Archive for July, 2009

EcoBoost Fiesta?

 

            With all the talk about Ford’s new EcoBoost engines, the question always arises about the Fiesta. Over and over again I get asked “Will the Fiesta get an EcoBoost engine?” I even ask myself the question, and try to read into the press releases for clues. Over the past few months I have fallen in love with the Fiesta, and I find the 1.6L fun to drive around town. However, a little bit more power and the sound of a turbo under the hood sounds like even more fun. I have even thought about settling on the Dual-Stage Clutch transmission if it means getting the EcoBoost engine. Over the past 14 years, I have never owned a forced induction car, and I think it is time to change. I really don’t want a supercharged engine since they add more weight and take power to run. A turbo uses exhaust gases, and doesn’t take power to turn the impeller. Watching the Fiesta Rally cars take on Pikes Peak gets me even more excited for a turbo engine.

            This turbo question leaves me in a state of confusion about what to do when the Fiesta is released next spring. Do I be the first one in town to order a new Fiesta, or do I wait a year or more to see if a performance model comes out? Back in 1999, I was the first one in town to get a Focus ZX3. I loved the car until I went to SVT and was told that there was a special Focus coming out. Hmmm, I should have waited because I really wanted a Sonic Blue SVT Focus instead. No sense in trading in the ZX3 since its value dropped to nothing after a few years. My dad ran into the same issue in 1993 when he ordered his 1994 Mustang GT. After he took delivery of the car, he found out a Cobra model was in the pipe line. Again, he wanted the car that came out later. He considered selling the GT for the Cobra, but waited as rumors about a removable hard-top Cobra surfaced. In the end, he kept the GT since its value dropped to a point where it wasn’t worth selling it for a Cobra and the removable hardtop really never materialized. Should I buy a Fiesta right away and just be happy with the normally aspirated 1.6L, or wait for the performance model with the EcoBoost engine? Sadly, there are no confirmed plans for either a performance model or a forced induction model.

            If I wait until 2011 for a turbo Fiesta, I probably should just wait to see what the new Focus will looks like. The Iosis concept seems to show the new Focus looking like a slightly larger Fiesta, and will have the EcoBoost engine at model launch. The design of the Fiesta is outstanding, and I am still terrified that the US version won’t be nearly as good looking as the European model. If Ford applies the same Kinetic Design to the Focus, it will return to the good looking compact that it was in 2000-2004. The bad thing about the Focus is that it is getting bigger, and I don’t want a bigger car. The Fiesta is almost exactly what I want, just needing a performance version that looks and acts differently than the normal person’s Fiesta. The NA 1.6L is great for daily commuting, and it is a really fun engine to live with. Where is suffers is on track or autocrossing, which is where the EcoBoost engine would add the extra oomph the car needs.

            My dilemma to either wait for the possible performance model or to buy a Fiesta right away is same issue I hear from other enthusiasts. They drive my Fiesta and love the car, but really want something like a SVT version. Many of us want a Fiesta that has more performance inspired components such as the aero package, turbocharged engine, and larger brakes. Those types of functional pieces match the lifestyle of someone who competes with their car on weekends. We want a Fiesta that stands out from the rest of the Fiesta’s, but has parts that really work and are not just a lame attempt as a sport model. With no confirmed information concerning the EcoBoost engines or a possible performance model, I am left scratching my head on what to do. I had a chance to sell my SVT Focus for a very nice price, but decided not to since I have no idea what is actually coming for the US Fiesta. Who knows, the US car may be changed so far from the European model that not even a turbo could save it. Fat chrome bars running across the grille, cheap plastic interior, and fake fender vents could all make their way onto the US version. Don’t believe me? Google 2007 Ford Focus North America and 2007 Ford Focus Europe and see for yourself. Yeah, if the Fiesta gets botched the same way the Focus did, no EcoBoost engine could fix it.

