My “AHA!” LSD Experience in a Focus ST

Street Racing Made Safe is one of my favorite local autocross groups here in South Florida. It’s a relaxed group that holds their events at local go kart tracks and usually get at least 10 timed runs and fun runs in the afternoon. These events provide a great chance to test new techniques and adjustments.

I brought my Focus RS and a buddy of mine from the local ST/RS club brought his prepped SM class Focus ST. We had both been looking forward to this event because we had agreed to swap cars and experience something new. For me, a full bolt-on FWD Focus ST and for my friend, a mostly stock Focus RS. 

After we both had 6 runs in our own cars, we decided it was time we switched cars. It was then, that I quickly realized I had honed my driving style to an AWD drivetrain. My first run was just wheel spin and understeer city. Population: me. I was trying to power out of the corners too soon and trying to cut corners too close as if I was back in the RS relying on the all-wheel drive power to pull me through corners. 

In the second run with the ST I made some important adjustments. I knew where and what I needed to change in my driving. It was turn 2, coming out of a fast three cone slalom into a right hand 90 degree turn. This was where I made most of my mistakes in the previous run. This time, I started the turn a bit wider and tracked out a bit more to maintain more grip and speed. This was a big improvement from my previous run where I was spinning wheels mid-corner, understeering and fighting torque steer on the way out of the corner. Using that corner as an example, I applied similar techniques during the rest of the course. I managed to beat my previous run by 1 second and my best time in the RS by 2 tenths of a second!

Although my friend’s Focus ST was modified to be in a faster class, there were a few key modifications and set up that I believe that set it apart from my BS spec’d Focus RS and they all attribute to grip.

I managed to beat my previous run by 1 second and my best time in the RS by 2 tenths of a second!

Swaybars. My friend took full advantage of installing front and rear swaybars. Whereas in my RS I regretfully have installed a rear swaybar instead of the front. This stiffened up the rear of the car too much and caused me to loose some grip and power to the wheels in sharp turns or slaloms by putting one rear wheel in the air. I don’t notice it while driving, but everyone shares pictures of me on three wheels instead of all four.

Camber. The Focus RS comes stock without much room for adjustment more negative camber. Some owners had some luck getting about -1.6 degrees of camber in the front with the stock adjusting bolts. I haven’t touched mine, so I’d be happy to find out if I have any negative camber. My friend’s ST had some camber plates installed and setup with -3 degrees of camber in the front. His car was able to grip and maintain more speed through the corners. 

Tires. Of course it all comes down to tires. I play around with tire pressure and have found that dropping about 8psi from Ford’s stock recommendations seems to be optimal for my Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Yet, I’m sometimes too aggressive and still end up rolling over the sidewalls. I know it’s not the best tire for street class, but my living situation only allows for one set of tires in my life. So compared that to my friend’s ST equipped with Falken Azenis 615 tires, I was unable to get sidewall roll over due to its stiffer sidewalls.

Although I made adjustments to my driving style to improve my course times, I also discovered some key points that could be optimized and while staying in Street class. I can get a stiffer front swaybar or just disconnect the rear swaybar, try to get the most negative camber possible with stock tolerances, and get some stiffer sidewall tires.

It was this memorable autocross where I experienced the noticeable differences first hand why set up for grip is important. Not just car setup or modifications, but setting myself up mentally for grip. In my case, adjusting my driving style for FWD as opposed to my conditioned driving for AWD.

My Focus RS Needs a Change in Suspension Set Up | Porsche Club of America Autocross Impressions

I discovered the strengths and weaknesses of my suspension setup in my Ford Focus RS.

October 13, 2018 I headed to the BB&T Center for another autocross with the Porsche Club of America – Gold Coast region. Once again I am out there to exercise my driving skills and test the setup on my 2016 Ford Focus RS. This time around, I kept the DSC controller in my car paired up with my Steeda adjustable rear sway bar and stage 1 93 octane tune by Tune+. I decided to run with the tune this time, as I was competing against some friends in the Non-Porsche class instead of my normal B Street SCCA classing (remember kids, cheaters never win).

This time around, I’m running against 15 other competitors including a top local driver piloting a Honda S2000 CR. In the Non-Porsche class, I came 2nd to the S2000 CR and beating a raw time of another competitor in a BMW Z4 M Coupé, that I am always 2 seconds behind in most of the local autocross events. Part of my success I attribute to the course setup, the RS’s GKN Twinster torque vectoring system, and the freshly repaved parking lot that left it a bit greasy.

Don’t let my advantages let you think that I dusted the competition. I was still +2.572 seconds behind the S2000, CR and had a prepped CAMC S197 Mustang nipping at my heels by +0.089 seconds. The BMW Z4 M Coupé fell behind to me by +.358 seconds, as a result of some slipping around and spinning out on one of his runs. These results made me want to look a little bit harder at my setup and driving style.

