michael was only 0.2 behind, and Sam half a second further back, and 1.5 seconds clear of Jessica. Connor was making amends now, overtaking Cameron and Alex on successive laps, while we lost Elliot to a pit stop on lap 8. But Connor was more than 8 seconds behind Jessica. With Thomas, Michael and Sam fighting over 2nd through 4th, Aaron was able to pull 2 seconds further away on lap 9, while Jessica closed right up on the 3 car train in front, turning it into a 4 car train. Over the next laps, Michael would challenge Thomas, Sam would challenge Michael and Jessica got her nose down the inside of Sam in an attempt to gain the place.

With 4 cars behind him all holding themselves up, Aaron was able to increase his lead further and further. Connor was having a lonely race back in 6th, unable to run at the same pace as the cars in front, Cameron was gaining slowly on Alex, and would be right up behind by lap 15 just as Sam and Jessica were slowly being dropped by Thomas and Michael who were now closer than ever, with Michael regularly getting alongside Thomas, but unable to complete the move.

Elliot had been able to re-join, but was now 3 laps down. Aaron was imperious, running to the finish line to win by more than 6 seconds, in contrast Thomas held onto second place by less than 3/10ths from Michael. Sam and Jessica finished 4th and 5th with a gap Michael to Sam, and Sam to Jessica both being just over a second. Connor was 6th, but some 15 seconds behind Jessica, Alex was 12 seconds further back, just holding off Cameron by half a second after a long battle.

Race 2:
Sunday lunchtime and the last race of the season. The gap between Michael and Thomas was down to 6 points, so Thomas needed to win to have any chance of second overall. Michael getting past Thomas from the start wasn’t quite what Thomas had been looking for – Aaron led away comfortably enough, but the best start went to Nathan jumping from 10th on the grid after his first race DNF to 6th by the end of lap 1.

Another safety car as Alex came into Paddock all locked up and backwards into the gravel on the outside of the circuit before reaching the corner. Three laps later we were off again, it was all much closer now. Michael was challenging Aaron, finishing the next lap just 0.2 apart as they raced along the straight towards Paddock. Connor had gained a place back, passing Nathan.

The front four upped the pace and started to drop Jessica, unable to maintain her first race pace, while Connor was matching her pace just ½ second behind. The front four were separated by just 1.5 seconds, but slowly Michael was closing up on Aaron, while Sam was now challenging Thomas for 3rd. More than once Thomas and Sam would run down the straight side by side, Thomas taking a wider line round Clearways and launching down the straight on the outside, but arriving at Paddock first so Sam had to back out. Finally on lap 15, Sam crossed the line first with Thomas 2/100ths behind as they ran side by side, touching side to side as they vied for track position. Thomas wasn’t backing out and they rounded Paddock side by side with Thomas on the outside, at the bottom of Paddock they touched side by side again. The impact broke Thomas steering arm, and when he braked he ran out of control into the gravel at Druids, brushing the wall and out of the race.

The following lap, the field lost Cameron Pugh who ended up parked backwards at the exit of Druids. Aaron led from Michael by a second, with Sam 2.5 seconds behind Michael. Jessica, Connor and Nathan were running within a second of each other, if some 7 seconds off the battle for 3rd place, Elliot still running a way behind them. Michael was now the fastest driver on the track, in his final two laps he closed right up on Aaron, could he pass him before the finish line? They raced out of Clearways to the line, Aaron taking his second win of the day and fourth of the season by just 1/5 second with Sam taking the final podium position. Jessica held off Connor and Nathan to take 4th place, the gap from 4th to 6th now only 0.6 seconds, with Elliot finishing in a best for him 7th place.

Some season statistics:
Twelve drivers contested the 16 races, there were 5 race winners, Geri 6, Aaron and Rob 4 each, Michael and Sam 1 each, while only three drivers finished second, Michael with 8 second places (50% of the results), Thomas 5 and Geri 3. Only Rob (5), Geri (2) and Aaron (1) took pole position by winning the qualifying sessions while race fastest laps were shared out Rob (5), Geri (4), Aaron (3), Thomas (2), Michael and Sam (1). Surely this was the most competitive season to date and with the interest already being shown for 2015, the series can only go from strength to strength.

The season is not yet over for Geri. We used some of the budget saved by not competing in the final round to enter him into the Ginetta Junior Winter Series to be held over the weekend on 8/9 November on the Snetterton 300 circuit. While Geri has raced on the circuit, he has not raced a Ginetta yet. To that end we have test sessions booked for this coming Friday (31 Oct) and the following Friday in the hope he can get up to speed. After the Winter Series has completed, we will look to plan for 2015 and beyond.

Please see the official race report here.

Check out the Fiesta Junior points standings.

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