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Fiesta Service Appointment

I took the Fiesta into the local dealer for her scheduled oil change and tire rotation. Since I ran over a large bolt last week and wrecked a tire, they were going to fix that as well. At the end of the day on Tuesday, the car is finally ready for me to pick up. I have been going through Fiesta withdrawal since I have not driven the car since last Thursday when the tire was punctured. Sara gives me a ride to the dealership; I jump in the Fiesta, and take off because I have another appointment. Once I get the car into the sunlight, I realize that the driver’s side floor mat is covered with large foot prints and are very dirty with oil dry. The door trim panel and driver’s side rocker panel are also full of dirt and scrape marks. I get to my destination and look around the outside of the car. Greasy hand prints on the door handles, on the A and B-pillars, and more grease on the front fenders. The wheel with the flat tire was full of grease and marks from the tire being mounted. Every time I bring my car in for service, I have to spend the night cleaning it! The car was a little dirty on the outside since it got rained on last week, and then was parked with the damaged tire for a few days while I was out of town. I was kind of hoping to get the car back clean, as some of the other agents have been getting their cars back. Instead, mine comes back even dirtier than I dropped it off. This has been the same issue I have had for the past 9 years when I take my car in for service, it always comes back a mess. I just hope they put the correct oil in the Fiesta, as they put the wrong stuff in our Escape a few weeks ago. Does good service exist anywhere?

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Post Autocross Interview with Curt Rosenstengel

 

Earlier this month, Brandon and I competed in a Furrin Group autocross with the Ford Fiesta. To gain some more feedback about how the Fiesta handles the course, we asked Curt Rosenstengel to jump in and take the car around the track. Curt is the autocross organizer for the Furrin Group, and has 10 years of experience in autocrossing. Here is the exclusive interview with Curt.

 

Bryan: What is your first reaction upon seeing a Fiesta in person?

Curt: Nice looking body style.  I’ve always liked the hatchback body style.

Small, but sporty looking.   Are these smaller than the current Ford

Focus?   The five door makes it easy to put two dog crates in the

back :-).

 

Bryan: What do you think of the interior, seats, ect? Were you comfortable in  the car?

Curt: The seats were great.   A nice flat black leather with accent color

stitching.  Very comfortable.   Gauges were easy to read, I like the

orange color.  Easy on the eyes.   I didn’t try the HVAC or radio

controls.

 

Bryan: Anything you did not like or wish was different?

Curt: I don’t like the key fob thing or push button start.   I’m a

traditionalist.

 

Bryan: How long have you been autocrossing?

Curt: I’ve been autocrossing for over 10 years.  Road rallying for almost 20.

 

Bryan: In comparison to other cars you have autocrossed, how did the Fiesta

stack up?

Curt: Slower.  It needs more get up and go.  Hopefully, there will be some go fast

aftermarket parts available.

 

Bryan: What is your impression of the handing of the Fiesta on course? Steering, gear shifts, brakes, ect how did they feel to you?

Curt: The steering was precise and the handling predictable.   It was very easy

to drive the course.  The gear shift placement was comfortable, but I didn’t

change gears throughout the course.  The brakes were good, but

I didn’t really push them.   Had to make sure I didn’t kick in the

traction control.

 

 

Bryan: Where you happy with the 1.6L DOHC engine?

Curt: It seemed like a decent engine.  More power would be good and for

autocrossing, a lower torque band.  I should have taken a closer look

at the engine compartment.   I am still one of those guys who likes to

do most of the maintenance myself.   Even if plugs last 100K miles, and

oil changes are longer intervals, the more maintenance I can do, the

more money I can save for upgrades.   Being able to replace a starter

or alternator without removing a lot of parts is important to me (I keep my

cars for 200K+ miles).  Compared to my 2000 VW Golf, it was very similar in

feel and pickup.

 

Bryan: Anything you would want changed for the US version?

Curt: A real ignition key (you can also have the start button :-).

 

Bryan: Did the Fiesta live up to your expectations? What are your thoughts about the Fiesta as an entire package after driving one?

Curt: I had one of the original Fiesta’s back in the early 80’s.   I enjoyed

that car, it was peppy, and fun to drive (and it had a 1.6L engine, as

well).  That car was very stripped down compared to today’s cars;

roll-up windows, 4-speed stick, basic interior, etc.   This new car

has all the bells and whistles that today’s consumer wants in a

car.   A much different direction than the previous model.  I like the

sporty look and that itself will attract younger buyers who would have

bought a Korean based car (similar styling).  It was fun to drive and

comfortable to drive, but it needs more oomph to be an autocross car.

