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My Auto Import Center Autocross Review

Saturday marked the first autocross for my new 2011 Ford Fiesta with an event presented by the Furrin Group at My Auto Import Center in Muskegon Michigan. The event is run annually on the third weekend of September, and the course is the same each year. That is a huge help for me, since most Furrin autocrosses end with me spending most of my runs being lost in a sea of cones. There was something that made this event different for me, and that was the wet weather.

I woke to a decent thunderstorm Saturday morning that lasted until around 9:00 am, and light rain that continued off and on thru the morning. I arrived at the course around 10am for car prep and to walk the course. The run order dictated that my group, ST, would be running in the first heat when the track would be the dampest. My first run was very slow as I tried to remember the course and get a feel for how much or little traction was out there. The second run was much faster, but suffered wheel spin at most corners since it was still wet. By my third run, the course had a defined dry line with only a few corners being wet. If I had a shot at a good time, this would be it.

I got the ok to launch from the starter, and brought the engine revs up to where I thought would be a good spot. Sadly, I had the revs too high, and the car suffered horrible wheel hop before the traction control took over and reduced power. I regained traction and shifted quickly into second, which broke traction again causing some slight gearbox noise and the reactivation of the traction control system. Power was again cut going to the front wheels as I entered the slalom. Going around the tight sweeper, which was still very wet, the tires broke loose at exit onto the back straight. Each time the car lost traction, the computer cuts engine power until traction is restored. The actual straight was dry, so the computer let me use the engine to head towards the Chicago Box. The braking zone was wet, and the ABS activated for a split second, which it had earlier going into the back sweeper. After the Chicago Box came the front sweeper and I had decent traction going around that which leads into the small straight against the dealer’s service department. There is a slight bump leading onto the straight, that usually sends my Mustang into a spin, but the Fiesta felt well planted. I then entered the back sweeper again, but from the opposite side as the first run and suffered again from traction loss at exit. One last time on the short back straight before a chicane lead me towards the timing lights. Overall, a clean run, but with a horrible launch. The last run would have to be perfect to make up for the bad launch on my third run.

The Fiesta was a few cars away from launching on the final run when the sky opened up with a rain shower. The course was soaked and the dry line had vanished. Puddles were forming in the braking zones and at the back sweeper. I ran the Fiesta as hard as I could in those conditions, but the traction control would just stop the engine whenever wheel spin was detected. The launch was good, but I was bleeding time around the sweepers due the loss of traction and the activation of the wheel spin nanny. I tried too hard to make up time on the straights by braking as late as possible, but I just about lost control going into the chicane before the timing lights. I was on the brakes too late and too hard going into the chicane, and the rear stepped out. The ESC activated and kept me from taking out the timing lights. Thanks computer, I needed you on that one.

As it turned out, my third run was my fastest, even with the poor launch. The Fiesta handled very well and was easy to drive on course. Being able to turn off the traction control would have probably helped since I would have not suffered the loss of engine power at the corner exit. It is easier to deal with wheel spin using the throttle than having the computer do it. The computer just pulls too much power in hopes of gaining traction, which left me with my foot planted at the exit of a corner and zero response from the engine. I took forth with a Honda Prelude 4-wheel-steering taking first. Second place went to a 1997 Probe GT, and third a Focus ZX3. Only 2.1 seconds separated all 4 cars, and I had the least amount of power by a decent margin. The heavy 17” wheels slowed the Fiesta down and were the reason why I was placed in ST instead of HS. Considering having the least powerful car in the class, and a traction control system that can’t be turned off, I was very happy with how the Fiesta did compared to the other cars in its class. Next season will bring a more powerful Fiesta, along with a return of the CP Mustang. It should be an exciting 2011 season!

Final Results

1T ST 94 Zac M 94 Honda Prelude SI 4WS 56.472+DNF 50.509 49.898+DNF 50.637 50.509 -
2T ST 85 Thomas F 97 Ford Probe GT 56.555 51.060 48.867+1 50.884 50.867 0.358
3 ST 26 Brett R 03 Ford Focus 51.016 50.959+1 49.481+1 49.931+1 51.016 0.149
4 ST 07 Bryan R 11 Ford Fiesta 59.638 53.200 52.636 52.817 52.636 1.620
5 ST 47 William G Saab 900s 62.724+DNF 58.551 56.604 56.267 56.267 3.631

2011 Ford Fiesta Gallery

My Auto Import Center Autocross Gallery

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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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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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