2013 Ford Focus ST - Black Friday Autocross - Six Shots
November 30, 2012
When I last left you, Mark and I had used up six of our allotted twelve runs of the day. Predictably, the Focus ST had seen off the stock-tired Scion. However, Mark was now changing over to the trick rubber and I was getting that sinking feeling.
While Mark fiddled, I looked over the Focus. I decided to leave the tires pressures what they were as the outside tread hadn't suffered too much and messing around with that now might do more harm than good. I wasn't going to be happy unless I got into the 62 second range; not just because I thought that would be enough to beat Mark, but I had my own goals. Oh, and don't forget about the audience of experienced auto-x'ers.
Then, Mark went out and dropped the hammer. His first lap out was better than my fastest and he was only getting faster. Time to see if I could pull it together.
My first lap out was my new best. Still lagging behind Mark, I had just knocked .5 seconds off my time by not driving like an meat head. So that was my plan - drive less like a meat head.
Over the next three runs, my times dropped, albeit slowly, into the low 63'. The ST is a little complex. It' essentially a front wheel drive muscle car, so the power must be used judiciously or you'll just spin the tires, which just overheats them. The trick differential is also a little bit of an unknown to me. It works well enough, it' just not as predictable as a mechanical unit. This is only a trait you'll see in a situation like an auto-x, with lots of quick directional changes and varying throttle inputs.
And then there' the rear end. The car pivots very, very well. It' not often you drive a front wheel drive car capable of being set up for the exit of the corner before you get to the corner, but the ST let' you do it. The catch, naturally, is it responds quite a bit to very minor changes in throttle at higher speeds. There was a big sweeper on the back side of the course that, on my fastest runs, I was essentially counter-steering the ST through half the corner.
Cool, but tricky.
I walked over to Mark to talk to him about his times and his passenger, and through his huge grin (damn) he introduced me to Leonard - the novice coordinator for this region of the SCCA and a reader of Edmunds. He asked if he could ride along and see what the ST was all about. Anything for
free instruction our readers.
The run was smooth, but a bit manic as I fought to keep the back end where I needed it. I was afraid I'd made him car sick after the run, but thankfully he was fine and graciously offered advice about slightly different lines to benefit corner exit and overall tire management. Oh, and the most obvious piece of advice - look up more and don't get lost.
Unlike Mark, with only two runs left I wasn't able to capitalize on Leonard' advice and had to settle for the fast time you see below you, a 62.860. 1.8 seconds quicker than what I'd done previously, it just wasn't enough to stave off those fancy tires (the tires that the Focus hauled down there, mind you) and Mark' driving.
Kudos to Mark, Leonard and everyone who put on the event. It was a huge amount of fun.
Will there be a rematch? Should there be one?
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 3,879 miles