Reports of onlookers and corner workers were telling of the stiff rear suspension again. I was still in Tri-pod Mode. The car is three-wheeling into hard turns. Some could argue that this is a good thing for cars needing front end traction into turns to help relieve understeer and gain grip to speed out of turns. While that mostly applies to front wheel drive cars, I’m doing a disservice to the engineers at GKN by not letting the torque vectoring give grip to all 4 corners of the car. Sure, the AWD system is smart enough to send more power to the other wheels, but more grip = more power and faster times. This brings me to my conclusion about my setup.

My Ford Focus RS is too stiff in the rear. I will have to set the rear bar to the soft setting, or sell it and just get a stiffer front sway bar. If I decide to still keep with the rear bar, I will probably have to adjust the track settings on the DSC Controller so stiffen up the front even more (if it’s even possible) in Sport mode for autocross. Soft will be more forgiving to the rear and let the Twinster system manage the rear power more. I think the track mode should still be reserved for the higher speed sweepers and higher speed corners that a road course can provide.

 

DSC Sport Controller Autocross Comparison #2: Different Yet the Same

On September 23, 2018 I went to my local autocross club (ERSCC) event. Not completely convinced with my results from my last time autocross testing the DSC Controller for my 2016 Focus RS, I decided to keep control testing the stock controller vs the DSC Sport suspension controller. The results I got this round was similar and different at the same time. Contradictory, I know, but let me explain.

I changed up my testing variation this time around. I started with the DSC controller installed in my car on the first run and then alternated to the stock controller, opposite of what I did last time. We also changed locations of the BB&T Center parking lot that is normally used for autocross. For this event we ran on a different lot, less beat up with less undulations that our club was normally accustomed to here.

So here’s the timed results:

Run 1 (stock) Run 2 (DSC) Run 3 (DSC) Run 4 (stock) Run 5 (DSC) Run 6 (stock)
51.415 DNF 47.343 47.754 49.217(1) 46.300

I alternated controllers from stock to DSC this time. On Run 2, we had some timing difficulties and got a re-run for Run 3, which is why the DSC was used twice in a row. Run 5 I encountered a cone penalty which added 2 seconds to my time, which potentially gave me the best time with the DSC controller.

I received some feed back from friends and other spotters on the course near the beginning of the slalom stating that I entered “Tri-pod Mode”.

tripod

The car was three-wheeling during the transition from a left hand sweeper into the longer slalom on the course. This is normal during these types of transitions on an autocross course, especially with front wheel drive type vehicles, but I think this was also more pronounced due to the Steeda adjustable rear sway bar I have installed.

Let’s get back to results. So my results were the same as my first autocross test with the suspension controllers, that my lap times improved fairly consistently (ignoring the cone penalties). This time, I didn’t get to have 3 runs on each controller, but the best time I received was paired with the stock controller. I’d have to say that this, was probably more of a result of my amateur level of autocross driving, because each run I noticed I was slower in different corners of the course. I’ll have to concentrate on improving one section at a time for the next time I’m out there. Overall I’m still not convinced that handling is decreased with the DSC Controller as others on the FocusRS.org forum claim.

I’ll have another chance to review and compare again this weekend at two different Autocross events. Let’s see if the results will remain different, yet the same.

DSC Sport Module Worth it for your Focus RS?

I finally had the chance to take and test the DSC Sport Module for my 2016 Focus RS at my local autocross.

IMG_20180429_101741.jpg
Although I don’t tout myself as the fastest or the most experienced autocross driver out there, I can hold my own and consistently take the upper 25% in PAX standings. (more about PAX)
I wanted to see what kind of benefits the DSC Sport Module have for the stock dampers for the Focus RS to make it more active damping based on the car’s ECU inputs for G-force, braking, etc.

I used a similar technique that I heard on a car podcast with some auto journalists sharing how they test performance parts and changes on cars. I did a on/off replacement of the stock control module and swapped with the DSC Module every other run, starting with the stock module. The autocross group I run with, ERSCC, allowed us to drive six runs for that day’s session.

The placement of the control module in the Focus RS isn’t in a bad spot to remove and replace. It takes a matter of seconds for me to swap parts due to the fact I already have my interior bits unscrewed and just need to pry apart and snap it back together in the hatch area.

The course was a pretty fast one, integrated with two 180 turns, and two slaloms(one short 3 cone, and a longer 6 cone pass). The average time was between 40-41 seconds between all the drivers that day. The parking lot we ran on is known to all the local autcross clubs to have dips, expansion cracks, inclines, declines, sandy debris, and pebbles all over. It makes these courses interesting to see how one deals with weight transfer through all the corner transitions, which I think is great for testing out the DSC control module on my Focus RS. Anyways, on to the good stuff, the data.

