Top ten slot in national contest for Eyemouth driver Steve
Berwickshire motor sportsman Steve Sadler is among the top ten drivers in a national championship during his maiden season in the category.
Two rounds – both due in October – remain in the Scottish Motor Racing Club Scottish Fiesta Championship Challenge Cup and the Eyemouth driver was greatly encouraged by his performance on Sunday in round four of the tournament at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire.
Sadler, 54, made the transition this season from Citroen 1 racing to Fiesta ST and has had an eventful time so far in the national challenge.
He was the victim of a couple of shunts in previous rounds but, last weekend, in an incident-free outing, he took an eighth place and a sixth place in the championship, moving him up to 10th overall.
Additionally, he registered a first place in a special mixed class Allcomers Trophy, held as a special event at Cadwell.
“It was a good weekend,” he reflected. “Of all the drivers there, I was the only one who was taking part in their novice Fiesta season, so I am pleased with the outcome.”
The latest stage featured the only away round of the season, with all the others taking place at Knockhill in Fife, so the trip south was much anticipated. Testing took place on Saturday in perfect weather conditions which continued throughout the weekend.
“Cadwell Park was fantastic,” said Sadler. “The infrastructure is excellent, the track is great – very fast, very tight – just over two miles long and absolutely not for the faint-hearted.
"Owing to the travelling distance, a number of the other Fiesta competitors pulled out but the ST grid was still a good size, with 10 championship drivers and one guest.
"So, for me, the weekend lined up to be challenging driving experience on a new track against some really strong competition.”
Sadler put the car through its paces and learned the track during testing on the Saturday morning, describing it as “interesting”.
"I had a couple of pretty big 'offs', one being an 85mph sideways slide across the grass at Charlie’s bend when I put a rear wheel on the grass and unsettled the car, but the session was enjoyable and certainly an useful learning experience,” he said.
Sunday started early with qualifying for the Allcomers Trophy. The mixed class grid went out for a 20-minute qualifying session and Sadler placed sixth.
“Quickly afterwards, the qualifying for the Fiestas started and I found the other drivers’ experience really showed,” he added. “I struggled a little to find the required pace, qualifying 11th of 11, withdrawing early, having pushed a little too hard, leaving the track and causing the rear wheel bearing to break up.
“My mechanic was a hero on race day, identifying and replacing a crushed brake pipe, replacing the disintegrated wheel bearing and keeping the clutch alive for the final race.
It wasn't an entirely unexpected qualifying result and, looking at the times of others, I wasn't too disappointed, as I was within touching distance.
"However, the wheel bearing failure had also led to ABS sensor damage and the racing for the day was going to be without the ABS.”
Drivers lined up in perfect conditions for race one which, said Sadler, was largely uneventful.
"Unusually, for our championship, the race was to be a 20-minute session rather than a number of laps and, after an average start, I worked hard to keep touch with the more experienced drivers,” he added.
"That said, I continued to work on my lap times and drove as hard as I could to take advantage of any opportunities that arose, eventually finishing ninth on the track and eighth in the championship.”
Sadler felt he had more to offer for race two and was keen to push as hard as he could.
"I got a good start off the line and an incident involving a number of cars at the start allowed me to move quickly from ninth to fifth,” he said.
"I drove hard and stuck with the leading cars, holding fifth until I over-committed and Lorne Murray was quick to pass me.
"I continued to chase the leading group as the field spread out and defend my position for two laps, before a brake lock up put me off line and Peter Cruickshank pounced on my error, followed bumper to bumper by Scott Smith as we entered the Mountain.
“I continued to fight hard to stay in contention as a the field spread out, with the deployment of a safety car allowing the field to close up again. With the clock running down, the race restarted. Again, with a closer field and some very competitive driving, a couple of laps out and I was able to take advantage of Scott over-committing through the Gooseneck and running wide. I finished the race in seventh and sixth in the championship.
“From a championship point of view, I was keen to take part at Cadwell Park for the experience, the track time and to continue the learning process both in the car and with the racing,” said Sadler.
“Again, I brought the car home, happily incident-free this time out, and came away with some championship points on the board.”
The Allcomers Trophy, against competitors from all the SMRC championships who had entered, was really enjoyable and competitive, said Sadler.
As there were time and result-based statistics in play, everyone racing continued to push hard.
"I finished sixth on track and I was chuffed to round off an excellent weekend of racing with a class win in the event,” he said.
Sadler added many of the Fiesta ST drivers in the championship had continued to be helpful and supportive, which he really appreciated, while he was grateful too to his partners and supporters, as well as the championship sponsors.