It’s often quoted in racing that weight is the enemy of performance. There are even online calculators that help you estimate your quarter mile times based on horsepower and weight of the vehicle. In these perfectly calculated scenarios a reduction of 100 pounds will equate to lowering your time slip by a tenth of a second.
However, when facing a parking lot full of cones or a road course chalked with red and white curbs on each apex, the need for chassis stiffening plays a larger part than just shedding weight. Since the modus operandi of the Focus ST and RS is to handle corners with neck-breaking agility, it would make sense to continue down that path when installing aftermarket products.
The Focus ST And RS
If you’re an owner of a Focus ST or RS there is a good chance you purchased the car hoping to utilize the handling characteristics that the hot hatch provides. Or, maybe you watched a few episodes of the legendary Ken Block showcasing his driving skills behind the wheel of a 600-horsepower Ford Focus RS RX. These assumptions would not be shocking, as the Focus comes from a lineage of rally-based motorsports that rely on handling rather than outright horsepower numbers. Although these two-letter suffix sporty cars are cut from the same Blue Oval cloth, they have distinct differences that can primarily be found in their drivetrain.
The Sports Technologies (ST) package forms its identity around a lighter weight front-wheel-drive configuration. The Rallye Sport (RS) provides an all-wheel-drive experience and boasts higher horsepower that quickly mimics the days when Ford raced in World Rally Championship (WRC) and in primarily European-based series.
In today’s world, the Focus ST and RS provide not only a fantastic commuter vehicle, but both combine street manners with tarmac-gripping abilities and are paired to a turbocharged EcoBoost engine that makes between 250 and 350 horsepower in stock form between the two variants. It’s not a bad combination for those looking to put their quick reflexes and driving skills to the test in open parking lots across America within the autocross spectrum.
Putting A Focus On The Focus
Although Ford did a magnificent job of designing these sporty hatches that are sprinkled with trickle-down technology from years of racing, there are limiting factors that prevent Ford from making each mass-produced version into a track-prepped weapon. This means there are still key points where the chassis can be enhanced through stiffening and intelligent weight reduction.
While weight reduction remains a key search on most forums, the unfortunate truth is that most are nearsighted and can provide adverse side effects, ranging from reduced safety to reduced chassis rigidity. Not to mention, most owners are not willing to strip the car and suffer through a drive to work during the week. This is where Team Z Motorsports has stepped in to provide more than just a diet plan for owners of the Ford Focus ST and RS with a line of products that bolster the Focus’ handling, on-track predictability, and even shave weight in some cases.
For the Focus owner who is not accustomed to seeing the Team Z name, it might be because the brand has been built around the drag racing community. For decades Team Z has provided quality fabrication geared to the world of Fox Body Mustangs with straight-line racing solutions in regards to weight savings, chassis stiffening, and suspension setups.
The company has since expanded its operations to other chassis, including the bow-tie variety as well as modern Mustangs. However, the majority of the Team Z products still revolved around the drag strip. That has now changed, as the company has started fabricating select chassis components to elevate the mannerisms of the turbocharged Ford Focus ST and RS on track, with products that cater to handling corner speed, torque steer, and wheel hop. And for those weight-weenies, they even offer weight saving products, as well.
Although Team Z has been a drag-centric company for years, they have already started the first stage of helping Focus owners attain corner predictability with a set of strut tower braces. These strut tower braces have mounting brackets that are machined and TIG-welded 4130 chromoly tubing. The braces are then powder-coated in-house to ensure years of usage in harsh elements.
The combination of TIG welding and 4130 chromoly offers a weight savings when compared to traditional mild steel due to it’s increased strength. The strut tower braces also increase the chassis stiffness and also equalizes the load distributed between the suspension from passenger to driver’s side. This helps suspension components wear evenly and drive down the cost of replacement over time. While each side of the suspension is constructed from the same material, uneven wear can cause unpredictable handling and, in return, negatively impact the driving experience.
Stop The Hop
Team Z did not stop at the strut tower braces though, they have also created a solution to prevent the notorious wheel hop and torque steer found in the Focus ST and RS. While most owners have tried to mitigate these circumstances through clutch release techniques, Team Z eliminates the need for crafty foot work with its anti-wheel hop/traction brace.
The anti-wheel hop/traction brace reduces these problems by bracing the left and right A-arms together. The signature 4130 chromoly tubing provides a stiff connection, and once again the products are powder-coated to handle years of road conditions causing deterioration. This will allow drivers to not only launch harder off the line, but also utilize the turbocharged engine’s power in exiting corners without having to worry about torque steer pushing the car off course.
Elevating The Focus
While the turbocharged engine provides the Focus ST and RS with a great powerband and the chassis setup from the factory allows the power to be planted on the pavement, we’re glad to see Team Z stepping in to elevate the Focus’ on-track prowess with quality fabricated components.
The Focus ST and RS will continue to remain a staple in autocross and road racing, so it’s nice to have options when it comes time to upgrade. We hope Team Z takes what they’ve done in the drag racing market and creates even more serious track-oriented products for owners of the Focus. Just as long as your scribe gets a ride at one point!