 

For more information about autocrossing or solo racing, please check out www.furrin.org or www.scca.org. Thanks again to everyone at the Furrin Group and Curt for taking the time to organize the autocross events!

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Fiesta Aftermarket Parts

Over the weekend, I was dreaming again about what kind of parts I would like to see from the aftermarket. Many of us modify our cars in attempts to either make them look unique, to gain more performance, or just because we enjoy tinkering with everything. While the Fiesta is very unique, I am still going to want something different to make sure my car is different from everyone else’s car. Everything I have owned has my own look to it, and the Fiesta will be the same way. I already have a set of white 5-spoke 17″ wheels for my Fiesta. Since they were custom made for me, I know I will have the only Fiesta with them. My car will need more than just wheels to set it apart, it needs some parts that work to improve the performance aspects. Many of the parts listed are based on function, rather than form. I don’t need wild body kits, 4″ exhaust tips, seat covers, and NOS stickers. I need parts that work.

 

Here is the list of potential aftermarket components for the Fiesta;

 

Short Throw Shifter: One of the more popular modifications to the Fiesta will most likely be the addition of a short throw shifter. When I have people drive the Fiesta that are used to modified compacts or sports cars, they always mention that the shifter throws are long and lack feeling when the car goes into gear. Rapid shifts with the stock shifter can cause the driver to end up in the wrong gear due to vagueness of the shifter. The Steeda Tri-X/FRPP shifter has been my favorite for the Focus, and I recommend them to everyone. I assume I will end up with a Steeda/FRPP shifter for my Fiesta as well.

 

Performance Exhaust: Always a popular modification to cars is the installation of a performance exhaust system. Since the Fiesta has no visible exhaust tips, I would like to see a dual center exiting exhaust system very much like Ford Verve sedan concept or Mini Cooper S. The black plastic insert in the rear bumper would need to be replaced to allow for the exhaust to exit, but a revised insert with cut-outs and a diffuser would really make the back of the Fiesta look more aggressive. The tips should be angle cut, roughly 2″-2 1/8″ diameter and placed together in the center. Other option would a single 2 ½” angle cut tip on the passenger side. The key to the exhaust system is keeping the sound at an acceptable level. Slightly louder than the stock SVT Focus would be perfect for those of us who want to hear the exhaust on acceleration, but don’t want the car to sound like a kids Civic. A “grown-up” exhaust system for those of us who want to see some exhaust tips and want just a little bit more sound coming out the back would be perfect. I don’t need another daily driver that wakes the neighbors up when I leave for work, just something that sounds a little bit more aggressive.

 

 Aerodynamics Package: I am hoping this will be a factory installed option. If it doesn’t make it as a factory option, then somebody needs to sell the same chin spoiler, side skirts, rear valance, and spoiler than is available on the European Fiesta. The nice thing about the EU aero package is that it looks grown up, and doesn’t upset the balance of the Fiesta. One of Ford’s best packages was the SVT Focus, which had slight tweaks to the body to create something that stood out in the crowd. Nothing was overdone with the SVT Focus, and it did not look like something that belongs at a NOPI show. The Fiesta could benefit from the same style of components. The European Fiesta already has the perfect aero package, so having a version for the US cars should not be hard.

 

Air Intake: This one I struggle with, as I have experimented with all sorts of different intakes over the years. The short ram style intake always looked racy with its exposed filter, silicon connections, and polished aluminum tube. Problem was that it did not work once underhood temps would rise. Throttle response in my ZX3 deteriorated quickly after sitting in traffic or waiting to run at an autocross. I loved the sound of the intake roar, but hated the poor performance. Cold Air Intakes always had issues with very dirty air filters, fear of puddles, and getting jammed with snow in the winter. The Fiesta has a great intake sound from the factory, and it seems to not suffer from heat soak. A revised air box and larger intake tube may help add a few ponies to the 1.6L but would also require a larger throttle body to flow more air. While a short ram or cold air intake kit will be very popular with the Fiesta owners wishing to modify their cars, I think I would pass on adding one to mine. I have found it hard to beat the factory air box for everyday driving. I would like to see what Mountune uses on their Fiesta, but I am guessing it is a short ram style intake.

