Chris Wiles has always been a Fiesta man at heart. And after his first trip to the Nürburgring in 2015, he knew that he had to build a tuned Fiesta ST Mk6 capable of taking on the iconic circuit…
Feature taken from Fast Ford magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Apex Media
The Nürburgring really has shaped how I’ve built the car, and the goals I’ve set out to achieve,” Chris Wiles tells us as he clambers out of his Bride seat. “I’ve fallen in love with the place – so much so that I just had to come back to Germany for this photoshoot!”
It’s fair to say that the fabled Green Hell holds a special place in his affections, as indeed do Mk6 Fiestas. Ever since his parents bought a shiny new ST150 when he was 15, Chris has had a bit of a thing for them – and as you can see by the example spread before you here, this obsession has risen to fever pitch. Having reached driving age, then racked up a couple of years’ no-claims on a classic Mini (which he also restored and sold for a healthy profit, as you do), he found himself in a position to buy and insure his first fast Ford: “Being 19, I wanted as much poke as I could afford to insure, and quotes coming back on the ST150 were reasonable…” Decision made, then. So, he bought one – a Colorado Red one, just like his parents had. It needed a bit of cosmetic tidying, which Chris took care of – and that’s when the modifying bug bit. Coilovers swiftly followed, and a de-cat Piper exhaust, Focus brakes, the interior was stripped, and soon enough he was bitten by a second and equally aggressive mite: the track day bug. “I took it to Bedford Autodrome and gave it a beating – it was faultless all day long, and I fell for track days in a big way,” he beams. “As time passed I had the itch for something else, and a friend had a Nissan S14A that he was looking to sell, and I couldn’t resist…”
This, it transpired, was a mistake. Selling the Fiesta and finding himself in a race-spec RWD missile, Chris soon discovered that the Nissan was highly-strung and not all that reliable; it was swallowing cash at a rapid rate, and he decided to make the move back into a Mk6 Fiesta. So the S14 was sold, and that very same day he bought a mint MR200-spec Performance Blue dripping in mountune goodies, which he fitted BC Racing coilovers to along with the Bride seats from his Nissan. And then, exactly one month later, he crashed it.
Back to the drawing board, then. “I didn’t know what to do with the car at the time, but I knew I needed to make my money back,” Chris recalls. “I decided to break it for parts; I sold a lot and only had a few bits left over, the engine, inlet, gearbox and some odd parts. At this time, I thought my Mk6 track-toy dream was over.”
But fate has a way of surprising us, and it turned out that the dream was only just beginning. A friend, Dan Franklin, also had a track-prepped MR200 and happened to be thinking of selling – so they made a deal, Chris flogged a few more parts to afford it, and he snapped the car up. ‘Lesson learned,’ he thought to himself, ‘don’t mess this up’. Little did he know what sort of adventure was about to unfold!
Having bought it as a turnkey track-car with no plans to change anything, Chris actually started mucking about with it right away, swapping in the Brides and the BCs and fitting 15in Pro Race rims. It stood up well to track abuse, and before long he and some mates had booked a road-trip to the Nürburgring. “It was a proper petrolhead pilgrimage,” he beams. “Things were perfect, the weather was blistering, all of our cars were running sweet, and we set out on our first ever lap of the Nordschleife. Immediately I was hooked; I couldn’t get over the elevation changes, blind corners and overall buzz around the ’Ring. I knew as soon as I completed my first BTG [Bridge-to-Gantry] I was addicted!”
On a high from the experience, Chris booked himself yet more track days back in the UK when – horror of horrors – he suffered catastrophic engine failure, with the bottom end totally seizing. Thankfully this didn’t happen on track, and with his friends rallying round, Chris had the engine from the old blue MR200 swapped in and he was back in business. Enthusiasm still pumping, he decided to devote the winter of 2015/16 to sorting the niggles that had been bugging him on track, the main one being traction – a 3J Driveline LSD was the answer, and Chris was suitably impressed: “I couldn’t believe how much difference the LSD had made,” he says. “The car was point-and-shoot when the power was applied, I had to completely re-learn how to drive it fast.” Swapping to Toyo R888s also made a difference here, and the 2016 track day season was all about growth and improvement – although the spectre of the Green Hell saw fit to strike on the group’s return journey to the ’Ring, with Chris’s driveshaft falling out of the gearbox 600 miles from home! The guys managed to bodge things back together and it seemed to be working OK around the GP circuit, although a horrendous knocking and rattling from the engine signalled that it was game over for track time. Chris managed to just about limp the car back to Blighty, whereupon local garage Beaniesport discovered that the engine had spun a shell and taken the crank with it.
