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Unread 08-10-2016, 08:21 PM
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Fair! Fair! is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Default Re: Ford Focus RS Development Thread

continued from above

First Session

The 8 laps in the 7:30 am session on track were spent learning the car, navigating through traffic, listening to the front tires howl, and seeing the oil temps climb and climb. I came in after only 8 laps due to increasingly high oil temperatures (285F was all I was willing to see in this brand new engine). Again, it was only 79F ambient and I wasn't over-revving or drifting or anything unusual - I was pushing the car as hard as I would any other, not abusively. This first set of 8 laps were somewhat boring and I had a best of a 1:28.5, which is admittedly slow.

As you can see in the image above, the Focus suffered from a lot of body roll. It also was losing camber badly on the front wheels - the loaded front wheel in the picture above has probably 2 degrees positive camber, which is never good. With that positive camber shown in the image above it is no wonder that the outside half of the front tires were showing serious wear in only 8 laps on this super smooth, low tire degradation track surface.

Here is a picture of the car braking into T9, after the fastest straight on this course. As you can see, there was also a lot of brake dive. The springs appeared to be too soft to deal with even the moderate grip levels of the Michelin PSS. The brakes did feel pretty damned good - which was about the only thing I didn't complain about all day. With stock pads and fluid I wasn't able to ever boil fluid/lose pedal or fade the pads. If the grip level of the tires is upgraded we might have to re-assess the brake fluid and pad compound.

The tire and boost pressures would have been better at 500psi!

After these 8 laps (with 3 cool downs in there, so 5 hot laps) I came into the pits and Brad quickly used an IR gun to get a few temps... intercooler, brake rotors, radiator, etc. Nothing seemed extraordinary. The tires had crept up from 30 psi cold to 40 psi hot, which was about what we expected. We bled them down to 38 psi hot and kept them there for the next session, which was about an hour later.

Second Session

Luckily the weather was overcast and the ambient temps stayed at 79F, which was remarkably cool for a mid July day in Texas (normally it would be in the 90F+ range by now). With not much sun yet the track temp was only around 100F, which would keep the tires from overheating.

We parked the RS with the hood up facing into a small breeze to help cool off the engine and coolers for the 65-70 minutes we waited while the open wheel cars (30 minutes), motorcycles (30 minutes) had their first sessions. The track requires all member day drivers to be in a full fire suit, and the super high humidity (nearing 100%) meant that you will sweat a lot. The first thing we did after cooling off the car was shed our suits and drink plenty of water.

I gridded the RS closer to the front of the pack that went out in session two to try to avoid the slower Spec Miatas and a few other street cars that were poking around. I got out on track and pointed the race cars by quickly.

We had re-checked tire pressures to get them back to 40psi when hot, and this time set the car in "Track" mode. It was a bit crowded again but not so much that I couldn't get 3 hot laps without traffic, shown in the video below.

With as bad as the skies and forecast looked I was pushing to make this my fastest and last session of the day. It would either start to rain or just get so much hotter it wouldn't matter. Somehow it rained everywhere else in the metroplex but never did in Cresson.

The issue was the oil temps crept up rather quickly, and after 3 laps I had to alternate cool down laps with hot laps. After one cool down lap the oil temps would drop below 300F and I could make one more hot lap, then the oil was near 300F again. On the first lap the PSS tires have virtually no grip (when cold) but by lap 2 they were up to temp. The tires got hotter every lap and were starting to overheat and lose grip after about 5 or 6 laps.

In-car video from 3 laps in the 2nd session is here.

This overheating of oil and tires worked against me - I never got a clear lap of traffic in either session when both the tires and oil temps were both in their optimal zone. The predictive lap timer showed a possible "1:26.6" time on lap 5, but I caught a train of 6 cars going into the last turn (Big Bend) and had to back off considerably that time. The best lap I could put together was a 1:27.40 on lap 7, but I nearly matched that time with a 1:27.50 on lap 3 in this same session. Again - there was a little more in it, but I would have needed a completely clear track and a perfect drive when everything was up to temp.