 

Reprogrammed PCM: Once somebody comes out with a Fiesta program for my SCT XCAL 2, I am going to get it. My hope is for more advanced timing and 93 octane fuel. There is a lot to be gained in a small engine from going to 93 octane fuel and advanced timing. Since the US cars are going to run on 87 octane, their compression and timing will be reduced. I can’t change compression ratio’s without changing the head or pistons, so advancing the timing is the only option. I run the XCAL2 program from FocusSport/FSWerks on my SVT Focus and found it to be the very best modification I have done to that car. As soon as FRPP or FSWerks comes out with a tune, I will be retuning my Fiesta.  

 

Mountune Badged Parts: Since the days of Ford Cosworth are gone, the next best thing is to have parts from Mountune. Part of the draw to having the Fiesta is its European heritage, so having aftermarket parts with the Mountune name is a big plus for Ford small car enthusiasts. While the Roush name is heavily linked to Ford, it has zero street cred with the compact car market. Roush is NASCAR, and many of the die hard small car enthusiasts are not fans of that series. Names like Cosworth, M-Sport, and Mountune have way more appeal and credibility than Roush when it comes to Ford compacts. Keeping the link between the Fiesta and Europe is going to be important for a lot of enthusiasts who are buying the car. FRPP would be wise to sell the Mountune badged products directly from their catalog. Countless number of parts for my two Focuses have been from Europe, mostly in an attempt to return the car to its original design and content.

 

Tubular Header and High-flow cat: As I learned with my ZX3, a tubular header can really make some power with a 4 cylinder engine. SVT used the same concept for their Focus, and it can be applied to the Fiesta. While a header doesn’t look as easy to install on the Fiesta as it was on the Zetec Focuses, it still can be done. The performance gain will really make the Fiesta a fun track car, and the modification would most likely be attempted by the more die hard enthusiasts looking to get as much power as they can from bolt on components. 80% of the aftermarket sales will be for cat-back exhaust and intakes, but there is surely a market that will be looking for a tuned header. For my personal Fiesta, I think I will just keep the factory exhaust manifold and cat.

 

Suspension: While this is usually the very first thing I do to a car, the Fiesta has proven not to need any changes. Notice how I said “need” meaning people will still change it, but for me, the suspension is perfect. A slightly lower stance would be nice, but the actual spring rates and dampening levels are so well matched, I would hate to change them from the factory. I don’t think I have ever driven a car from the factory that has been perfect. The only exceptions are products from SVT or BMW’s M division, who both seem to do a fairly good job making cars go around corners.

 

Turbo kit: Many people will ask for a turbo kit, but I would guess that few will actually spend the money for a proper turbo kit. Unless it comes from the factory, I won’t be adding a turbo on my Fiesta. The initial cost, complexity of tuning and installation will keep me from adding one to my daily driver. If I was building a dedicated track car, I would do it. For what my Fiesta is going to be used for, I will pass unless it comes from the factory. The same goes for a supercharger.

 

Ok, there is my list of what direction I would take for aftermarket components for the Fiesta. I based many of the parts upon what I read and hear from other enthusiasts and what types of things I have done over the past 15 years of modifying cars. For my personal car, which will be a daily driver, I am planning on a short throw shifter, exhaust system, reprogrammed ECU, and aero package. It is outstanding that Ford has done such a great job with the Fiesta suspension. Besides the SVT Focus, the Fiesta will be my first Ford that I don’t need to toss the factory suspension and start over. Having some of those options available from the factory or as dealer installed options that can be purchased at the same time the car is purchased would be great.

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Fiesta Open Track Review

By Bryan Redeker

            Is there anything the Fiesta can’t do? I figured it could do ok at autocrossing, but thought there is no way that the Fiesta could hold up under open track conditions. I predicted massive amounts of brake fade after a lap or so, the tires would overheat and lose their grip, and every corner would be met with understeer. I mean really, the Fiesta is not an open track car; it is a B-segment commuter that is designed to get good mileage. The Fiesta is not a STi, EVO, or M3. The Fiesta was not engineered to be a street car that goes to the track on the weekends. Or was it?

            Hiding beneath is Kinetic Designed sculpted body lies some real engineering. Under the bonnet is a 1.6L DOHC engine that feels to be way more powerful than 120hp. The futuristic cell-phone inspired dash and cockpit provide the perfect office to control the 2200 pound rocket. The Fiesta is not just a pretty body and a fancy dash stuck over a lackluster chassis, it is instead a total package of beauty and function. I know the car is outstanding on the street from the 3 months I have spent with it. However, for me, a good car needs to do more than just look pretty and do well on the streets; it needs to work on the track.