“The car was with Beaniesport for three months while I sourced parts and the owner, Chris Noah, was working around other projects,” says Chris. “I decided this was the last time I was to suffer the dreaded Duratec bottom end rattle. I swapped out the standard shells and had ACL race bearings fitted along with King mains. I found a bargain on eBay as Lotus were selling a set of pistons, rods and rings for £30 out of a brand new engine. I also took this time to have the original gearbox refitted so I could sort the driveshaft issue once and for all.”
While the car was in the garage, Chris was busy shopping, getting himself an AP Racing big brake kit, new BC Racing coilovers and camber-adjustable top-mounts. He also specced a 6-point rollcage from GDF Steelworks, which was fabricated as soon as he got the functional Fiesta back. By this time it was winter again, track day season was over, so Chris rested the car for a bit.
…no, of course he didn’t. He fiddled with it some more, adding polybushes, an ARC Autosport sump baffle, a Whiteline rear ARB, and of course those AP Racing brakes. “Unfortunately my Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 wheels didn’t fit over the brakes,” he remembers. “However, I discovered that the Pro Race 1 has slightly bigger inner barrels, and I found a set for sale that would fit, and were also the perfect size and offset that I could lose the rear spacers and run wider rears – I never liked the idea of spacers on a track car.”
In the twinkling of an eye, it was time for the next annual pilgrimage to the Nürburgring and, with the new brakes, ’cage, ARB and sump baffle, Chris was more ready for hardcore BTGs than ever.
“The car was really coming together now,” he enthuses. “I completed a successful shakedown at Snetterton and Donnington Park before setting off for another Nürburgring trip. The Fiesta was even better than I’d expected, the fresh upgrades were all working together to create a really capable car. I had finally created the usable Clubsport ST I’d always wanted after visiting the ’Ring back in 2015. I got a relatively clear lap and managed to put in an 8m57s BTG, driving well within mine and the car’s limits. It was now really proving its capability.”
The three bugs that had nibbled their way into Chris’s brain, for modifying, track days, and the Nürburgring, continued to wreak their relentless havoc on his bank balance, with the ST endlessly being upgraded. Polycarbonate windows from Plastics4Performance found their way into stripped-out doors, and all the time he was wringing the Fiesta’s neck at Cadwell Park, Oulton Park… you name the circuit, he was there, giving his clubsport project hell.
“The Fiesta is now a usable, capable track car,” he smiles, with deserved satisfaction. “It can drive across Europe in relative comfort without being too loud, do strong and consistent BTGs, and then drive home again. This is what I’ve always set out to build and after a lot of time, money and effort – and a fair few setbacks – I’ve finally achieved my mountune MR200 Clubsport goal.”
Goodness knows Chris has worked hard to get to this point, and the gleaming results neatly mirror the pride he takes in this unique and deeply considered build. His personal-best BTG time, you ask? It’s currently 8m35s. But that only tells part of the story – this project is all about persistence, camaraderie, and an unwillingness to throw in the towel. Oh, and fun… first and foremost it’s about fun. You can tell from his smile that it’s all been worthwhile.
Tech Spec: Tuned Fiesta ST Mk6
2.0-litre Duratec; mountune MR200 package; mountune 4-1 manifold; mountune sport cat; mountune cat-back; mountune cams; valve springs and retainers; mountune CAIS; mountune I4 inlet manifold; 60mm throttle body; remap; oil cooler; PAS cooler; PAS relocation kit; ARC Autosport sump baffle; air-con delete
TRANSMISSION IB5 gearbox; 3J Driveline plate LSD; mountune short-shift; TTV lightweight flywheel; Vibratechnics mounts
BC Racing BR coilovers; OMP front strut brace; GDF Steelworks rear strut brace; polybushes front and rear; Whiteline rear anti-roll bar
BG Developments AP Racing CP5200 4-pot front calipers with 315mm 2-piece discs; cooling ducts; Ferodo DS300 pads; Focus ST170 rear brake conversion with EBC YellowStuff pads; Goodridge braided lines all round; AP Racing R3 fluid
WHEELS & TYRES:
Track: 7x15in Team Dynamics Pro Race 1 (ET33 front; ET23 rear); 195/50 Toyo R888 tyres. Road: 7x16in Speedline Turini (ET43); Yokohama S-Drive tyres
Plastics4Performance polycarbonate windows; Triple R Composites front splitter; rear diffuser and bonnet lip; carbon fibre mirror caps; matt black roof; Trackd sunstrip, bonnet raisers; front and rear grilles painted satin black; mountune Performance yellow side stripe
GDF Steelworks 6-point bolt-in rollcage; stripped rear; battery relocated; stereo/air-con delete; Bride Zeta 2/Artis bucket seats; OMP side mounts; OMP base plates; OMP 4-point harnesses; OMP Targa 330mm steering wheel; Trackcar doorcards