SEMA 2017: Focus RS Drift Stick Makes Hooning Easy

As we know, the modern Focus RS is the hottest hatch in the Ford Performance lineup. Sporting 350 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and a host of driving modes, this little road rocket is an absolute blast. How could you possibly make it more fun you might ask? By turning up the fun factor to 11 with the Ford Performance Drift Stick!

With this, you flip the handle and — boom — the big angle is already there. — John Wicks, Ford Performance

A bolt-on, plug-in upgrade for the 2016-2017 Focus RS, the drift stick is far more than a soft-touch hydraulic emergency brake like the pros use. Instead, this is a fully digital handle that interfaces with the factory anti-lock brake module to bring on-demand angle to the masses.

The Ford Performance Drift Stick installs over the factory e-brake handle and mounts to the seat track using existing holes. The robust billet aluminum handle can hold up 500 pounds of force. It features 6 degrees of travel and pulling it back releases the front switch and puling it back engages the rear switch, which locks the rear brakes and starts the desired drift and prevents the engine from stalling be electronically releasing the clutches in the drivetrain.

“What’s nice about it is if you go into a corner and stand on it, drop the throttle and stand on it again, you can get that big angle,” Ford Performance engineer John Wicks said. “With this, you flip the handle and — boom — the big angle is already there. That’s the cool part. It may even cut down on tire wear because you don’t have to progress into it.”

What separates the Ford Performance Drift Stick from its hydraulic cousins is a pure digital interface. The same company that created the ProCal handheld tuner Ford Performance uses to deploy its performance PCM calibrations developed the microprocessor inside the stick. It not only interfaces with the ABS module, but it could be used to flash a PCM calibration as well, which opens up some exciting bundle possibilities in the future.

The Drift Stick installs in place of the leather cover on the factory emergency-brake handle and mounts to the seat bracket using existing holes which provide a base for the quick release ball stud, which can be adjusted to cancel out any vibrations. Moreover, the ball can be popped off so the stock e-brake can function properly.

Once installed, the stick interfaces with the ABS module via a cable that plugs into the factory OBD-II port. Once it is connected to the CAN bus with this connection, the ABS calibration can be flashed using a PC, ProCal software and a micro USB cable.

Spearheaded by Ford Performance engineer John Wicks — who knows a bit about sliding around in a circle-track racer — the Drift Stick is a prime example of an enthusiast engineer taking advantage of modern technology to create a product that delivers high-level performance to consumers. Way to go, John!

With the hardware and software in place, the Drift Stick can only be used under specific circumstances, which prevent it from being accidentally engaged.

“It only works in Drift Mode with ESC off,” John explained. “And, it will work between 3 and 70 mph.”

The Drift Stick mounts to the factory seat track using existing holes to anchor an adjustable ball stud. The stick slides onto the factory parking brake in place of the leather handle cover and the stud keeps the front stable. Built into the base is a flash tuner that rewrites the ABS module code to properly take advantage of the Drift Stick inputs.

So, you put your Focus in Drift Mode, hold the ESC button down for 5 seconds to disable the stability control and you are ready to take the Focus RS fun up to 11. Get up to speed cut the wheel, yank the stick, and slay those tires. Sounds like our idea of a good time and because of its computerized assistance it doesn’t require the car-control skills that Ken Block and Vaughn Gittin Jr. — who were both consulted on the development of the Drift Stick — have honed with years of experience.

The stick will be available for just shy of $1,000 and looks like the ultimate accessory for thrill-seeking Focus RS owners.

The Drift Stick looks right at home inside the Focus RS. Though it attaches to the factory parking-brake handle, the latter is still functional and the additional stick allows for a full range of seat adjustments. In use, the stick only requires a light tug and can be used alone or in trail braking so long as you engage the brakes first. Otherwise a strong push of the brakes will override the stick’s functionality to err toward safety.

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About the author

Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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