            That brings us to GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. The 11 turn, 1.8 mile road course is one of my favorite tracks and has been a proving ground for everything I have owned. If it can’t handle the track, then I don’t want it. The track provides some great places to really test out a car at its limit. Two straight-aways have hard braking zones at the end, usually resulting in overcooking the brakes. Turn 2 is a decreasing radius sweeper which can send cars either plowing nose first into the weeds or spinning around. The braking zone in T3 is bumpy causing the ABS to come on or stalling out the engine if you lock. The 5-6 complex is one of my favorites because they create a 180′ turn in which different lines give you a totally different feel for the corners. T7 is a simple corner that leads into T8 and T9 which are long esses that seem to always catch me off guard. Get yourself out of shape at the T8/T9 right-left transition and the car will spin. I know, I have done it. T10 leads onto the back straight, and then to the scary T11 with pit entrance a wall in front of you. The only run-off is to dive into the pits if you get that corner wrong, otherwise the wall is there to take part of your checking account.

            I prepped the Fiesta by checking the torque on all of the lugnuts, then reducing the tire pressure to 37 psi cold in the front and 40 psi cold in the rear. My estimates are that they will heat up and be at 42 psi hot, which is the upper spec for the tire pressure. Helmet on, gloves on, engine started, time to get on track. Gradually I began to increase speed as the tires and brakes come up to temp, and I start to see how the Fiesta handles the track. I like to get a good idea of how the car behaves before really trying to push it. Schumacher said he finds the limit first, and then backs off. Right, I will just gradually work up to it instead. Once things are up to their proper temps, the fun begins. Each lap gets a little faster and faster, but the Fiesta doesn’t seem to protest. The brakes stay firm, and the tires howl just enough to tell me they are at their limit. I throw the car hard into the corners, and it stays neutral. No plowing understeer into the weeds, and the backend doesn’t step out during transitions. I am fairly sure the stability control kicked in a few times because the car felt like it was about to break the back loose and then instantly centered itself. The deeper I braked into the corners, the more the ABS would come on. Traction control would then activate coming out of the corners, which I wish it would not have. While the engine did not fall flat on its face as much as the SVT Focus does at the first hint of wheel spin, the Fiesta did seem to slow down for a second before going again. Most likely a case of the traction control cutting spark or retarding timing to regain traction at the front wheels. Eventually, the Pirelli tires would get hot and greasy. Time to come into the pits and let her cool down.

            In the pits I checked the tire pressures, and they were spot on 42 psi hot, right where I wanted them to be. To my surprise, the front wheels were not black as the night sky from being on track. The Fiesta smells like fried brake pads, and I love it.  One fear is that the drums would overheat and fade, but that never became an issue. Perhaps the front pads would be overworked and fade. After all, these are not track pads, they are production brake pads. I can get most cars to fade on the street and boil the brake fluid. Not the case with the Fiesta, there was some fade, but nothing compared to what normal cars exhibit on the street. The pads seemed to fade to a point, and then stay there until I was done. Steering response stayed precise for every lap, and the car always maintained its handling neutrality. There was very little understeer at turn-in or when the throttle was at WOT coming out of a corner. Suspension stayed firm even as the dampers become very hot. Clutch and gearbox handled the abuse well with no ill effects. Under hard braking the car kept its composure and required very little steering input to keep it straight. Really, there aren’t any complaints after being on track for 3 sessions. The Pirelli’s were the first to want to retire, but they were seeing abuse like they have never seen before. Considering these are factory installed tires, they exceeded my expectations on the track. Many street tires get hot and throw chunks of their tread blocks, not the case with these tires at all.