Catching and passing this GT4 was fun, but he reeled me back in and repassed the Focus later

Most of the cars on track with me that day were dedicated race cars, so the Focus was at a pretty big disadvantage with the 300 treadwear 235mm tires. Even the Toyo equipped Spec Miatas were leaving the Focus in the corners. I did play around with a Porsche GT4 a little, but after passing this car he caught back up and repassed me later.

The RS' 1:27 lap time nearly matched my times in a BMW E46 330 with 195 whp running at 3285 pounds back in March (with similar conditions). The BMW was indeed a bit lighter (3285 lbs in the BMW vs 3650 lbs in the RS, with driver), and much easier to drive at the limit. Both cars had equally excellent brakes, but the BMW had roughly 150 less hp. The 245mm tires on the BMW were a hair bigger and better compound, but were 8 weekends old, the compound was dead and the tread was badly corded.

RS Track Driving Impressions

At the end of the second session the car was running hot and the tires were pretty shredded (see the end of my in-car video for what they looked like after 16 laps). Brad and I loaded up the Focus and headed back to the shop.

Obviously if you watched my in-car video above you heard me complaining about understeer. Massive amounts of steady state understeer was all this car could produce. I suspect that the "RDU" system shut down almost immediately and I was essentially driving a Front Wheel Drive car for all 16 laps. Again, was it the fact that I used LFB technique on a handful of corners? Was it an overheated RDU? Who knows.

I also noted that the stability control was fighting me like it was still on, yet it was clearly turned off before both sessions. Something in my driving style pissed off the little computers and kept trying to keep the rear from ever stepping out. I would have loved to see a bit more turn-in, but it was not possible. Yes, it was in "Track" mode, too. All it would do was plow... the more throttle I gave it mid-corner, the more understeer it produced. There was no trick I didn't try - nothing worked. It felt like a FWD car the entire time.

Power delivery was rather lackluster, and some have speculated that the odometer reading (83 miles) was something that the computer didn't like and kept it from making full boost. This is nothing I could control that day. Now the car has several thousand miles on the clock, and a COBB Accessport and Sage 1 custom tune was added, and makes 330 whp. This is how Todd raced it at COTA last weekend.

So yea, it needs a lot of handling help, more tire, and lots of cooling upgrades. We're on it!


If you have read my race write-ups before you might remember that these Optima/USCA are events lots of fun. They break cars into 4 classes, require 200 or higher treadwear tires, some street going equipment is mandated, each car runs in 3 competition driving events (time trial, autocross and speed stop), a car show portion ("Design and Engineer" judging, which is very controversial), and a road worthiness check (50-100+ mile road rally event on public roads).

Todd Earsley (the RS's owner) has been competing in Optima events as long as I have, and has completed more Qualifiers and SEMA shoot-outs than almost anyone else I know. He has won his class many times, almost always podiums, and took his EVO 9 to as high as a 3rd place overall finish in Vegas at the big post-SEMA event.

Todd's goal was to use the Focus RS to replace his race-prepped EVO and use it to complete the rest of the Optima qualifiers this year.... and hopefully win an invite to the post-SEMA Optima Ultimate street Car Shootout in Las Vegas. This is where ALL classes and cars are combined for an overall "ultimate street car" winner. He will be driving the car to these events and we and other shops will be upgrading various systems between events, as his schedule allows it.

OPTIMA AT CHARLOTTE, July 30-31, 2016

With his his bike mounted on the back and his trusty canine co-pilot Violet, Todd drove the Focus 2500 miles to and from Charlotte Motor Speedway on the week of July 30th to enter the 2 day Optima qualifier event.

OPTIMA USCA Charlotte Motor Speedway event results:

The results for GTS class are linked above. Todd said he fought with the handling (understeer), the launch control was buggy, and the oil temps were super high for him as well on track. He was even seeing high oil temps in the autocross portion, with 20+ minute waits between runs.

