It’s been awhile since we’ve had something come out of Detroit that really hit the mark for sport-compact enthusiasts. The Cobalt SS and Dodge SRT-4 were both very capable machines, but neither had the right styling to work its way into the heart of the spo-com market. Ford hasn’t really made an honest attempt at a sport-compact entry into the domestic market in quite some time, though it has certainly produced some very desirable hot hatches for the European market, including the 305hp turbocharged ’10 Focus RS.
Perhaps it’s because of Ford’s shift to a global platform strategy, or maybe the company feels the U.S. market is ready to embrace a small car that hauls ass. Whatever the reason, Ford has finally seen fit to bring home a hot hatch that sport-compact enthusiasts can get genuinely excited about. That car is, of course, the new ’13 Focus ST, and all signs point to awesome based on early reviews of this handsome little five-door.
It’s due to hit showroom floors right about the time you’re reading this, and Ford decided to generate a little prerelease buzz by having a select group of tuners build new-generation Focuses for the ’11 SEMA Show. The execs at Ford loved Cobb Tuning’s proposal to build a Time Attack Focus, and with good reason. Few American tuning companies have a more impressive Time Attack track record than Cobb, having won the Street and Modified AWD championships in the ’10 Redline series and being named Team of the Year in the process.
Since the turbocharged ST wasn’t available prior to SEMA, Cobb started with an SE model Focus and stripped it down to a bare chassis. According to the team at Cobb, “The Ford Focus ST will be the vehicle to get full Cobb Tuning product support just like we do for turbocharged Subarus, GT-Rs, Mazdas, and Mitsubishis, but the Ford Focus SE used as the starting point for this race car has provided our engineers with a great opportunity to see how the Focus is constructed. It shares a chassis with the Mazdaspeed3, which helped speed the development of certain aspects of this project. The Focus does have more room in certain areas, such as the front bumper, which will allow for a larger intercooler without having to modify the bumper beam.”
It would have been easy for Cobb Tuning to build a faux Time Attack car to park in Ford’s SEMA booth with plenty of visual appeal but no actual go-fast capabilities. But if you know anything about this Texas-based company, it’ll come as no surprise that the crew from Cobb cut zero corners while transforming this little Ford into a genuine Time Attack trophy contender.
It all started by completely gutting the donor Focus and then fitting it with a Cobb-fabricated NASA-spec rollcage along with all the other necessary safety gear including a FireSense fire suppression system and Racetech seats and six-point harnesses. A Mil-spec harness was then built in-house so the engine could communicate with the Cosworth ECPro digital dash and Pectel ECU, but the fun had only just begun for the engineers and fabricators at Cobb.
Where the real challenge lay was under the hood, given that the naturally aspirated 160hp engine in the SE model wasn’t going to provide the kind of forward thrust required to set any Time Attack records. So out came the 12:1-compression-ratio pistons and connecting rods and in their place went Cobb-spec Cosworth forged pistons and custom billet rods in preparation for some serious boost pressure.
Cobb’s hard parts team then went to work fabricating a custom stainless tubular exhaust manifold with equal-length runners and a flange designed to accept a BorgWarner EFR-6758 turbocharger that’s good for 500 hp. A 3-inch stainless downpipe and exhaust system was then fabbed up in-house, using V-bands throughout for maximum strength and ease of access for those emergency pit stops. An off-the-shelf Cobb intercooler was modified and mated to the Focus’ spacious nose and the engine via a Cobb SF intake and custom charge pipes. They also fabbed up a bunch of other custom goodies, including the oil cooler setup, oil catch can, and aluminum rad overflow reservoir.
Since the five-speed manual out of the SE wasn’t designed to hold the kind of torque Cobb’s turbo setup would throw at it, it was shelved in favor of a Mazdaspeed3 six-speed unit. This upgrade bolts straight up to the 2.0L Duratec engine but required custom Focus/MS3 axles, and, of course, a stronger ACT clutch and lightweight flywheel. A clutch-type Cusco LSD was also swapped into the MS3 trans in place of the OE Torsen diff, and a Cobb double-adjustable short-throw shifter and Cobb knob were added for faster and more precise shifting action.
