Grass roots: Fiesta F1 Nations Cup

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Too much advice!

There is probably just time for you to enter the Fiesta Formula One Nations Cup, and it could be well worth your while: first prize is a carefully monitored outing in a Benetton-Cosworth V8 Grand Prix machine, and most of the seven national series winners across Europe will be rewarded with the equivalent of the British top prize: a new Fiesta XR2i.

Entries close on July 31 and the requisite five-page questionnaires and available from all 1100 UK Ford dealers.

Motor Sport participated in a Press preview which ran through a slightly lengthened version of the competition. All anticipated 400 contestants (from 10,000 UK applicants) will face much the same when regional finals are held in September.

The able fuel-injected 110 bhp XR2i is at the heart of the competition, although it is unlikely to be on sale by then.

The initial questionnaire covers detail Fiesta knowledge, three mathematical puzzles and a 20-question psychological section which contains gems such as “too much advise would leave me confused”, to which you have to strongly agree, merely agree, remain undecided, disagree, or strongly disagree. Only if you get through this stage will you get to drive one of the cars themselves.

Inevitably, for this purpose we went to Boreham Airfield in Essex, the Ford competition site now considerably enhanced and shared with the agricultural New Holland division. Boreham will be the site for the English and European Finals.

On a changeable day, becoming progressively drier, we drove an XR2i modified only by replacement suspension dampers and springs, plus rollcage, Sparco seat and Willans harness. Covering some enjoyably damp “stage” mileage, most of it a bewildering forest of cones that sent many off course, we also tried our hands at machines such as the Astatic four-wheel-steering Fiesta, Formula Finesse (a separate competition) and a number of reaction and co-ordination tests.

My aggressive attitude to driving and psychology destroyed the benefits of a 90% mark with the Astatic and the fastest stage time. I won the booby prize for failing to impress a four-light reaction tester and a three-step one-minute agility test!

Judge Jon Taylor, former European Rallycross Champion, controversially stated: “There will never be another Ari Vatanen. Colin MacRae is doing his best, but even he must not damage too many bodyshells!”

For this preview day only, the judge revealed his comments when it came to marking our driving. Given Taylor’s talent for caustic comment, I was almost relieved at the dismissive report: “Too much on-off aggression . . . like to see him keep it on the island for an RAC Rally.” That was his summary on the only timed run in a LHD XR2i. Comments such as “A good drive . . . if he is going to a funeral” and “Has he got a brain?” drew some retaliatory vituperation form one antipodean classmate. The public however, will be spared this receiving a bag of “goodies” instead.

If you did qualify for “the exhilarating sensation of driving a 600-plus bhp Benetton Formula One car” there is no commitment from Ford to continue backing your competitive efforts. As Ford Fiesta Challenge co-ordinator Stuart McCrudden commented, “We do not want to start a love affair that ends in tears.” JW