For all of the runs I ran the car in Track Mode, ESC off, and Sport mode for the dampers. The Focus RS was running 18×8″ OZ Racing Omnia Wheels with Yokohama ADVAN A13C 245/40/18. Here are the results:
Run 1 (stock) : 42.423s
Run 2 (DSC) : 42.277s
Run 3 (stock) : 41.846s
Run 4 (DSC) : 41.792s
Run 5 (stock) : 40.259s Video
Run 6 (DSC) : 39.916s Video

As you can see, I wasn’t very consistent with the elapsed time for each run, but consistent with improving my times as I learned to manage the course after every sequential run. So in this case, I’ll break down the improvement times for each run with their respective part installed: Stock vs DSC comparing the first with the second, and the second with the third run respectively (run 1/run, run 3/run 5 and run 2/run 4, run 4/run 6)

Stock time decrease
Run 1 and Run 3: 0.577s
Run 3 and Run 5: 1.587s

DSC
Run 2 and Run 4: 0.485s
Run 4 and Run 6: 1.876s

The data isn’t very conclusive, but again, shows some sort of consistency. Comparing the delta of the first two runs with the stock module vs the DSC module show a half second of difference between the two. Continuing the trend, comparing the second set of times show an improvement of at least 1.5 seconds but a little bit more for the DSC. That last delta for the DSC module, I believe shows more my driving adjustments to the course and also going “balls out” for the last run rather than any changes to the module.

I honestly didn’t notice too much of a difference in my inputs of the suspension, as I was concentrating more on getting a more smooth run to make up time in the slaloms and try to beat some of the fastest and more experienced drivers in the club.

So, in conclusion, I have no conclusive evidence, except I need to learn how to drive in autocross courses better. haha.
But really, I think for the limitations of the stock dampers for variance in change is what is really holding back this module to becoming a huge improvement for performance applications, but for daily driving use, I believe in my experience has shown much improvement.

DSC Sport Controller: 1800 Mile Impression

I have just spent 1800 miles on this controller over the past week since I received it and installed it. I’ve driven through various terrains from well paved highways to unpaved twisty mountain roads to cobble stone streets.

SmokeyMountain_dsc
I was skeptical at first when I plugged it in. Initially, I was expecting to get some placebo/fake validation on the $1200 I spent on a plastic box in the trunk. I drove on the road with the bumps. It felt exactly the same. I drove in the neighborhood with speed humps. It felt no different. but about 30 min later, I was driving back home and reached a low speed right hand turn that has a road sign suggested to take at 20mph, where I took it a bit faster normally everyday. It was right then where I felt the difference. It was this low speed turn where I noticed the planted-ness of the car (not a real word, I know). This makes me think that the statement of the oil in the dampers needed to “warm up” holds true. Any pogo feeling or skipping that I think some owners have experienced seem to be gone.

Although the suspension felt good and I was feeling a bit better on selling some early crypto gains to get this electronic suspension tuning box, I wasn’t 100% convinced. I figured I’d notice more with more miles. The rest of the 1800 miles I’ve spent included a road trip from S. Florida to North Carolina with majority of it on normal mode.

I’ve driven in the streets of the oldest city in the U.S. where you wouldn’t expect the most wonderful streets. The cobble stone was still rough but better than I would have expected, but I really can’t say DSC did it’s job since I was going about 15mph.

Rough highways with uneven pavement was as expected. I finally got some more fun with on/off ramps because S. FL is devoid of any fun cloverleaf interchanges. I enjoyed these much more and felt more confident at higher speeds than the on small ones I get to drive at 60mph max.

Paved and unpaved mountain roads of North Carolina were fun. Transitions from left to right on curves, switchbacks felt great with much grip. The unpaved roads of the Cataloochee valley on normal mode seemed fine. I truly can not imagine how it would have been with out the active damping.

Some overall notes and things I also noticed:
I’m one of those folks who didn’t complain about the ride quality for DDing, but I later noticed I’ve been blessed with commutes with very decent roads.

I’ve taken the RS on a road trip before and managed to wake my wife up on the rough parts of the highway or construction. This time, she slept through continuously through similar conditions until I had to brake more suddenly when we reached traffic and even then she apologized thinking she woke up from her snoring.

Although it is agreed that the stock sport suspension is unusable in most conditions, I like it as a gimmick laugh mode and was scared I would loose that with the DSC installed. I have switched back and forth to see if I would get that sensation and noticed on some roads it was no longer the silly party trick and was more improved when at higher speeds >50mph. Although, I was driving on SR 202 East to Jacksonville Beach and noticed the rough bumpy road in normal mode and decided to see if sport suspension would bring back that laughable suspension feeling back, it did. I guess on some roads, the stock dampers and DSC just can’t handle it, not that Sport would have been the mode of choice for the road anyhow.

