The 720bhp Fiesta Evo

Driven Hard And Put Away Wet

720bhp. Seven hundred and twenty brake horse power. Lets just think about that for a minute. That’s more than an Aventador. It’s more than a 458, an MP4-12c, and its more than double what a Fiesta WRC produces.

Now, a stack of power is great on paper, but if that power has to cart about considerable weight then the effect is diminished, the Veyron for example has four figures of horsepower but 1888kg to shift. That makes it 530bhp per tonne. It is however a road car with full trim and all the creature comforts so not a fair comparison. A Ferrari 599xx is a proper track car and also has 720bhp but weighs 1500kg, so 480bhp per tonne. This Fiesta weighs just over 900kg. That’s 800bhp per tonne. Oh s**t.

It’s thoughts and considerations like the above which make their way through my head as I straddle the substantial roll cage door bars and lower myself into the Cobra passenger seat. The car has the same smell as every other track/race car - purely fuel and oil, undiluted by the aroma of plastic trim and upholstery or anything as irrelevant as an air freshener.

The doors, despite feeling light enough to be carbon or composite are actually standard items with all the internal reinforcement removed, the roll cage rendering the side impact bars redundant. Plastic windows add to the lightness and the whole assembly wobbles comically when pulling it shut. It’s a very odd feeling - a familiar process but usually with several kilos of metal and glass.

I fasten the harness and pull the straps up to what I’m about to discover is nowhere near tight enough and then fasten my helmet. The owner and driver John Armstrong (JPA on the forums) gets into the driver side and re-attaches the steering wheel - it’s positioned so close that you can’t get in or out without doing so.

The starting procedure is, unsurprisingly, pure race car. Not a single nod to practicality is made - no keys (door nor ignition), no steering lock, just toggle switches for the various electrical circuits and a button to fire it up. The same button John prods and an instant later it sparks into life.

The noise is one thing, as loud as you’d expect, but the vibration is surprising. When comfort (both physical and aural) go out of the (plexiglass) window in favour of pure performance then the combination of near solid engine mounts and no sound deadening make the whole car shudder and convulse as we crawl out of the garage and loop around onto the track.

Displaying our wristbands with fists-in-the-air salutes we pass the marshalls and join the track. Having verified no-one behind his intended line, John steps on the rightmost Tilton and the car launches towards Cascades - the first corner. I’m already tugging on the shoulder straps to tighten the harness as we take the left hander, the car’s slicks gripping limpet-like to the unseasonably dry track. As a passenger all you can really do is grab onto the rollcage with one hand, the seat base with the other and wedge your feet agains the foot rest to try and keep your limbs from being tossed around like a ragdoll in the mouth of an increasingly angry dog.

As we tip just over 100mph on the Lakeside straight we have to slow again for traffic. The huge APs scrub off triple digits of speed in seconds. With a car this potent it’s not just the slower cars that get in the way, it’s the fast cars overtaking the slower cars that also present a moving chicane. There’s a couple of Porsches here today, Imprezas, a serious looking Exige and even what appears to be a Sport Quattro (based on wheelbase length) but nothing that comes even close to troubling the Fiesta. It’s the proverbial sledgehammer sitting on the bumpers of the regular nutcrakers on track. To stretch the analogy further it’s clearly the world’s lightest yet most effective sledgehammer.

The next corner, Shell Oils, is slightly banked so can be taken at a higher speed, I’ve no reference for comparison but a cursory glance at the speedo shows 45mph. Along Hill Top and into the chicane at Knickerbrook, clipping the kerbs BTCC style. Although in his modesty he might tell you otherwise, John’s quite handy behind the wheel and despite being his first time at Oulton, is pretty much nailing the lines.

The gearbox setup on the car is a fairly trick affair - the ‘box has dog engagement which means the gear can be changed without using the clutch, as it will tolerate a relatively high difference in speed between gears when shifting. Just a slight lift off of the throttle is all that’s required before rapidly moving the gear stick. Rather than a conventional H-pattern shifter, the car is fitted with a sequential unit which replaces the normal forward/backward/left/right movement with a simple backward to go up, forward to go down action. This also means that you can’t skip gears as you can only change in sequence. It might be viewed as the next best thing to a full sequential ‘box, but as the power handling capabilities of such items is far too low for this car, then the current set up certainly is the best thing.

Coming up to the end of the first lap and we’ve powered round Lodge Corner and slingshotted out into Deer Leap where the track dips down then back up. The power delivery is very linear for such a huge figure and is testament to modern technology eradicating the massive lag of the old days. John rifle bolts through the gears as we accelerate and the amplified speeds emphasise the undulating track to the point where it seems inadequate to make comparisons with other cars, the closest parallel I can draw is to that of being on a rollercoaster - the feeling of being pushed into your seat and also lifted out of it when cresting a hill.

