Auto Performance Magazine May 1984
A former Boreham GRP1 circuit racer, transformed for Rallycross
Rallycross Fiesta - Cover
Mk1 Ford Fiesta - Rallycross Fiesta
Original article text below
This is the story of David and Goliath. Well almost. David has a mate called Dass, except that David is really called Stud, which is short for Costakis Nicolaou! Or was is Savhands? Confused? You will be.
Dass, who is also known as Dilge, was getting all poetic about what it's like to be the first to arrive at a damp Lydden Hill rallycross circuit - the penalty for being a keen team. Spilge, alias Dave, says hello and along comes Bilbo. Stud Nicolaou's team has been together for a few years and obviously suffers a lot of identity crises.
Four years ago, Bilbo or Bill (as he was known then) was a regular customer of Ripspeed and gradually he became aware that the tall, skinny, character behidn the counter (i.e Stud) was into the rally-x scene with a Mini, Bill, fancing a laugh and not realising it was habit-forming, offered his services as chief mechanic and tactician. The others followed close behind to make up the team. Just over 18 months ago they realised that the Mini was being outclassed, and noticed how much success the Guv'nor, Keith Ripp, was having in his Fiesta.
Stud decided to follow the same line and try to glean some useful inside info at the same time. The first shock was the cost. Not being in the same financial-league, Stud looked for ways to keep costs down yet retain the same basic package.
Throught the grapevine, he heard of an ex-Boreham, Group 1, circuit racer going for the right sort of money. It was duly installed in the Ripspeed backyard before work started to strenghten the shell against the forthcoming battering on the rally-x circuits.
It took almost three months, even with the help of Fleet Hill Ltd, to seam-weld all the weak points and weld-in an integral rollcage, wherever it touched. Certainly it was strong but the muddy rally-x ruts call for large amounts of suspension travel. To avoid the car appearing to be fitted with stilts, and to maintain its handling into the bargain, the inner wheel arches were chopped and new box-sections welded in place. These gave the wheels added clearance at full bump.
The rear wasn't so critical but, nevertheless, the damper turrets were extended, inclined forwards and anchored to the cage. The beam-axle is delicate beyond belief, so Stud made-up a stronger tube section and grafted on all the necessary running-gear. The floor had to be chopped and rewelded, to allow for the revised axle locations and for where the standard radius arms had been replaced by longer and stronger fabricated ones.
The front suspension turret-tops had to be strenghtened because they tend to fatigue. Welding the joints did the trick but, to improve its mud-manners, Stud had some special turret-tops machined, complete with Toyota, rbberised, ball-race top mounts to give the desired castor and king-pin inclination geometry. At £60 a pair, they saved a lot of cutting, welding and guesswork with the turrets.
Lower down the struts he kept the standard TCAs but strengthened them with gusset plates. The chassis pick-up points were beefed and welded, as was the rack-mount to give some much-needed support. The car was fitted with the anti-dive cross-beam, front trailing arms and anti-roll bar, but once again, for strenght, the bolts were discarded and the whole untit was welded in place. The rubber tie-rod bushes were replaced by the harder Cortina Mk IV items, as an interim measure. Unavoidably, the rubber bushes do give small geometry changes under acceleration and braking but that remians a useful area for development for the team.
Having mentioned the brakes, this is probably the weakest point in the set-up. The top Fiesta men use Grup 2, 4-pot, calipers on big vented discs all around, but these cost arms and legs. For economy, Stud retained the original 1300 sliding calipers (with M171) pads but mounted them on spacer plates so that they would fit over the large diameter RS discs. Meanwhile bringing up the rear are a pair of standard drums. he admits that the brakes are a bit marginal but one day, when finances permit, he'll catch up with the big boys and their big anchors, (At least I think that's what he said,) They are balanced, however, thanks to a home-adapted, adjustable-bias, pedal box assembly with an adjustable pressure compensator for extra sensitivity.
It may not stop too well, but does it go...? The answer lies under the bonnet where the 1300 was kicked out in favour of a BDA, purloined second-hand through the Autosport classified columns. Even with mild cams there's 9000 revs worth of 1600 Cosworth goodies, purchased at suitable discounts, to produce around 200bhp. Basically, it started life as a Forumal Atlantic engine but, for convenience, the block was swapped for the XR2 unit and the whole lot entrusted to Peter the Professor at Nick Mason Engineering, to do the honours with a rebuild.