            So what improvement does the car need? That is usually the question that I go to the track to answer. Pushing the car to its limit is where you find what works and what doesn’t. The number one issue is the shift gates. Just as was the case in autocrossing, I needed to drop a gear in a few spots on the track to keep the engine revs high. The shift gate is too vague to allow a quick shift from 2-3 or from 2-1. I knew I could downshift into 2nd, but the upshift could leave me in 1st or 5th. Both would be bad, so I left it in 3rd and lap times suffered. Next, the traction control needs to have an on/off switch along with the stability control. While I did not have any issues with stability control on the track, it will become an issue in the winter when the handbrake is used for every turn. The traction control still robs too much power and slows the car down; a way to turn it off is a must. More seat bolstering would be nice as well. The car creates enough mechanical grip that I struggled to stay in the seat. Whoa, a commuter car that provides enough grip that I need more bolstering? Damn I love this car!

            Does the car need more power? Of course, but what doesn’t? Actually, the nice thing about the Fiesta is that it doesn’t make so much power you are afraid to push the car. My Mustang makes enough power to get me in trouble. I need to constantly feather the throttle to avoid wheel spin. The car also gets going really fast on the straights, so it eats brake pads trying to slow down. Get a downshift wrong in the Mustang and you spin. With the Fiesta, you can concentrate on the proper line, focus on your braking zones, and stay ahead of the car. I never felt like I was a passenger, but rather the pilot of one of the greatest compact cars to exist on the planet. The Fiesta passed the test on the track, and has earned the right to live at my house. Ford has created something amazing, and as long as the North American team doesn’t screw it up, they have a winner.

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Fiesta Payload

            I wasn’t thinking on Sunday when I unloaded everything from the Fiesta, as it would have made a great picture. Here is the rundown of what the Fiesta was packed with for the autocross.

1 Driver

1 Passenger

4 P245/40 17 Hoosier R6 race tires mounted on 17″ x 9″ R58 Cobra R wheels

1 Hydraulic Jack

1 Electric screwdriver with battery and charger

4 Large wooden shims to place under the Mustang so the jack can get under the car

2 Bottles of water

1 Tuperware container with pyrometer, checklist, race notes, tire pressure gauge, tire chalk, pens, clipboards, zip-ties, screwdrivers, and other assorted hand tools

1 Torque Wrench

1 Pry Bar

2 Video Cameras

2 Digital SLR cameras

1 Digital camera

2 Racing helmets

1 pair of racing shoes

2 hooded sweatshirts

2 cups of coffee

1 Bottle of glass cleaner

1 roll of paper towel

 

For comparison, the Mustang had the following packed inside

1 Driver

0 Passengers

1 set of magnetic decals for both cars

2 Racing helmets

 

We discovered that the Fiesta makes a great track car companion and is capable of hauling stuff we used to need a truck for. Oh, in case you are wondering, Brandon’s Focus sedan can’t fit anything in its trunk because the opening is too small. See, aren’t hatchbacks great!

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Thanks Furrin Group!

 

 

I wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone at the Furrin Group who put on the great autocross this past weekend at Grand Valley State University. The GVSU autocross is one of my favorite events, and looking at the turn-out, it is gaining in popularity. Exposing the new Ford Fiesta to such a great group of car enthusiasts was a lot of fun. I wish I would have had more time to give rides in the car, but I was fairly busy getting both cars ready to run on Sunday. Thanks as well to everyone who took pictures of the Fiesta and Mustang on track, and for sharing those outstanding pictures with me. An extra special thanks goes out to Curt for all of his work organizing the autocross events in west Michigan. Hopefully next year, I won’t be the only Fiesta competing in autocrosses in the United States!

 

Thanks again to everyone,

-Bryan

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Autocross Review

By Bryan Redeker

            Wow, I forgot how busy it is to run 2 cars at an autocross! The morning started off rough with 2 out of the 4 Hoosier R6’s losing a couple pounds of air pressure an hour, and the other two having a slightly slower leak. Putting them in the sun allowed them to heat up enough for the bead to seal and get us through the day. In the end, Brandon and I decided that it was best to put them on the Mustang and see how the car preformed. After each run I would check the pressures to make sure we did not have a sudden loss of pressure.

            After the drivers meeting, it was determined that the Fiesta would be running in the first heat. Brandon and I stage the car, double check air pressures, torque the wheels, and set the Sony Webbie to record from in-car. I would take the Fiesta out first for my 4 runs, and then turn it over to Brandon for his. My first run would be very slow as I tried to learn the somewhat complex course. With the rushed morning trying to figure out what to do with the Mustang, I did not get a good chance to really learn the course from walking it. Being in the first heat, I did not get a chance to watch others run. My first mistake on the run was forgetting to shift at the end of slalom. That may seem odd for me to say, but every car I have ever autocrossed has been equipped with a louder exhaust system. With my helmet on, I could not hear the engine, and could not tell I was near the rev limiter. I did not have shift light either, which is usually installed on my cars. A small oops, and an easy one to correct.