The session is cut short by a breakdown so we make our way back to the pits and after removing our helmets John asks me what I think of it. I reply that it’s loud, uncomfortable, impractical and must cost a fortune to run. I absolutely love it. He positions the Fiesta in an empty area of the car park so I can get trigger happy with the camera and leaves it with me while he does a few laps in his other car - a modified Mk1 Focus RS, which he’s also brought down with him.

You can’t really describe this car as pretty. It looks awesome, no doubt about that, but it’s entirely functional. The rear spoiler isn’t exactly stylish but it’s there to keep the back on the ground at 150+mph. Along with the arches, the tailgate and bonnet are both lightweight composite and rather than hinge, are simple held on with pins and can be removed in seconds. Particularly handy for engine bay shots.

Originally created by Tadstar Racing up in Cumbernauld, Scotland, the car was built to race in the Scottish Sports & Saloon championship and its construction involved such names as Dave Plant from DJM Motorsport, Gordon Birtwhistle of Proflex, and Dave Rowe of EPS Motorsport. Here are some photos of the original build.

Starting with a brand new shell (a £165 eBay find) the fabrication was performed by DJM, before being sent back up North to Tadstar. Here, the car was fitted with the one-off bodykit and a 450bhp Evo engine which, due to a water leak in the cylinder head, expired at the first race meeting. Like any petrolhead will tell you the failure of one engine is just an excuse to build a better one and this was the next move. A bottom end was sourced from US Evo specialsts Buschur Racing, along with a head from CNC Heads and the unit was put together by Agra Engineering in Dundee.

After multiple problems with the car Tadstar decided to call it a day and in 2011 it came into the possession of John, who after paying a fraction of the £100,000+ development cost set about making it his own - a change of colour, new graphics from the appropriately named Evo Graphics and a pair of standard red rear light clusters took care of that.

Next up were a few choice upgrades - not an easy task as no expense had been spared. A Samsonas dog engagement box, new arches and some new windows, before a trip to Performance HQ for an ECU remap. With all that done it was ready for the track, plus a few trips down south including Ford Fair.

Fast forward four months and three of John’s mates are now positioning the car in the garage here at Oulton whilst he’s back out on track in his Focus. I’ve already got some shots outside and on track, but the sunshine was a bit bright and the utilitarian looks of the garage with it’s oil soaked floor are a perfect setting for the Fiesta. I get the shots I want but completely miss what would have been perfect. It’s only on the drive home that I remember about that bonnet…

Car Spec. The 720bhp Fiesta Evo
Engine 2.3L Mitsubishi Evo stroker block, Brian Crower conrods, Manley pistons, ARP head studs, ARP main studs, Balance shaft delete kit, Fluidampr crank pulley, Momentum motorsport race head, Iconel oversized valves, Cometic head gasket, Evo400 Piper cams, Piper vernier cam pulleys, HKS Timing Belt, Tadstar Racing sump, Hypertune inlet manifold, Hypertune 3" throttle body, Hypertune billet fuel rail, Forced performance GT3586R turbo kit, Buschur Racing tubular exhaust manifold, Tial 44mm external wastegate, Pro alloy Motorsport custom header tank, Pro alloy Motorsport custom power steering reservoir, Pro alloy Motorsport custom inlet carrier pipe, Mocal oil cooler, Mocal power steering cooler, Pro alloy motorsport custom radiator, Pro alloy motorsport custom intercooler.
Engine / Driver Management Motec M800 ecu with launch control & anti lag, Motec datalogging, Buschur Racing coil on plug, AIM Pista dash/datalogger, AIM GPS 3d data logging, Mapping/race support by Dave Rowe of
Fuelling Twin Bosch 044 in tank pumps, ATL Racing fuel cell, RC engineering 1000cc fuel injectors, Braided Aeroquip fuel lines, Sard fuel pressure regulator, DJM Motorsport fuel tank carbon housing.
Drivetrain DJM Motorsport Evo 4 wheel drive system, Fast Apex gearbox, Ikeya Sequential shifter, Evo RS rear diff, Evo RS transfer box, HKS twin plate race clutch.
Chassis / Suspension Proflex 3-way adjustable coilovers, Proflex springs, Tadstar racing anti-roll bars, DJM Motorsport suspension arms, DJM Motorsport fully welded roll cage.
Brakes Front: AP racing 6 pot race calipers with 330mm AP racing discs, Rear: AP racing 4 pot race calipers with 300mm AP racing discs, DJM Motorsport triple pedal box with balance adjuster.
Wheels & Tyres 9x17" Team dynamics Motorsport lightweight rims, 235/610/17 BTCC spec slicks.
Bodywork Tadstar Racing one-off bodykit, Tadstar Racing carbon undertray, DJM Motorsport Fievo carbon rear spoiler, SJS design graphics.


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