You may wonder what the ‘green’ link is with an event such as the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, where the main action is cars racing on a circuit, but if you look at the results of the Supercar class, you’ll see that lightweight efficiency is the winning recipe.
The Cholmondeley Pageant of Power is held over a weekend on a country estate in Cheshire and combines a weird and wonderful mix of vehicles on the track with spectacular action on the water and in the air – along with a huge range of attractions for all the family. There’s also a concert on the Saturday evening, and this year Status Quo played live on the Friday night. The weather was also fantastic, so with all these elements, it was certainly a ‘must not miss’ event – and lots of other people obviously thought the same, as the 2014 Pageant enjoyed record visitor numbers of around 70,000.
The lightweight and efficient theme started on the Friday, when I piloted a Ford Fiesta ST around the Pageant circuit. The narrow and twisty Pageant sprint is more technically challenging than the wide and sweeping Goodwood hill. One of the main tests is the narrow bridge that appears just after the start line. You’ve then got a long, slightly curved tree-lined avenue, with two very tight corners at the end, which are even narrower than normal thanks to generous quantities of hay bales. Next is a long straight, with a chicane near the end to slow cars down before they negotiate a blind left-hander between more trees. After a long bend to the right, the track drops down to a sharp left corner, and then you’re usually airborne over a humpback bridge before tearing across the finishing line. Unlike the Goodwood Festival of Speed, you can then drive around the rest of the Pageant circuit back to the start, rather than having to wait and then go back down the hill again.
I’ve driven a wide range of cars on the Pageant circuit, including a Jaguar F-Type V8 S on the Saturday last year, and the Fiesta ST is without doubt one of the better cars for this track. Size absolutely matters at Cholmondeley – the smaller the better. The compact dimensions of the Fiesta ST make it easy to direct between the thousands of hay bales lining the track. It also has a fun, playful chassis – you’ll rarely find the limits of this when you’re on the road, but on a track such as this, it really comes into its own. Of course you also need power, and, relative to its weight, the Fiesta delivers in this department too.
The Pageant circuit is more like a typical Welsh back road than a racing track (hardly a surprise as you’re actually driving on the roads of the country estate), so if a car performs well at Cholmondeley – like the Fiesta ST did – then you’ve got a pretty good idea that it will also deliver driving rewards on twisting back roads.
So the compact, lightweight and efficient Fiesta ST gets a thumbs up as a car that performs well at Cholmondeley. But what about the cars in the Supercar class? Surely the most powerful will win?
This year the cars in the Supercars & Track Day class included the Caterham Seven 620R, McLaren 650 S, Porsche 911 Turbo S, Ford GT40, Mercedes SLS AMG, Bentley Continental GT Speed, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lotus Exige S, Nissan GTR and Lamborghini Diablo. So which car had the fastest time when all of its five runs over the weekend were averaged out? Based on this criteria, the winner was the single-seater, road legal (Ford-powered) BAC Mono, driven by Duncan Tappy, with an average lap time of 64.18 seconds. The next fastest car was the more powerful Ariel Atom 3.5R, with an average lap time of 66.21 seconds.
In terms of the individual fastest lap, the BAC Mono was a virtually imperceptible 0.08 of a second behind the Atom – 61.03 seconds compared to 60.95 seconds.
This shows that big, powerful cars aren’t the answer – it’s the lightest, agile and most efficient cars that are most effective on the Pageant circuit. And despite the impression that Top Gear might give, light and agile cars are also the most fun to drive within the speed limits on UK roads.
See some of the other weird and wonderful cars at the 2014 Cholmondeley Pageant of Power below: