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.

Advertisements

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.