Focus RS on track, 100% for effort

Off the horse and onto the Donkey.

That’s a saying we laughed about as kids when we were young. It came after a period of relative wealth during my early teens which had us in BMW’s, Jag’s and Merc’s for a few years. Leading out of the recession of the 90’s, I was in a 4 gear Corsa 1.2.

So it was with some frame of reference I was able to refer back to the Equidaen saying from 20 years ago. Having nurtured a GT3 for the past two years to a point where I experienced Zen every time out on the track, venturing out in the Focus RS was…….enlightening.

Forgive me. For many people, the Focus RS represents a real world aspiration wrapped up in a real world car. A sub £30k hot hatch that wraps up violent design, murderous ambition and uncontrolable urge in a socially unacceptable package. It really is a comedy sketch.

The day at Silverstone started wet, which meant the Focus RS really doesn’t know what to do apart from ensure that its driver is shrieking at every minor indescretion. Understeer, oversteer, drifting, torquesteer, bumpsteer, scrub, grind and many other popular latino grooves. You name it, it will throw it at you. Thankfully, it’s still a lot of fun and any of those crazy dance moves are delivered with full notice as you’d expect from any fwd hot hatch.

It feels a little cumbersome with its full 1500kg weight apparent on the high speed bends such as maggots, but otherwise has a delicious turn in that works well until you need to drive out of it. In the dry, you can moderate throttle and adjust steering each time the wheels start spinning to pull you out of a turn but in the wet, it’s just a hopeless balance of throttle and a few prayers.  Otherwise you just witness the revs shoot up and the car drift way off line, sometimes dangerously off the tarmac.

Which brings into question the traction control. Ford have done a fantastic job with this. On the road, I’m often looking at the dashboard for any signs that it is intervening, it’s so subtle. On the track, it’s obvious. With traction control on, it works pretty well accelerating out of the wet bends, but get the car into oversteer or any drift, it’s intrusive and stops you from pulling the car back into line again. With TC off, you can play with some ridiculous angles, but forget about those bends.

As the day dried out, so did grip and all 300BHP can be put to effective use. It’s a really fast hatch, no question. Naturally, it loses its punch after about 110MPH when things start to slow down a bit. On Silverstone, that’s noticed as all the GT3’s start to thunder past, providing me with reasons for not wanting to be in the Focus. The odd tussle with R26.R’s were great fun though, with the Focus RS more than a match for the track focused hatches. The closest to a fight was with a car chipped, giving it more power than the Focus RS.

A comment needs to be made about the brakes though, they were fantastic. They offered great peddle feel, did not fade at all and maintained their consistency throughout. The car behaved wonderfully in fact. But it still left me longing for my GT3 as I came out of it feeling as though I’d taken the car as far as I could – there really was nothing further to learn.

Henry, having seen the look of melancholy in my face, handed me his keys to his GT3 and said “Go knock yourself out”….. I really didn’t need convincing and what followed was 10 laps of pure, undiluted, non-filtered bliss. It was an utter joy and within minutes, I was again exploring the many depths, peeling layer after layer from the GT3, only to find new aspects of its character that had previously as yet been undiscovered. “Do you mind if I showboat a bit, Henry?” preceeded some 60deg drifting, naturally for the crowds, in what is the greatest car ever made (TM).

Driving the GT3 after a whole day with the Focus RS was like finding your children after having lost them in a shopping centre. The Focus RS is a magnificent hot hatch, but the GT3 is a touch of divine glory.