Those of you lucky enough to be both of those things will probably recall that this most plucky of driver/car combinations triumphed in the up-to-1300cc class of the 1980 Tricentrol British Saloon Car Championship – the BTCC as we know it today – with seven wins from the 13 rounds, securing second overall in the process.
And now, a fastidiously fabulous replica of the car has been readied for the Gerry Marshall Trophy Group 1 saloon-car thrash at the forthcoming 76th Members’ Meeting. It’s the brainchild of veteran Ford AVO engineer and racer John Mitchell, now MD of crack Ford tuning firm Mountune, and adds to the variety of the period-dressed machinery in the Members’ Meeting’s most popular race.
“Obviously, I’m a Ford man to the core,” Mitchell says, “although my passion for tin-top racing began when I worked for racer Jeff Allam’s Vauxhall dealership Allam’s of Epsom. I still see Jeff when we’re at BTCC meetings – Mountune’s engines powered Ash Sutton and the Subaru Levorg to the title last year.”
With such Blue Oval pedigree, Mitchell had to turn to a Ford product for the assault on the ultra-competitive Gerry Marshall Trophy. But he wasn’t excited by the prospect of running yet another Capri.
“There are already enough Capris in the race, so I thought about what to use,” he admits. “Eventually, we were inspired by, and settled on, the little Datapost Fiesta from 1980 and set about creating a replica in conjunction with Alan Mann Racing, with whom I’m involved in a non-exec role. Apart from the recreation built some time ago in Scotland, no one has replicated the car to the level and specification that we have.”
Finding a donor car in the right condition proved to be a tough ask for Mitchell and the team.
“We hunted high and low for a mint, solid 1300 Fiesta,” he reveals. “Eventually, we found one and did the deal – at great cost!”
Mitchell entrusted his guys in the Mountune Racing Team to build the engine. And with the knowledge gained over the past 37 years of competition engine building, especially the materials available, they’re confident they’ve produced a pocket rocket.
“It’s fully FIA legal and sealed,” Mitchell asserts. “But yes, we’ve certainly benefitted from some of the improved materials and knowledge of today’s engines. The block and head are from the original car which had only done 55,000 miles.”
With the completed car having recently received its HTP (Historic Technical Passport) papers and a brief shakedown conducted by Henry Mann, son of the late Alan Mann, things are progressing nicely for this all-new addition to the Members’ Meeting.
“I only have one standard of build,” confirms Mitchell. “Much like my fellow racers at the Jordan Racing Team. It has to be right or there’s no point. Henry remarked after the initial run that the car was ‘fairly nippy’, so I’m hoping for a good show.”
Who’s on the driving strength, then?
“We’ve got BTCC ace Mat Jackson, who’s won plenty of BTCC races for Ford, and Ford Powertrain Manager Mark Roberts sharing the car. Mark has previously competed in Fiestas, Renault Clios and the MG Trophy series, winning the MG Championship in 2004. He’s also done the Nurburgring 24 Hours in a Focus RS, so we’re hoping for a good result.
“The Members’ Meeting is a fantastic event, cosier than the Revival, which I also love. Racing is my great passion so it’s a privilege to be part of the Goodwood and historic motorsport scene. And working with and supporting the guys at AMR – a small but passionate team – just adds a cherry on the top.”
We suspect that anyone under the age of 40 who has no recollection of the Datapost Fiesta but who witnesses this superbly accurate recreation in action will quickly add it to their list of favourites.
About John Mitchell
Sixteen-year-old Mitchell joined Ford as an apprentice, eventually becoming part of the engineering team at Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO). In 1980 he joined the Blue Oval’s Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) team as a Senior Engineer, working under Rod Mansfield. Projects included all the ‘fast Fords’ – Capri 2.8i, Fiesta XR2, Escort XR3i, Escort Turbo, Sierra Cosworth and still-born Escort 1700T rally car. Five years in an Aircraft Industry Engineering business was followed by a return to the automotive sector, via AC Cars at Brooklands. He then set up the European arm of legendary US Ford tuner Roush. A management buy-out of the business in 2007 facilitated the purchase of Mountune Racing in 2003, which Mitchell developed into a leading road-car performance firm and four-cylinder-turbo race-engine specialist. A former successful Mini Miglia racer, Mitchell is now managing director of Mountune. He also holds a non-executive directorship with Alan Mann Racing and has been a Goodwood Road Racing Club member since 2001. Most recently, he rebuilt the famous red-and-gold Escort twin-cam, XOO 347F, campaigned at Goodwood and in historic racing by the late Alan Mann’s son Henry.