We have a first glimpse of the Time Attack in a super-hot Ford Fiesta ST to see what Britain’s best-value series.
By far, this is the Time of the Attack, it may appear as a sort of track day of the season. Rather, the race, the drivers are sent off the track during the sessions for the recording of their fastest lap. No race, no battles, it is only against the stopwatch.
Those who yearn for the wheel-to-wheel competition, and can afford to finance the inevitable damage, it can’t find the Time to Attack is as attractive as a race series. But for those who love to drive at the absolute limit, and the extraction of everything from themselves and their cars on every corner, the Attack Time may just be the perfect fit.
To find out what it’s like to be a Time Attack driver, Autocar staff member direct to Snetterton for the final round of the year and short of itself in a Project Carsbranded a Ford Fiesta ST prepared by the charge-air cooler specialist Airtec. With an extensive engine and suspension mods, including uprated turbo which increases the power of 345bhp and a very sharp (read: oversteery) chassis set-up, it is a serious piece of kit.
The Attack Time of the championship visits six tracks, including Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Snetterton, and, generally, between April and September. Our entrance is at Snetterton, two-mile long 200 circuit. This year the series has more than 50 entries for the race, divided into eight classes ranging from Pocket Rocket, in which the smallestcapacity cars, Pro Extreme, in which the changes are unlimited.
Make no mistake: Time Attack cars are at the top-level machines. Our Fiesta ST, which is one of the most a slightly modified car in the Pocket Rocket class, have a fully stripped interior, welded the roll cage, seats, safety belts, the semi-slick tyres and no traction control, ESP or ABS.
It is technically still street legal, but slipping behind his suede steering wheel and looking over the dashboard is flocked, and feels nothing short of a championship racer. Press the start button and hear his highly-strung 1.6 liter, engine fire into life and the car’s track focus is clear.
The Fiesta of the class sits to the side of the entry-level Clubman class, with power outputs for the machines mostly ranging between 200 and 400bhp. At the other end of the field in Pro Extreme, the more powerful the car, a Mitsubishi Evo VI, is said to be running with 1200bhp.
The day of the execution is divided into four parts. After 20 minutes of warm-up and 20-minute practice session, we will move into qualification – our first timed stint – and then the final.
I know that the Snetterton 200 layout from the previous track day there, but the Fiesta ST, which was set up to be agile, and then it is quite scary for a novice at high speed, it is a challenge to reach the top. The class of 22-car bursts out of the pit lane and I focus on how to get the rear tyres warm. The morning practice has revealed which in turn one step with cold tires is similar to the roller-skating down a spiral staircase.
Once the tire is up to temperature and I have found some trace of space (don’t want to come across another car on the ride), it’s time to get off. The passage of the line in the direction of transform one really gets the adrenalin going, but taking the first curve as fast as my brain will allow – that is, without a doubt, some way out of the car, the limit really gets my pulse.
There is no race to think about, but the pressure in Time Attack is extremely high because you do not have time to make mistakes. The Lock-up and wide or take things too stops at a corner and the lap is ruined, then you need to adjust your approach and head back around to the starting line to have another go.
This results in just three decent rounds worth of recording for all of the timed session. As an inexperienced driver, I’m overdriving a turn and then reining things a step too far. All the time, the cars flying past and I’m learning quickly that the standard of driving in Time Attack is very high indeed.
But then things start to come together. I follow another car and my lines to flow more naturally from corner to corner. Snap oversteer moments of stop – thank god – and I gain confidence in the braking zones. I don’t miss the wheel-to-wheel racing action? Perhaps, but I’m experiencing 90% of the satisfaction of a race, probably with 95% less risk of damage to the car.
I at the end of the day, the execution of more than two seconds faster than the Fiesta, but a great desire to get back in the car and chip away at lap times. While my brain absorbs the adrenaline, chat via for the mechanical and the nearby driver about the big save, and the times I felt I nailed the corner
When I started to come down from my own, I realize that I’m rambling on like a caffeine-fueled maniac for 15 minutes. Of course, I have bitten the bug, and the bite is difficult. Money permitting, I’d like to do everything possible to be at the giro next year.