2012 Focus 5-Door Autocross Review
Ran my first Autocross with my 2012 Focus 5-Door Titanium, Red Candy (red ones go faster). I do not have the Titanium handling package. I just bought the car and could not get the wheels and tires in time so I ran on the factory 17" wheels and Continental all-weather tires it came with. I had 500 miles on the clock when I got to the event. I plan to run in STF this year, though I plan to get a small "u" to put at the end when I order the magnets, just 'cause.
As it is a Titanium it is a Select-Shift auto. Yes, I agree manual is better for autocross, but I could not have a manual and the creature comforts and I went with the options. I was actually very happy with the Select-Shift. I would start out in S1 and it would jump to S2 once I hit redline and stayed there just fine. Don't recall seeing S3. If I slowed for a big corner I could drop it to S1. If you let me design the car I would have made the whole shift lever the +/- lever like in most cars, but the +/- button was not really a problem for me. I frequently used the Select-Shift on the street so my hand fell to the button every time naturally. If I had to do it again I would still get the Select-Shift.
Sat was a Test and Tune event. Your heat runs for 50 min, get as many runs as you can. Think I got about 8 runs. I did try one run with traction control on, just to see what it was like. I actually liked it. I could throw it around corners and the car would pivot without sliding, even on the non-performance tires. When I got back to grid there was a strong smell of brakes so I turned it back off and left it off. A note about that. I am a computer tech and the computer system in MyFordTouch equipped Focus makes me grin every time I sit in the car, but having to scroll through menus to get to the screen to turn off the traction control only to have it turn back on every time you shut the car off is a real pain. If I turn it off, leave it off! I know most cars turn it back on, but those cars are also wrong and most cars it's just a button you press.
My driving style is best described as "excessive". I tend to use too much gas, too much brake, and too much steering. I am always working on getting slower and smoother which I know is quicker. At first the car was convinced I was an idiot (I am not arguing) and kept helping. I would hit a turn too fast, forget my training and yank the wheel to the right and slam on the brakes, only to find I was unable to press on the pedal. The car had applied the brakes already. That bugged me a little, how I am supposed to drive fast if the car got in the way. As I learned the car, and remembered my training, and got back the skills I lost from our winter break the car stopped helping, because it no longer needed to.
Sunday was an actual autocross. I was in the last heat and as I watched the other drivers I set myself a goal of 75 seconds. I hit that on my third run. My fourth run was a 74, but I hit a cone. I am confident good tires would have helped me by 2 seconds. The steeting and braking were spot on. The acceleration was peppy, but not excessive so I could simply floor it anytime the wheel was close to straight. The Select-Shift, as I said, behaved perfectly. I have a long list of vehicles on my autocross resume, 89 Taurus SHO, Saturn SC, Camaro Z28, Mustang GT, Corvette, S10 Xtreme, Mercedes SLK32 AMG and others. The Focus was the easiest to drive of any car I have competed in. It was very predictable and well mannered. I could keep one foot on the gas, and one on the brake. I could keep the RPMs up, turn the wheel and when I tapped the brake the car would simply pivot.
I loved the idea of Torque Vectoring when I read about it. Sadly there is no light to tell me when it is working, but I did notice that when cornering sharply at speed the car did not spin the inside front tire like most other FWDs I have driven tended to do. Not sure if that was the TV engaged or some other wizz-bang gizmo but it felt like it had limited slip and I liked it!
In the end I won the STF class! But was the only one in it, so there is that to consider. If I look at other classes I could have run in HStock. I would have taken second there, 2 seconds behind a Mazda 3 on Hankook Ventus R-S3 tires. I was less than a second behind the FStock winning Camaro. We have a local class we called STO4 which is a 4 cylinder on ST legal tires, open to any mods. A catch all class. Of 8 I would have placed 3rd. Less than 2 seconds behind a very modified Honda Del Sol and .7 seconds behind the second place Honda Civic SI with light mods on Dunlop autocross tires. Not bad for a stock Focus on 500 treadwear all-season tires.
I had a lot of compliments on the car. Several people asked to sit in it, and I think I sold one to an older gentleman who asked a ton of questions. The biggest compliments were the people that told me, "I never thought the Focus would be so fast!".
I plan to get a set of Hankook Ventus R-S3 tires on 18x7.5 wheels. I plan to get a beefier rear sway bar. I will keep an eye on Koni's site for when they release the adjustable shocks for the 12 Focus. Maybe some stiffer lowering springs.
If your thinking about a 2012 or newer Focus for Autocross I would highly recommend it. If you ask the drivers of the WRXs, Nissan 350Z, Corvette, Mustang and others that I beat today I am sure they will agree Ford did a pretty good job with this one.
Autox'd my 2012 SE Sport last saturday on stock 16's and all seasons....I was absolutely AMAZED at the handling of the focus in stock form. I ended up beating most BMWs, all the mustangs and finished with a very good time. I used to autox a setup Trans Am with 425 hp at the wheels, so I was expecting to do much worse than I did. I was impressed with the torque vectoring and the ability to take tight sweeps much tighter than most and still carry speed out of it. The track was a medium speed track but I was happy that 2nd gear didn't bog down as much as I thought it would. There was only one turn I was low in RPMs, however if I had taken a better line I could've carried more speed keeping it in the power band. I plan on getting some 15x7's running some Toyo Rcomps with a big rear sway bar and that should really make the car compete well. Maybe some struts and springs after that but the car really doesn't need that much more to it. I would LOVE to autos a new ST though! Very satisfied with my runs in a low hp car!!
Glad to hear you enjoyed your runs as much as I did.
I ended up getting Falken Azenis on 17" wheels from Discount Tire. They greatly improved the cornering. After some playing I ended up with 38lbs in the front and 45lbs in the back. It gave me good grip with the fronts and some slide with the back.
We had a VERY tight turn at the start of an event and I had some fun doing an e-brake turn. At low speeds I can crank the wheel and pull the brake and just about pivot on the inside back tire. I also tried at higher speeds but that just caused some exciting slides but not so much control.
Last event I PAXed 9th out of 42. That is with the stock non-sport suspension. The announcer was bragging on my times and I mentioned that at 39mpg I bet I also got the best MPG on the way there.
I will be taking home STF trophies from two regions this year. Not lots of competition but so far am undefeated in my class.
Now that I have about 10 events at the wheel of my Focus I am just as happy as when I started. I know I made the right choice when I took my Ford home.
Awesome! Yeah I think I would've definitely indexed 1st in my class, but the index barcode scanner wasn't working that day...oh well...I know I did good!
Azenis are great street tires...and if I was going to pull double duty I'd look at those, Star Specs, or Kuhmo XS's, but I'm really thinking about just going all out with some 13lb TD wheels and Toyo Rcomps. What size Azenis did you get for your 17's? I'm probably going to go with 235/50-15's from what I'm researching as of now.
Also, tracking a FWD car changes everything about approaching a sharp turn for me. I'm able to brake hard on entry and pivot the car really well. I'd never experienced that before and it works well on a real tight turn. I never grabbed the E-brake though and I'm not sure it'll work out well for me..haha. I'll have to experiment with it.
You guys have inspired me. I have been having a hoot up in the canyon. I think once the heat subsides I will try an autoX this winter. It will be interesting to see how I can do with a stock Focus compared to rest of the participants. I used to autoX an '80 mustang back in the '80's.
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