Focus ST Trackday Weapon: 2019-2021 Build
Posted on January 03 2022
Before we dive into the changes that our shop Focus ST has undergone, we first wanted to express that the use for the car has also changed. While we started with building a street car that was capable on track, it's slowly been adapted towards more track use. Going the more track-dedicated route, we've been able to make a few less compromises when it comes to street drivability. Why? #becauseracecar. Now the car is even more potent on track. Continue reading to find out more.
As with our last blog post about this car, we're going to start with brakes. While the RS Brembos were a great initial upgrade, we still faced some challenges with this setup. After going to a higher temp pad compound from G-LOC, using titanium pad shims, and adding brake ducting, we were having heat issues and poor pedal feel. Even with the added LSD, the "e-diff" still engages the brakes, and this led to very inconsistent pedal feel. It also wasn't uncommon when letting the car rest after a 20 minute track session to come back to a spongey pedal feel. With the car sitting, the brakes were still so hot that the fluid in the calipers would boil. We started to time out sessions to allow for an extra cool down lap, but it only helped so much... and who wants to waste seat time?
Enter the Rotora Super Challenge big brake kit. This upgrade didn't come lightly. We weighed out the options to improve the RS Brembo brakes first. Stainless pistons to transfer less heat into the fluid, silicone seals/boots to replace the charred OE components, and thicker directional 2-piece rotors were all considering. At the end of the day, that would only get us so far, and we wanted braking performance that we didn't want to have to worry about.
The Rotora Super Challenge BBK is a true racing kit, with lots of little features found on track-dedicated setups. These features include hard anodizing instead of paint/coating, so the colors of the components don't change after a few heat cycles; larger 355mm 2-piece fully floating rotors - 7mm thicker than the OE RS rotors and a good bit lighter, and 6 piston calipers with titanium-vented pistons and anti-knockback-springs.
The pistons allow for less heat transfer from the pads into the brake fluid, and the springs provide just enough force to keep the pads in place against the rotor surface without dragging. The latter becomes important for brake feel, as vibrations from bumps in the track, hitting curbing, movement in wheel bearings, etc. can cause the pads to get "knocked back" into the caliper. So next corner you go to use the brakes to slow down, the pistons have to go farther and more fluid needs to fill into the caliper. This leads to a mushy, over-extended brake pedal. However, with the Rotora BBK, pedal feel is super solid and consistent, brake fade is much less (even with lower temp pad compounds), and braking confidence is back.
Less street use means we can get a little stiffer with the suspension. While the Bilstein B14s were great for dual duty, they started to lack the dampening desired for track use. We ended this setup with 9k front and 9.2k rear spring rates. While the fronts were still holding steady, the rears desperately needed a revalve with higher spring rates. Originally the plan was to revalve the shocks, but we only found a single place willing to do so, and the cost was comparable to switching setups and starting fresh. We've been following Fortune Auto, since they've been a big up and comer in the time attack scene, and after a few convos with the folks there and seeing the quality firsthand, it made for an easy decision to switch.
We settled on Fortune 510 coilovers, with 12k front and rear spring rates. The 510s allowed for dampening adjustment over the B14s, and have a lot of little features that make for a true racing coilover. The wide range of compression and rebound curve will allow for use to play around a bit more with spring rates without needing a revalve. They're also much more serviceable and can be upgraded in the future... Something we plan on doing.
Another suspension change was swapping out the front knuckles to the Focus RS knuckles - lots of minor improvements in better suspension geometry, resulting in improved handling and steering. The hub center is moved upward from the lower ball joint mount. This allows for a major improvement in roll center. The lower ball joint mount is also moved forward more of the hub center. This adds caster. The mounting point for the steering tie rods is shortened. This results in quicker steering. The steering rod mount point is slightly lower compared to the hub center. This means less bump steer when lowered. The knuckle shaves a bit of weight in that little excess casting material is found, about 1 pound each. There’s also a tiny bit of negative camber added as well. The ST lower control arms (LCA for short) were also swapped to RS units, as the ball joint mounting point is a bit forward, adding more positive caster. When you’ll be going up against Civic Type Rs, any little bit helps.
ST knuckles on the left, RS knuckles on the right:
Almost all the suspension bushings have been swapped out in favor of the Poweflex kits that we offer. We're using the front anti-lift and caster offset kit (we'll refer to as ALK for short), and the front LCA front bushings. In the rear we're running the rear LCA inboard and outboard bushings, along with the rear trailing arm bushings. The camber and toe arms have been replaced with aftermarket units utilizing spherical heim joints. We've actually made a video on the front ALK here, but from firsthand experience, it's an awesome upgrade.
The steering response in this car is akin to a go kart now. Steering wheel inputs feel 100% more connected to what the car will do, and when getting on the power the front just stays planted and goes. On corner exit, it's as if there's a slight amount of torque steer helping pull the car through to the exit when you're hard back on the power.
