My Rallycross Focus SVT
I started doing rallycross with my SVT this year. This thread will show my progress and work I’ve done on the car throughout the year... and hopefully beyond if the car doesn’t fall apart on me. Also hopefully it’ll inspire others to get out and do some racing.
So my first rallycross was in March with my SCCA region. I've been talking about doing it for years but it seems like I was always making up excuses for why I couldn't do it. This year I finally got everything together, registered and forced myself to do it. It was totally worth it.
Before the first event I had a lot of maintenance to do on my car. It’s 10 years old now and has about 110k miles on it. It’s needed new rear motor mount, suspension, o2 sensor, brakes and various other things fixed on the car so I spent about 2 weeks getting the car to 100% with all new fluids and parts. Just to probably break everything. I’ve owned the car for 2 and a half years and it was in better shape before the first event than it was when I first bought it.
Saturday was the driver's school. Basically we sat around and talked for an hour about the program, rules, rallycross and stage rally. Then we went out to a practice course where the instructor watched us do runs and tried to give us some tips. I was the only FWD car in the class, about 80% were Subarus of course, and the instructor had only driven AWD for the last 10 years so he didn't really have any tips for me. Still, it was helpful to get myself accustomed to sliding between cones.
The course is on a giant gravel lot that was used to store hundreds of FEMA trailers for the government. So you’re driving on several feet of gravel. It’s all pretty packed down but once you have 40+ cars driving through it gets loose and rutted.
First race of the season was the next day. I originally entered in the Stock class but realized after the drivers school that my stock suspension would not survive the season so I moved myself up to Prepared class. If you move from Stock to Prepared or Modified mid-season then you lose your points. However, you can enter a stock car in the Prepared or Modified class.
I didn’t run a skid plate since I’ve heard some people didn’t need it in other regions. That was a big mistake and with the ruts in the gravel, I bottomed out quite a lot. I ended up smashing both O2 sensors since they stick up in that terrible location in front of the oil pan and under the front axle. I also ripped the heatshield off the bottom of my cat. I’m surprised I didn’t damage the oil pan, I guess the header saved me there and that took the beating.
I’m still getting a feel for racing offroad. I need to practice my left foot braking and hand brake turns quite a bit. I’m pretty sloppy. However, there weren’t many cars in the FWD class so I got first in Prepared.
Overall, probably one of the funnest weekends of my life. Even if you don't have a car to race I recommend spectating an event. You're allowed to ride along with the drivers and everyone I met is friendly and helpful.
Next up is skid plate and some suspension changes...
I ran the first event completely stock except 16” sparco wheels and winter tires. After breaking things I needed to make some changes.
I decided to go with a CFM high flow cat to relocate the oxygen sensors to the side and give me some better performance. I considered ORP but I hate the sound and a complete cat delete would put me into the Modified class which I’m not ready for yet.
Before the first event I put in brand new front sway bar links then I read from a user on here that it’s better to disconnect your front sway bar for rallycross because you can get more wheel travel.. which makes a lot of sense. So I removed my brand new links and zip tied my sway bar up and out of the way.
For a little more ride height, I bought some front strut spacers from rallyrs on here which he used in his past rallycrosses. I didn’t want to buy a whole new setup just after putting fresh SVT suspension parts in so this was a good easy fix. While I was down there, I replaced the control arms with new moog arms and ball joints. The old ones were torn up.
Finally most important part was the skid plate! A week before the race I found a friend of a friend who could do some metalworking. We took some measurements and he cut and bent some ľ” aluminum to use. The day before the race we got to mounting it (always comes down to the last minute). Unfortunately we screwed up some of the measurements so the skid plate wouldn't quite clear the header. As a temporary fix I cut out some wooden spacers and added those to the mounting points. Then rivnuts were installed into the frame and the skid plate easily bolted up.
The skid plates I’ve seen online put a bar beneath the radiator support bracket and mount to this. I wanted to do this but we didn’t have the time. Instead, the skid plate comes straight down from the front of the frame and then bends around the radiator support then back to the subframe. If I took a hit hard in the front, the skid plate could potentially bend back into the radiator; however, the skid plate is pretty thick and I doubt with rallycross it’ll be a problem. I’ll do something stronger if I get into stage rally.
Here’s some pics of the skidplate and the skidplate mounted:
Now it’s all ready for race 2!
The event last month was in the low 30s with some snow in the afternoon. This weekend it was in the 80s! Maybe it was the heat making everything dry but this time the gravel felt a lot more loose. So the course got very badly rutted in places.
As everyone who has done autocross and rallycross with their SCCA knows; when you aren't racing, you're working. I somehow was on rake duty for my corner which meant after each car passed I would run over and try to fill the ruts with gravel. Every once in a while corners would get so bad we'd have to get the Bobcat out to try and pave and pack the gravel down.
The car held up really well in the morning runs. The skid plate saved my life quite a bit; the ruts were so bad the car would get air in places and you could hear the car bottom out occasionally and slide on the plate. On my last run of the morning I actually smashed one of the wood spacers for my rear mounting point. However, it was still holding on fine so I left it alone for the afternoon runs. Next time I'll use hockey pucks.
For the SCCA rallycross events you're allowed to take on a passenger so I was giving rides to spectators all day. On my fourth run of the afternoon session a spectator wanted his girlfriend to ride with me. It was her first time ever at a racing event and she hadn't ridden with anyone ever. So naturally I try to impress her... and two corners into the run the car abruptly dies on me.