The Hewland Group 2 gearbox and diff were dispatched in the same direction and, once rebuilt, linked to the engine suing an AP double-plate clutch mounted on a modified flywheel. The combination has suffered from some of the usual problems and after a bout of crown-wheel troubles, a Ferguson, Silicon-filled LSD was installed as a temporary measure.
Anyway, onward surges the power through unequal length driveshafts, made-to-measure by Jack Knight, which in turn deliver the goods to the Avon semi-slick tyres, mounted on 4-bolt, 4-spoke, 8x13in Revolution wheels. At around £60 each, these wheels are only about 1/3 of the price of Group 2 centre-locks.
The engine has remained unusually reliable for a BDA, having only needed one routine rebuild over the last 18 months. it did need bearing-shells but that was possibly down to oil starvation, Either way, reliable engines mean cheap running costs which can't be a bad thing on a tight budget.
Fitting the engine in the first place wasn't just a matter of operating a hoist. The Fiesta bay is restricted in width so the inner chassis rail had to be cut back and re-welded to make way for the bottom belt pulley. In the fore-aft direction, the bulkhead required surgery to make room for the twin 48DCOEs. For simplicity, it was merely cut away and a stronger an recessed plate was welded in place. This also provided a useful point of attachment for an additional engine brace.
The restricted space has always presented cooling problems for the Fiesta, so to ease the situation, the whole of the lower front valance was cut out and replaced by a mesh-grid. The large 4-branch exhaust manifold meant that the radiator had to be more compact, consequently a pair of Viva headers were stitched together with an MGB core while the original fan and mouting panel were tailored to match the new radiator/ Although Shell SR3 is used, a cooler is still necessary and this nestles where the headlight should be, direct into the airstream but behind a protective wire grille.
As for driver-coolig, there's this big hole in the middle of the Perspex screen. Supposedly it's for added visibility but, having seen Stud's face after one wet race, I think the drivers with laminated screens and bilge pumps, have the more comfortable option.
Other weightsaving items include: Perspext windows all around: glassfibre replicas of the hatch and bonnet; and the G-F wheel arches and spoiler have been chosen for their leightness on the pocket, as well. DJ trading supply them at half the cost of 'works' items for around £100 and £20 respectively - they look good too.
All the way through, the theme of the car has been effectiveness with economy. Not that safety has been neglected. There's the integral cage; a plumbed-in Fireater extinguisher system, a Willans full-harness safety belt; a sturdy Cobra driver's seat; and a chicken-bar across the door-opening to repel all boarders. However Stud reckons that the car stands him at less than £6000. That's a lot of dosh admittedly, he has now progressed to become a Director of Ripspeed and consequently has all the right connections for good deals etc, even so that still runs out at half the going rate for a competitive car. Perhaps there lies the crunch, Is it a winner?
The Lydden Winter series has seen him go from strength to strength. He likes Lydden, which must help, but he has chosen a local series to keep the running costs to a minimum. He has now won all his heats, so far; He leads his division; is points leader in the Superfinal category; and is in the lead overall. Quite a perfromer - and didn't he do well at the recent GP meeting!
Bill says that Stud gets more confident each meeting, and believes it's down to a growing confidene in the suitability of the equipment. Doubtless, the team has a big influence as they enthusiastically get down to the job in hand; cleaning the car between heats to maintain a professional image; refueling; reseting the tracking; sorting out the problems; and checking the tyre pressures. Stud is left to concentrate on driving and winning.
Stud appreciates his mates' efforts and provides good value for his sponsors, but he reserves a lot more praise for the understanding nature of his wife, Wendy. he has spent so much time preparing and racing the car, substituing effort for money to make it all possible. Also high on his credit list is his old mate, Nick Mason, who has given him invaluable help in setting up the car to be a race winner.
So my day at Lydden came to an end as the engines gradually fell into slumber. My brain had eventually mastered the complex nickname-game and the spectators has witnessed yet another victorious Nicolaou perfrmance. As for Goliath, well, there aren't many people who can beat Dimi Mavropoulos in a Quattro. This time Stud took second - next time may be a different story. DD