Speed Week: Fiesta ST vs Formula Ford
The Fiesta ST and Formula Ford: two cars emphatically made from The Right Stuff...
Posted: 16 Aug 2013
What we have here are a pair of have-a-go heroes. Good, honest, blue-collar worker bees, never happier than when putting 100 per cent effort in. There are other parallels here, too. Both are Fords, for instance, with four wheels outside and a steering wheel inside. I'm being facetious, of course, but there is a bit of genuine overlap - both use small-capacity turboed EcoBoost engines.
The Fiesta ST 1.6's is, or rather was, familiar. It used to have 175bhp and snick under the seven-seconds-to-60mph barrier. Now, thanks to Mountune's ministrations, it has 212bhp and a more liberal approach to acceleration. But the Formula Ford has one cylinder and 600cc less swept volume and produces very nearly as much: 202bhp. It also weighs less than half as much.
Equipped with a set of sticky tyres at the end of spindly, spidery suspension, a cockpit full of unmarked toggle switches and a seat padded with some folded cardboard and someone's fleece, it has none of the self-conscious beautification of the BAC Mono. But, once you've got it rolling, got past the slow-speed chunter and whine, you discover just how little you have to do in here to make yourself go tremendously fast. Everything is on top of everything else (including, most disconcertingly, the brake and accelerator), the gearlever nestles by your right forearm and requires just a clutch-free jab or punch, and if I had to add more than half a turn of steering at any point, I wasn't aware of it.
What I was aware of were the cornering speeds. They were dizzying. Sat wide in your vision, the front wheels dance to your tune, and you feel like a mosquito, buzzing around, irritating the bigger cars with your whine and your reactions. And entirely unsplattable, no matter how mighty the swat. In Stig's hands, the Formula Ford posted a faster lap time than anything else, and the fold of his arms indicated he'd have gone faster still if he'd been allowed to warm the tyres properly first.
The Fiesta was less fleet around Charade - the least fleet of all, in fact - and so was entirely splattable, but that never, ever got it down. It never wearied or lost heart. Instead, it tucked itself into the next available corner, cocked a wheel in the air and tried its very, very hardest to do better. It rolled a bit, of course, but this was friendly, lurch-free roll, allowing the ST to take up a heavily loaded stance through corners before naffing off down the next straight.
And there was adjustability on offer, too. Small lifts on the throttle meant you could nip tighter into the apex, while larger ones would cock a wheel, and brutal ones (accompanied by some steering savagery) would get the rear end moving. You're thinking you'd never drive like that, but, trust me, in a Fiesta ST, you would. You might even have a jab at the handbrake.
You might also be thinking that you wouldn't go near the Formula Ford. Too intimidating. Well, it was for all of us initially, too. But overcome that (and the cockpit discomfort), and you're into something that's just pure fun. Until you hit brake and accelerator together. That's a bit of a heart-stopper. And the brakes do get a bit soft after a while.
But this pair of Fords, our two tiddly lap-time brackets, were universally loved. What locked them together and proved the closeness of their relationship wasn't the speed or ability they exhibited, but the pert, fun-loving way they communicated with their drivers. The Fiesta ST and Formula Ford: two cars emphatically made from The Right Stuff.
Words: Ollie Marriage
Photography: Dom Romney