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22 July 2009

Jes Firth TVR Speed Champion 2009 (A Sprinting Phenomenon)

Here is Steve Cox’s (TVR Speed Championship Co-ordinator) article of Jes. Stalwart of the series for many years and defending champion, Jes has had a great season…but the story’s even better than the results! Read on.

I usually start these articles with some preamble about the weather, the racetrack or the mental state of our competitors, but I'm not going to do that this time so I'll come straight to the point. Jes Firth made history at Longcross today by winning his eighth straight event in the TVRCC Speed Championship thus bringing his points total to 200, the absolute maximum score. His 2009 season has been just unbelievable, all the more special because he doesn't have a backup team, he doesn't run a trailer, and he doesn't even have a reliable car. What he does have though is the drive to always be there, he is blessed with an unshakeable belief in his own talent, and he assumes the win is his for the taking. It is the same kind of resolve that has enabled yachtsmen and women to circumnavigate the world or walk to the poles; the opinions of others as to the merits of such endeavours are of no consequence, the quest itself is the goal, the mindless determination to compete is the thrill, and success against the odds is the prize.

Jes' season started at North Weald where his car succumbed to one of its many electrical hissy fits. Ours is a fantastic series and so Pete Watson kindly lent Jes his Griff for the day knowing full well that the difference in their times would be considerable. Far from warmly thanking Pete for the loan, Jes pointed out that it's handling could be improved through some very basic suspension adjustments. Jes won the event by a full 3.5 handicap seconds – in somebody else's car. Next round was at Gurston Down, the superb hillclimb near Salisbury. Jes had never been to the hill before, but walked it once in the morning and was then the fastest car all day. When he turned up at MIRA, Jes and I had the conversation about physics during which he explained to me that they didn't apply to him. I believed him right up the point where he crashed but the point was he'd already won the event but felt he hadn't strangled every last tenth out of the track.

By the time we got to Loton Park, the runes were already pointing towards a championship maximum but Loton is a difficult hill in the pouring rain so I thought that even if we couldn't stop him, perhaps the elements would. As you will have seen from the Bob Naismith's excellent photo in Sprint (July) it didn't make any difference and he drove the car at an incalculable angle throughout. The crowds love it and marshals wear running shoes when he's on track.

At Abingdon, Jes battled again with electrical problems and explained his theory on "point to point wiring" to anyone who'd listen. He believes that provided you have a piece of cable thick enough, and you can see (or at least feel) the connecting points at both ends, the routing of the wire is immaterial. For would be sprinters, try putting yourself in this situation; Abingdon is the longest event in the calendar with 10 runs on two tracks throughout the day, you have a car that may or may not start, and you have a tool box containing only pliers, screwdrivers, tape and 4 meters of cable discarded by the national grid. Your challenge is to be fastest car on both tracks, win your 25 points and then drive home afterwards. Most drivers' options would be limited to these: 1) Work on the car all day in the hope that it gets you home, 2) Get the car started and then drive sensibly enough to get a time and a few points, then hope it gets you home 3) Call the AA. None of these are acceptable to Jes – the Firth option is: Remove all extraneous under bonnet trim and ducting, remove the ECU, starter motor, alternator, and anything else that might have a wire attached to it. Reassemble electrical parts and re-crimp or clamp as necessary, discard any pieces left over. Restart car just in time for timed run and deliver optimal performance. Repeat for each run.

I have described in the Curborough write-up how we didn't know whether he'd be able to make it, but fortune favours the brave and he drove immaculately all day – actually, I'm not sure that immaculately is the right word – I should have just said fast. He told me that he had been experimenting with his front anti-rollbar and felt that the Cerbera was now more compliant. Actually, it handled like a cow on wet lino but he didn't go any slower so that was 7 wins in a row.

At the top of this article, I said that Jes had made history at Longcross. Let me be more specific, he won not only our class, our championship and added a new course record to the history books, but amazingly he was also the fastest car at the event. This is the first time to my knowledge that a TVR has won FTD (Fastest Time of Day) and there were disgruntled drivers in V8 Westfields with better handling and vastly superior power to weight ratios who went home with heads hung low.

We salute you Jeremy, you are truly a star in an unreliable car and I look forward to presenting you with the TVRCC Speed Championship trophy at our dinner in Staverton in November.

Now, for the rest of us there are class wins to fight for and we look forward to the next 8 rounds.

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