For the rear, the largest improvement came from the trailing arm bushings. There's just so much slop in the OE bushing. Stiffening that up and omitting much of that momentum helps the car feel more planted under hard braking. One of the best things about suspension bushings, is that there's almost no added NVH. Yes, things will be a bit more jarring if you hit a pothole, but they provide more positive feedback and make the car feel much more connected to the road.
Wheels and tires have changed over the past few seasons. Currently, the car has been running 275 Nankang CR-1s on Enkei NT03 wheels. We still have the Hypergram wheelset, but they now have some Continental wet racing tires. The CR-1 is Nankang's latest and greatest 200tw offering. It's been a fantastic tire, providing loads of grip even when cold. They do, however, fall off a bit once they've been trashed around for a few laps. We've been seeing our best lap times on the 2nd or 3rd lap with these. They're great for time attack, but not the best of a full session when it comes to grip falling off.
The Continental wet tires we got on closeout, so why not try them? They only get used for wet track days... which we get plenty of here in the Midwest. If you haven't experienced a true wet racing tire in the rain, you should try it. I call them "cheater tires" as they provide near dry levels of grip. The couple track days we've ran them, the ST was the fastest car out on track. Passing everything from Porches and Corvettes to even track-built Subaru STis.
This Focus ST drives drastically different than stock. The car stays super planted, even after undulations in track surfaces. While it's a little less slide-y and fun to drive, it corners like no other FWD track car we've experienced.
Safety wise, we've also made some improvements. An Autopower 4-point roll bar has been added, along with a Sparco QRT driver seat, an NRG racing seat for the passenger side, and some Racequip 6-point harnesses. The seats definitely keep you planted in the car, so you can focus more on driving and less on bracing a knee against the door during hard cornering - something we found ourselves doing often with the OE ST1 seats... even with a 4-point harness.
A decent bit of weight has also been pulled from the car. Swapping out the front seats, pulling the rear seats, and pulling basically everything behind the rollbar has gotten the car to a race weight of under 3000 lbs with a full tank of fuel. More will come out over winter, but we do have to leave in a decent bit of interior for some class regulations.
Here's the weight with driver and the car corner balanced:
Lastly, we've added a little bit of power. Just a bit...
This is largely thanks to an EFR6758 turbo and Full Race's turbo adapter and downpipe. We built the rest of the turbo kit ourselves, oil and coolant lines, intake, etc. and the turbo's IWG was swapped out for a Turbosmart unit. We opted to have the turbo adapter and downpipe ceramic coated to help reduce radiant heat, and wrapped the turbo hotside in a Inconel heat shield from Turbosource. The heat shield was used in favor of a turbo blanket, as we had one catch fire on the first track day out on the new turbo. Luckily, the only real damage was the blanket and some Velcro reflective heat shielding we had installed around the brake and fuel lines along the firewall. Those lines have been wrapped in gold reflective tape since the small fire. One of the best parts from going big turbo, is that a few components don't have to work as hard (intercooler and turbo mainly), and we've seen a decent reduction in coolant temps.
The car is tuned by our friend Alan over at Edgeautosport, and has a solid linear power curve with nearly instant spool. While more power can be found by upgrading the fuel system, the car is a beast as is and we might leave it at this power level for a bit... or not ;)
So that’s the gist of what has changed over the past few years. In 2019 and 2020, we got tons of seat time in – but less in 2021, due to upgrades happening during the race season, fighting some mysterious fueling issues, and yeeting a turbo gasket on track. The season ended with bump into a tire wall, which inflicted all superficial damage that will be corrected for the 2022 season.
What's the car like to drive on track? It's on a whole new level compared to a stock car. We've got it setup pretty well to our liking. Temps are finally in check. There's not many improvements to be made, but we've still got plans over winter - mainly adding aero components. The 2022 plan for the car is to start getting involved in more time attack and time trial events. Now that we have a strong foundation and confidence with the car, it's time to compete. Hope to see you out on track this upcoming season. Until then, here's a couple laps around Autobahn Country Club North Circuit. Hope you enjoy!
Lap time data we've gathered from the car's various set-ups over the years:
235w 300tw tires
235w 200tw tires
380whp, FA 510's,
275w 200tw tires
|Autobahn Country Club - North Track||1:18.1||1:14.8 -3.3||1:10.7 -7.4|
|Autobahn Country Club - South Track||1:45.6||1:42.4 -3.2||1:35.8 -9.8|
|Gingerman Raceway||1:50.2||1:47.6 -2.6||1:41.8 -8.4|
Looking to build your car for more track use? Hit us up! Everything in this blog post can be purchased from us at Damond Motorsports, and we can help consult with your build along the way.