Aerodynamics play a huge role in the world of Time Attack, and with a new hatchback body shape, there were no easy aftermarket solutions here, either. This meant the Cobb team had to develop its own Solidworks-designed carbon-fiber front chin spoiler/splitter and contoured side skirts to improve front-end downforce. The Aeromotions R2 active rear wing (which changes its angle of attack so you get maximum downforce in the corners and minimum drag down the straights) has been mounted up on the back of the rear hatch, where it has access to some clean air. A custom rear diffuser has also been added, designed to generate a low-pressure zone beneath the rear of the car for added rear stability, an extremely valuable feature on a FWD hatchback body shape where the rear of the car tends to get quite light at high speeds. A vented carbon hood has also been used to help reduce pressure under the hood and allow all that turbo-generated heat to escape.
Of course attacking time also requires a dialed-in suspension wheel and tire package. Having teamed up with Eibach for custom-valved dampers, Cobb-spec springs, and adjustable sway bars, this Focus should be able to generate some serious g’s in the corners. Lightweight forged monoblock HRE wheels wrapped in Hankook’s super sticky Z214 race rubber will also give the Cobb Focus some serious mechanical grip. And when it comes time to stomp on the slow pedal, the StopTech big brake kit and Cobalt XR2 brake pads should haul this little pocket rocket down to speed in a hurry.
Although it hasn’t turned a lap in anger yet, we’re certain that when it does, the Modified Class FWD Time Attack community will be put on a notice that there’s a new sheriff in town and its wearing a Blue Oval badge. And thanks to the fresh new Focus ST and Cobb’s lineup of tuning parts for it, you’ll be able to build your own FWD time attacking monster without all the custom fabrication. Sounds good to us, but the only question is, should we order ours in Tangerine Scream or a subtler color?
Specs & Details
'12 Ford Focus SE Five-Door
Engine 2.0L Ti-VCT direct-injection inline-4
Engine Modifications Cobb Tuning customized Cosworth forged pistons, billet connecting rods, equal-length tubular exhaust manifold, 3’’ straight-through turbo-back exhaust, FMIC, SF intake, boost tubes, turbo inlet, oil cooler, oil catch can, and aluminum radiator reservoir; BorgWarner EFR-6758 turbocharger; Koyorad aluminum racing radiator
Drivetrain Mazdaspeed3 six-speed manual transmission; Cobb Tuning double-adjustable short shifter and Cobb knob; Cusco limited-slip differential; Ford Focus/Mazdaspeed3 hybrid axles; ACT racing clutch and lightweight flywheel
Engine Management Pectel direct-injection SQ7Di ECU; Motec PDM15 power distribution module
Wheels, Tires & Brakes HRE Performance R43 monoblock 18x9.5” wheels; Hankook Z214 275/35R18 DOT racing tires; StopTech Trophy Kit 355mm big brake kit and SS brake lines; Cobalt XR2 brake pads
Suspension Eibach Multi-Pro-R2 coilover suspension and adjustable sway bars (f/r); Cobb Tuning suspension bushings
Exterior Cobb Tuning carbon-fiber splitter, side skirts, diffuser, and vented extractor hood; Lexan windows; circuit board vinyl wrap; Aeromotions R2.Two active wing; Aerocatch front and rear pin latching system; amber tinted headlights; Ford Racing tow hooks
Interior Cosworth ECPro digital dash; Ford GT start button; Cobb Tuning rollcage; Mil-spec wiring harness, door cards, and battery tie-down; Racetech 4009HR racing seats and six-point HANS harnesses; Safequip window nets, shoulder nets, and net quick releases; Sparco steering wheel; Splash quick-release steering wheel hub; FireSense fire suppression system; Painless battery/engine kill switch; Braille racing battery
Sponsors/Partners Ford, Ford Racing, Cosworth, Pectel, Eibach, Racetech, HRE Wheels, StopTech, Hankook Tires