No changes had been made to the car yet, so it had the same brake dive and floppy OEM suspension as before. Todd remarked at how the Michelins were over-matched by the performance of the brakes (again, the best part of this car) but noted that the engine felt stronger than when he first drove it. Driving 1000+ miles to get to an event likely allowed the motor break-in period to be passed and the computer nannies unleashed all 350 horses.

He finished 8th out of 14 in class, so about mid-pack. Todd is an accomplished NASA TT and Optima competitor and I watched his in-car videos - he was pushing it to the limit, too. But for a bone stock car on absolutely the wrong tires, he did damned well. The hot tires in Optima competition are the Bridgestone RE71R and BFGoodrich Rival-S. Look for one of those on this car before the end of the season.

Todd's Charlotte Optima event highlight video

In the video above Todd narrates the in-car videos from his best autocross, speed stop and road course laps in the Focus RS. Great video, worth watching. He is a bit kinder than me in his opinions of the car, at least publicly, hehe. The understeer in the stock setup is apparent, but again, the brakes worked very well in all 3 segments. With better tires, some camber, and more spring rate it will surely improve.

Free RS Mod! We missed this one but while at the Charlotte event, Todd found a huge decal placed over about 1/4th of the face of the stock intercooler. We have speculated that this might be used there to block airflow, lower drag, and eek out a tick more gas mileage by Ford, but after more research we found Ford places it there to prevent water (during a high water crossing - which should never happen in this particular car) from entering the intake tract and possibly damage the engine. Todd removed this blockage and it uncorked a significant amount of surface area of the intercooler heat exchanger, which can now see airflow and "do work". Apparently this is the one "free mod" that people can do for $0 to reduce inlet air temperatures.

OPTIMA AT COTA, Aug 6-7, 2016

Only one week later and it was time for another hot hot hot Optima event, this time at Circuit of the Americas... the Formula 1 track in Austin, Texas, better known as COTA.

On his way down to the event he stopped in at COBB Tuning and they fitted the Focus with their Accessport and a Stage 1 tune, where it made 330 whp in an otherwise bone stock vehicle.

OPTIMA USCA COTA event results:

In the timed track event the RS had more grunt on the main straights with the added horsepower from COBB. The oil temperatures were even worse, however, and the 105F ambient temps didn't help things. Drivers were overheating, cars were overheating, and the RS couldn't make more than 2 or 3 laps before he had to come in.

Todd drove well but managed only 11th out of 18 cars in the GTS class. If you look at the cars entered in this class it is some heavy hitters.... Mclarens, Corvette Z06s, and a 2016 Porsche GT3 RS was the overall winner. So he has a tough battle to fight in GTS with a bone stock Focus RS. Hopefully, with some smart mods, it can become a contender.

Todd's COTA Optima event highlight video

Once again Todd does a great job of compiling his best runs in the autocross, speed stop and time trial competition portions of the Optima @ COTA event in the video above. He talks about the problems with fluid temps and more in this video.


I understand that this series of posts looks negative. Sorry, not sorry. Our impressions just did not match the shiny happy opinions of many car magazine writers or forum fan boys. We don't have a lot of tolerance for the excuses of why this car has massive understeer, and the failings of the "RDU" programming were real. The RS has massive amounts of hype which, we felt, is not justified. It needs a lot of work to handle more neutrally, and the power delivery is very FWD-like.

This Focus is due back here at Vorshlag in a day or two, then we have less than 2 weeks to develop and build camber plates to fit this chassis and the coilover monotube shocks and struts we are using. Todd is racing it again at an Optima event at Road America on August 27-28th, so I will update with those results soon. Hopefully the improvements we have in store this time will improve the car's overall and GTS class standings to better than mid-pack.

This post has gotten too big so I am going to stop there and cover more next time!

Thanks for reading,

Last edited by Fair!; 08-12-2016 at 09:00 AM.
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