I safely pull off to the side and get the car started again but then it cuts off again after a few moments. I'm kind of freaking out wondering what's going on. I get a DNF for that run and I'm given 10 minutes to fix any problems before my next run or I'm done for the day. I look for CELs and nothing. Check fluids, obvious connections and everything looks fine. Start the car again and I notice the battery light is on then the car shuts off again. I take off the battery cover again and notice that one of the cables (not the main one) running to the positive battery has sheared off. The previous owner has done some strange stuff to the wiring in this car and those cables have been questionable for a while. Anyways, it's an easy fix and the car is running again. Also the girl isn't too scared and hops back in the car so she can finally have her rallycross experience.
I finish my last two runs and finish with my fastest time of the day by a couple seconds. I beat a lot of the FWD cars in the class above me even with the DNF penalty. I also only hit one cone which is an improvement over my 5 from last time.
Next event in May will be a challenge. A friend came to spectate this event and he’s planning to bring his Focus ST out next time. He’s already done paint protection, suspension changes and working on a skid plate now so there will be some tough competition next month!
My list of changes for next event:
-new skid plate with proper measurements and air holes in the front so the radiator can get more air
-tune from Tom
I’m also getting an LSD but I won’t have it installed in time for the next race. I bought the new Wavetrac LSD which is better for 0% traction and instances where a wheel leaves the ground (which I do a lot of) and it’s on the way now.
I’ve never done transmission work before and will probably get a shop to do the install for me. What other parts should I do while the transmission is out? I’m thinking seals, clutch and lightweight flywheel. Anything else you guys recommend? What brand clutch and flywheel should I get? I don’t plan on doing any more power mods.
I had an beater escort that I rally-x until we killed it, so now i'm back to rally-x my wife's SVT. I put front strut spacer too and a skid plate. both required i think.
I also do TSD rally (aka roadrally) and ice-x
Very nice! I'd love to do a rallycross in the snow but there isn't enough of that where I am.
Wow..those are some great pics!
Car looks excellent.
Glad to hear the spacers seem to be working well for you.
BY FAR more seat time will make the biggest difference in your run times.
Once you get your prep on the car set just run as many events as you can.
I literally didn't miss an event in 2013..my first year that I ran,and it really helped me.
If you can find a practice area that would be good too.
Awesome! I've always wanted to do something like that. My friend has a 200k+ mi BMW 3 series that she wants to sell for a couple hundred. considering using that for a rallycross.
Anyways, this last weekend I've had my 3rd race of the season. Before the race, I did some random maintenance on the car. I found that the poly insert on my vf engineering dogbone mount had cracked most of the way through.
I can't complain much though, I bought it used for $30 so I bought new energy suspension bushings and pressed those in. Also after doing the 67mm throttle body and HFC last month I've been running too lean and burned up my plugs a bit. Replaced those and I finally got a tune from Tom. The car drives completely differently now in a great way. It feels like the power is available a lot sooner than before and some of the random surging and hesitation is gone.
Now on to the race...
There was even less competition for FWD this time but I did have a new car in my class, an 87 Dodge Daytona.
It had the 2.2 turbocharged engine... but it's also 25 years old and it's lost some of that power over the years. There were also a couple civics as usual but in the Modified class above me. There were around 40 entries total but again, 80% were Subarus and maybe 5 or so old BMWs.
Morning runs went pretty smoothly as I got back in the groove of things. I practiced some left foot braking with varying results but I just gotta keep at it. It also seems really difficult to heel toe in the SVT, the pedal placement isn't great or maybe I just can't get my feet to cooperate. The morning session ended with me about 15 seconds ahead of the Daytona.
Afternoon session was a new course layout and probably the fastest the DC region rallycross has ever done. Since the corners were getting badly rutted in the gravel the course designers made a longer course with a lot of slaloms and less tight turns. On the second run I was taking it a bit too quick and started to lose my back end, tried to correct... overcorrected and swapped the other way. Went back and forth then lost it completely and spun out doing a 180. I tried to get going again but took too long so I got red flagged giving me a DNF for the run. Pretty embarassing but the course workers said it was awesome to watch. The DNF penalty is the slowest time in your class for that run + 15 seconds. I learned my lesson from that incident and the rest of the runs went very well. Only problem I had was on a horseshoe where I could swing my rear end out enough and slide around the turn but then I'd hit the really loose gravel and just spin tires through first and second. I'm hoping an LSD will help a bit with my traction problems.
For the whole day we had 14 runs total. My times weren't consistent... but that will come with practice. Near the end of the day, I had one random run with a time couple seconds faster than my rest. I was quite pleased since my time was right up there with the MR and MF guys but I couldn't get that time again. Also, first place and in the end I beat the second place Daytona by 70 seconds even with the DNF penalty! The SVT did extremely well on the faster course.
I completed graduate school recently and my graduation presents to myself arrived:
So my plan for next race is to get the clutch and diff installed (a forum member is helping me out with that, I've never done transmission work before) and finish installing my wideband sensor. Tom recommended I install one so he can more accurately adjust the AF ratio.
I'm also thinking I need to make some suspension changes... The car can get a little bouncy in the ruts and I still bottom out quite a bit. I'm running the stock SVT suspension with the spacers so I'm thinking maybe just putting in a stiffer spring for now? Maybe changing out the struts completely and getting KYB AGX. I think the stiffer spring with same ride height might be a custom order, there aren't too many options for the Focus.
Doing well & having fun - makes for good reading.
Bouncin' sounds like the shocks aren't up to Rally X, whatever you can afford for an upgrade within the class rules would help.
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