            The second run would end with a DNF as I missed a gate and hit a few cones with the passenger door, and would happen again with my third run. It was now up to my last run to get a good lap time. Not wanting to miss another gate and finish with another DNF, I took it a little slower. I was very confident in the car, just not in myself knowing the course. My last run went ok, but I knew it was not very quick. Two DNF’s in a row can quickly make you slow down to avoid getting another one! Overall, I was very happy with the Fiesta on course. In the hands of a better driver, this car will be very competitive in HS.

            The Fiesta was a lot of fun to drive on course, and in many regards, more fun than driving my Mustang. Every time the Mustang makes a strange sound, or has a slight vibration, I get paranoid something is wrong and start to lift. I started to think about the stresses on each of the parts on the sweepers, and then slow up some more. Did I torque that bolt? Hmm, better slow up some more. Soon, I am slowly going around the track and happy to be done. After having the front suspension break last year, I have become paranoid of driving it. Everything has been fixed, but it still takes time to regain confidence in the car. The Fiesta was confident as soon as the flag dropped! No strange noises, no funny vibrations, nothing to lead me to think anything was wrong. If I would have known the track better, I could have surely gone way faster! With a set of R-compounds, the Fiesta is going to bring some tough competition to HS.

            I would watch Brandon’s runs from the side of the track, and record them with a video camera for analysis. Brandon was clearly quicker, and did not get lost on track. The lap times proved that he was indeed faster than I was, but not able to bring the fight to the leaders. We only get a chance to run one, possibly two, events a year. That makes it hard to compete against drivers who are running multiple events all summer. We also have a car that we have never autocrossed before, and have no idea what it handles like. Knowing the spare parts are in Europe also slows you down, because neither of us wants to break anything. Overall, I was very happy with the performance of the Fiesta. I know there were many spots on track that I could have gone much faster, but I am happy for my first time running in over a year.

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Post Autocross Observations

By Bryan Redeker

Here are the observations from having the Fiesta on track;

 

The Fiesta is easy to drive! I actually found it relaxing to drive around the long sweepers, and thought it was easy to slalom. There is great visibility out the windshield, and you sit high enough to get a good look at the course.

 

Steering input is deadly accurate. There seemed to be no hesitation from the Fiesta when trying to change directions. Only when I way overcooked a corner did the front understeer. Brandon commented that my slalom was one of the better ones he has seen from me, as I usually stay far from the cones. The Fiesta was precise enough that I felt confident to hug the cones and not hit them.

 

Mostly neutral is how the car handled on course. The only understeer came from coming in too hot into a corner, and adding too much steering input due to a late turn-in. Some slight oversteer was possible with left-foot braking. The stability control allowed for enough rotation around the sweepers, but never enough to spin. Even with a decreasing-radius turn with a hard braking zone at the end, the Fiesta stayed very composed.

 

The Fiesta gives great feedback thru the seat, steering wheel, and brake pedal. Brandon thought the brakes were a little grabby for his liking, but I find his Focus to have brakes that stop about 20 feet after I think they should. I think his comments about the brakes are from being used to his Focus and his limited seat time in the Fiesta. I found the brakes to feel great, and only had the ABS come one once. I could stand on the brakes and feel any impending lock-up and adjust as needed. The pedal stayed firm and there were no signs of brake fade. The tires also did not protest the beating they were taking, and actually held up very well for a 2 driver car. The Mustang has overheated the edges of the front tires, but the Fiesta did not seem to suffer this issue. Sadly, the US cars will come with some craptastic all-season tires that serve no purpose. Mine will be replaced with some proper summer tires, and a set of snow tires for the winter.

 

While the traction control programming is not as intrusive as it was on the SVT Focus, it still needs to be turned off. There has to be a switch to deactivate the traction control when you don’t want it. The system did allow for some wheel spin at launch, but it did seem to stop the engine from making power when exiting corners. The engine fell on its face, and then came back to life. My SVT Focus does the same thing with traction control left on, but that is so sensitive that it will do it if there is a heavy dew on the ground. The Fiesta is not that bad, but still needs to have an on/off switch on the dash.

