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Cobb Tuning Ford Focus Racecar

Sneak Peek: COBB Tuning's 2012 Ford Focus - Part 1

By Steve Rockwood

The new Focus has finally brought Ford the sport compact they had been looking for since the introduction of the Focus over a decade ago.  Eager to get a head start on the platform, COBB Tuning partnered with Ford to build up a Focus SE to turn some hot laps as a Modified class time attack car.  Take a look with us inside the COBB Tuning Focus.

Founded in 1999 in the State that Invented Dr. Pepper (Texas), COBB Tuning started as a boutique tuning shop for Subaru performance (once a laughable subject here in the States, amazing what can happen in 10 years).  Since expanded to include facilities in Oregon and California, as well as two shops in Texas, COBB Tuning has become one of the premier tuning companies in the US, offering solutions for Subaru, BMW, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Nissan, Mini, and soon Ford owners.  COBB tuning is full of the same type of geeks and engineers that sweat every detail in developing a new product before released to the public.  Our kind of people.

While COBB was excited to get their hands on a Focus, their primary target in the lineup is the Focus ST due out later this year.  Since the direct injection system, basic engine design, and chassis components are very similar to the ST, using this car as a development mule allows COBB to have plenty of time to figure out which parts work best for the ST instead of rushing to get a part out that may not be a complete solution.

The car itself is being built as a showcase for COBB's abilities, and will compete in various time attack and wheel to wheel series. 

Before work began in earnest, the car was stripped of the entire interior, the drivetrain removed, and all bolt on exterior panels were removed.  The chassis was stitch welded along the bottom perimeter, and stripped of all sound deadening. 

 

COBB Tuning 2012 Ford Focus roll cage stripped


Since the core of every racecar is its cagework and chassis, COBB made sure to spend a lot of time on this step.  A comprehensive roll cage, built similarly to rally and World Challenge rollcages, was TIG welded together out of 1.75" x 0.120" DOM mild steel tubing, thicker than the required 1.75" x 0.090" DOM that most sanctioning bodies require for better protection for the driver.


COBB Tuning 2012 Ford Focus TIG Welding

 

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Comments
Lester
Lesterlink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:47 AM
This is cool on many fronts and nice to see both Ford and Cobb branching out.
bigBcraig
bigBcraiglink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:37 PM
I have been working suspension and chassis on the GT FSAE team pretty seriously for a year... I know I'm very far from an expert but that cage doesn't look great to me.

There are many parts where it looks like, with a little more planning, there could be distinct nodes and clean load paths instead of putting tubes into bending in the case of collision or rollover.

Can someone more knowledgeable chime in on this Clearly the welds are beautiful and the main hoops fit the body very well, but the design still looks off.
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 3:19 PM
There are a lot of constraints that don't pan out well in the photos. For example, the cross bar and x-brace can't meet at the same point because you need the cross bar at a certain elevation to properly locate the should harnesses. The x-brace itself can't be too high to meet it, or you run the risk of intrusion from a side impact and impede on driver egress. The forward legs can't go as far forward to mitigate this because of the way the Ford chassis is designed (you'll see cutout structures in the firewall that don't allow the legs to meet the firewall). Moving the triangulating brace in the rear would put that bar in the driver's shoulder.

They also had to maintain room for some of the interior panels, and I'm sure they needed to make it all present well.

Is it a perfect cage when you punch it into FEA? Nope. However, it's pretty good considering the design constraints. All of the tubes that had a lot of choice in locations were located perfectly, those that don't were compromised in their location. The rules for the series it will run in, and the design of the mass-produced chassis make limitations in design. Making room for the driver is often the overriding consideration, not pure strength. A cage that is designed so that the driver's head or limbs smack into it in relatively minor collisions doesn't do much for his safety. Keep in mind that this is not a blank slate FSAE car, this is a production car turned racer.

In the end, the method of construction, attention to detail during assembly, choice in materials, and overkill number of supporting bars would make this a very survivable cage, as well as improve chassis rigidity enough to easily handle the expected loads it will see. If this cage were to fail, I'd question the driver's chances of survivability anyway.
Wes Dumalski
Wes Dumalskilink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 4:02 PM
If all cages were structurally perfect all cars would be tube chassis'. While I cannot say ANY cage is perfect whether or not it is perfect is decided by the need to use it. Let us all hope it does what it is supposed to do in the event it is called upon.
bigBcraig
bigBcraiglink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 4:13 PM
Thanks for the explanation.

I definitely didn't mean to insult anyone, but was looking for insight as to what constraints affected the geometry. Specifically the x-brace / harness bar makes a lot of sense.

Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 5:09 PM
The design is not that off, for sedans the cage is built around the car not vice versa.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:24 PM
Nice scoop Steve! It'd be weird to see someone other than Clint driving a Time Attack Focus...
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:32 PM
@ bigBcraig: No offense taken... At least, once I re-read your post... ;-p
Discotea
Discotealink
Friday, April 13, 2012 7:33 AM
What is the difference between "1.75" x 0.120" DOM mild steel tubing, thicker than the required 1.75" x 0.120" DOM"
Am i missing something or is DOM Mild steel different than DOM?
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Friday, April 13, 2012 11:11 AM
Dammit! :)

Required is 1.75" x 0.090" wall. I'll edit that, thanks for pointing it out!
91z
91zlink
Friday, April 13, 2012 1:07 PM
OO, looks like they kept the cup holders too! Good thing, I like my Big Gulp during a race.

Great article as always!
clintfocus
clintfocuslink
Friday, April 13, 2012 4:19 PM
nice wing placement :D
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