Ford Focuses on the ST-R
By Bill Wood
Nearly a year ago a driver friend was in Europe and he gave me call to praise the Ford Focus ST. He used words like BMW and Audi to talk about how good the car felt and how it would impact the American marketplace when it got here. When his praise turned to bragging I changed the subject. I don't wear envy well.
Then about a month ago Ford gave all of us some indication of its intentions for the Focus here in North America. It introduced a full dress ST-R at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The car was designed for the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner category. With a little massaging it will fit in the World Challenge Touring Car and Canadian Touring Car Championships. It's actually more than designed for the Continental series. The plan is to run two cars in the series built and supported by Multimatic, a long-time Ford racing presence based in Toronto. A spokesman at Multimatic told me there are no present plans to run a World Challenge program but there may be one or two Canadian Touring Car events. "We'll see," he said.
The rest will be left up to customers like you and me. Ford will thump the Blue Oval on the race track to do some praising and bragging of its own about the Focus ST-R. But it wants customers to turn that back beat into some driving rhythms like everyone did with the Mustang FR500C and Boss programs. By the way, those successful Mustang programs were driven initially by Multimatic so that shop knows how to launch a Pitbull racing beat. The people at Ford tell me the Mustang racing program is over at the factory level. I’m told there are enough customer Mustangs in place and Ford’s very interested in supporting them to any Victory Circle they can reach.
The show car at the Frankfurt Motor Show will be a test mule. The cars being used by Multimatic are derivatives of this car. Ford says the Frankfurt car will become a test car for other projects. The first of the “Electric Gold” and black ST-Rs showed up at a recent Grand-Am test at Birmingham's Barber Motorsports Park. Both drivers, James Gue and Gunner Jeannette, tested the car looking for kinks and finding problems that can be transferred to the second race car still being built.
Sean Mason at Multimatic oversees the program there. He told me Gue and Jeannette will be in one car. "They can win races that way." He expects to have customers in the second car when the team starts the Continental Tire season at Daytona in January. Both drivers carefully praised this first Focus ST-R. They have enough experience to know a winner. Gunnar Jeannette won the ALMS LMPC category championship last year and was second in 2010. Gue finished second in 2008 and 2009 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport points standings with co-driver Bret Seafuse. He owns three Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS victories, including two in 2009. Gue drove with Patrick Dempsey's Mazda program in Rolex GT last year and was on the podium three times. These guys know how to drive. The issue is how they drive slower cars like the Focus ST-R in the Street Tuner category, a class for lightly modified production sedans.
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