 

A more precise gate for the shifter is really needed! For one very slow section of the course, the engine speed in second gear dropped very low. Once the engine dropped out of the optimal rev band, it became very sluggish. The only way to avoid that was to shift into 1st gear to keep the revs up and power out of the slow part of the track. Since the gates are so vague, I did not dare shift into 1st when I needed to. My fear is that I would have ended up in 3rd. Thankfully, the course did not require a fast shift to 3rd, as that has been proved to be a problem. A quick shift into third can leave you in 1st or 5th. Running the course in 2nd gear cost us many seconds in the slow parts of the track, and the 1.6L doesn’t have enough low end torque to muscle out of the slow parts. My Mustang was great in 2nd gear since it produces a great deal of torque at a very low rpm. As much as it kills me to say this, a “DSG” style transmission may have helped the Fiesta switch gears faster, but many autocrossers have noted that the paddles are rarely in the right spot to shift around corners. I would rather keep the manual with a clutch; just give me a more precise gate.

 

Having a knob to adjust the seat back was a nice feature so I could give the backrest a small adjustment. For track use, I usually move the seat a little bit forward, and move the back rest a little bit more vertical. The nice thing about the knob on the Fiesta seat is that I could give it a small turn and find a great spot for the backrest. After I was done autocrossing, a small turn back to the street position and move the seat a notch back. Everything is right back to where I want it to be.

 

For a small car that sits very high, there was little body roll while going around corners. The car stayed very composed and flat around the course, and did not pitch fore-aft with the application of brakes or throttle. The suspension on the Fiesta is one of its strong points, and really shows that the Ford engineers have done their homework.

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Is the Fiesta really Lotus-like?

            At the beginning of the year when I watched the famed Top Gear episode when Jeremy tests out the new Fiesta, I was shocked when he compared the little Ford to a Lotus and a VW. For me, Lotus is the holy grail of handling. Lotus is the masters of making things go around corners. Lotus is the king of doing more with less. I just could not believe that the company that builds the F-150 could build a car that handles and feels like a Lotus.

            Ford is a huge company, with all sorts of tricks up their sleeves. It was 40 years ago this past June that Ford dominated leMans with a 1-2-3 victory over those red cars from Maranello. It is that same company that used to race in F1, and most recently built the Ford GT. When you get outside the United States, Ford builds some of the very best. Sadly, all of those great things have stayed in Europe while Americans get ho-hum products that are just ok. As I am watching Top Gear I began to think “my goodness, why don’t they bring the Fiesta here”, and then I find out that they are.

            I have been driving the Fiesta for over 2 months now, and I have begun to push the car a little harder around corners. What I am finding is that the Fiesta really is Lotus-like in its handling. The Fiesta feels light on its feet, responds instantly to steering commands, and seems to stop like it has 6-piston Brembo’s on the front. Ford really pulled a rabbit out of its hat with the Fiesta. They also took something from the Lotus playbook, in that Ford made the Fiesta lighter. Each year, cars seem to get heavier and heavier, requiring bigger engines, bigger wheels, bigger brakes, but no real gain in performance. The Mustang is a great example; it just got too big and heavy. In the eyes of many Americans, big and heavy is safe. Probably why a NASCAR is almost 4000 pounds and a F1 car is about a ¼ of that. The Fiesta in no way sacrifices safety with its lightweight, instead it adds things like knee airbags and a boron-steel a-pillar structure.

            Weight is the killer for any good handling car, and the heavier the car is, the more it needs added on to it make it handle well. There is also a penalty from weight in that the more the car weighs, the harder it is to make it change direction. When I go to the track with my V8 Mustang, I am shocked at how quickly I am passed by 4 cylinder Lotuses. Clearly, they have a formula that works. The Fiesta uses that same formula of lightweight, high strength, and outstanding handling. I am guessing that the Fiesta will do very well on the track, since it seems to handle excellent on the street. Jeremy was right; there is a Lotus quality in the way the Fiesta handles. Did you ever think a company that builds trucks could make a B-segment car that handles like a Lotus?

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