Thinking back to one of my original road trips, I did feel a bit that the stock suspension felt over damped but was able to brush it off despite the complaints from the wife. This time I didn’t notice it as much while driving on some bumpy highways.

I can’t wait to get this on autocross. Unfortunately this might make my car faster, but not make me a better driver. I’m thinking that this controller will punish me much less for bad braking, racing lines and upsetting the car’s balance around corners. It feels like there will be more grip for me in the future.

After owning the RS and over damping my adjustable Konis in previous cars, I don’t think I could get another sports car without active dampers. I really like knowing that these dampers can still be tuned. I can’t imagine what this controller can do when tuned to the Tractive dampers with better tolerances (or any aftermarket adaptive dampers) vs the stock Tenneco ones.

I’m running 18×8 OZ Racing Omnia on Yokohama ADVAN A13C 240/35
Stock suspension at 21k miles
I’m comparing my stock suspension experience with 2 track days, and a full season of Autocross on bumpy parking lots that corvettes fear.

TLDR;
I was skeptical at first with the DSC controller and after 1800 miles later on various roads, I’m very happy with it and think it’s a great first suspension mod for those lazy/inept/with fat wallets to do on their stock RS to improve ride quality and more grip on less than ideal road surfaces.

Got the Focus RS back and it smells like a new cat

So I picked up my RS from Metro Ford in Miami. Please, if you need to service your Ford, don’t go there. Let me tell you about my experience.

First off I drove to the dealer and noticed a nitrous blue RS waiting to get serviced right before me. I saw the owner right away because he was eyeing my car as soon as I pulled in. I got out of my car and ended up talking to him right before walking in the door. My soon to be new friend, let’s call him Zeke, was trying to warn me about this dealer. I listened to his story about how they were to do some warranty work replacing his PTU seal and received his car with scratches on the door, dirty seats, and flywheel chatter as if he got an update to a diesel tractor. He was there to see if they ever got an not engineer from Ford to take a look at it. But it seems that Metro Ford was less than helpful in that aspect.

I was a bit worried. But wanted to still use this dealer for my replacement catalytic converter. I mean it’s just a remove and replace of an exhaust piece, right? Also this is the closest dealer to my house and my normal dealer I go to is 50 min away near my old job where I no longer work.

I decided to go inside and talk to the service advisor anyway. She couldn’t tell me how long it would take, which is fine, but she couldn’t tell me when they would look at the car or an estimate of how long it would take to diagnose the error code. Ok, you guys are busy, but I just wanted to know if I should bring it back another time, of get a loner car. Nope. No loner car it an idea of time to when they would look at my car. Just leave my car and maybe I’ll get it back.

Whatever.

I ended up talking to my new friend Zeke for a couple hours in the parking lot about cars. It so happens we have a bunch of connections to each other that we didn’t know about. He offered to give me a ride back to my place since he happened to live near me.

4 no answers, 2 messages, and 4 days later, I finally get a call. We just ordered the new catalytic converter and should be arriving the next day. I asked how long it would take to install, she still had no clue.

Of course not. And still no offer for a loner car. I asked, and she said, of you should have it soon. Wtf?

The following week, I call. No answer. Left a message. No call back. Thursday arrives. She calls and tells me they can’t install it because they need their “tranny guy”. Either their main tech is non gender or the first tech is just incompetent. She proceeded to tell me that they need to drop the trans to get to the catalytic converter. They need only one more day. She finally offered a rental for me.

Friday comes, I call and the service advisor tells me that it should be done the following week.

Really? But no commitments when it would be done. Of course. Is this a cable guy where it would be done between the days of 3-1 month? For a catalytic converter replacement?

Of course, Tuesday comes and it’s finally done.

So I returned my fancy red Focus SE back to Enterprise and got my ride back up the dealer.

Up until this point I’ve been worried after the story that Zeke told me about his car getting serviced at this dealer. I didn’t want them to touch my transmission and fuck up my car. I still have a head gasket to worry about.

I look at my car. I walk around it, looking for scratches or missing panels. It seemed fine. I get into the car and take a deep breath and start it.

It sounds normal. I push in the clutch. No change in noises. No chatter from the fly wheel. Thank goodness.

I drive off. Boy I forgot what it’s like to drive there RS! I smiled like it was the first time driving it off the dealer when I first purchased it. Check the clutch, everything is good.

As I get home I notice that I smelled something familiar. Like a burning smell, but not alarming. I remembered it was the smells from when I first got the RS. I was breaking in the catalytic converter.

The smell of a new cat.