First Tests for our Fiesta

Update by Tom Suddard to the Ford Fiesta project car
May 1, 2012

At an autocross, we could get a feel for the car in a safe environment.
No decals yet: We numbered our car the low-buck way for this test, with painter's tape.
The Fiesta has phenomenal steering, and the pedals and controls are placed in such a way that it is very easy to drive on course.
We're convinced that the Fiesta will be a great platform for racing.

Before our Fiesta can ascend to greatness we need to see what it is like on track.

Eventually, our Fiesta will be a frequent traveller. It will go from track to track, covered with logos, numbers, racing equipment, and road grime. It will be loud and scary, and uninitiated onlookers will shake with fear. And, at least in our minds, it will draw millions of fans from all over the world to watch it top the B-Spec podium.

However, at the moment our little econobox is living a very different life. It’s bone stock, exactly as it left the showroom floor. Before our Fiesta can ascend to greatness, we need to see what it is like on track. Without testing, any changes we make would be only guesses.

Our first test was to take the Fiesta to our local autocross. Here, we could get a feel for the car in a very safe environment without much pressure.

We found both strengths and weaknesses in the car. First, the good: the Fiesta has phenomenal steering, and the pedals and controls are placed in such a way that it is very easy to drive on course. The ABS also works perfectly, netting impressively short stopping distances. The Fiesta’s stock suspension is also perfectly adequate, at least for its current wheel and tire combination.

However, it wasn’t all puppies and rainbows out on course. The car’s factory tires—Kumhos meant for great fuel economy—are woefully bad. They’ll definitely be one of the first things we address on this project, as it’s very hard to gauge the rest of the car when it is on tires this poor. The car understeers slightly at the moment, but this might just be tires. The other glaring issue was the factory stability control, which can’t be turned off. We’ll have to investigate the methods and legality of disabling this for autocross. The car’s computer simply wouldn’t let us drive the car, it wanted to have all the fun by itself.

After the autocross, we had a general idea of how our car handled. However, we only saw speeds of about 40 miles an hour; we’ll be going nearly three times that fast in B-Spec races. To get an idea of how the Fiesta handled a bigger, faster track, we brought it up to the European Rally School in Starke, Florida for a day of testing. This facility boasts a substantial track, so we were able to take the Fiesta up to race speeds.

The Fiesta showed a tendency towards understeer here, too, as well as all of the other plusses and minuses we saw on the autocross course. However, the stability control was not nearly as intrusive here as it had been on the autocross course.

After two days of testing, we’re convinced that the Fiesta will be a great platform for racing, and we can’t wait to start hacking it up. Its moment in the sun might not be too far away.

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View comments on the GRM forums
failboat UltraDork
5/1/12 10:39 a.m.

You didn't find the ABS to be intrusive? I know on my car (not a fiesta btw, but also a subcompact), if you happen to lift a rear tire or manage to get it to lock up first, ABS engages (basically cutting your brakes briefly), and makes you overshoot the apex.

I did a lot better and felt I had more control with the ABS fuses removed, disabling the system.

You might want to make sure thats an issue that doesnt pop up later with your car.

Vigo PowerDork
5/1/12 10:41 a.m.

I think the first time i pulled an ABS fuse to disable things that were irritating me was in 2003 or so.

In general now ABS is good enough that i never feel it's holding me back, but i think the same approach will work on disabling stability control. The only problem you MAY run into (and i doubt it) would be setting a DTC that requires a factory scan tool to truly reset.

Vigo PowerDork
5/1/12 10:41 a.m.

Oh wow. Great minds think alike and type the same things at the same time. lol

alfadriver GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
5/1/12 11:35 a.m.

Or swap the ABS module for the B-Spec module. I would suspect that it's also done to change the TC calibration.

Geekspeed Reader
5/1/12 11:49 a.m.

I have a Fiesta and I know there has been a lot of discussion regarding disabling the factory nannies. I believe the 2012s have a way to do so. There is a thread on Fiesta Faction that discusses it.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/12 12:07 p.m.

When I ran this car at the Daytona PDX track event, I turned off the TCS through the center display menu. Either I was too smooth or too slow, but I never felt the traction control or ABS.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Associate Editor
5/2/12 2:48 p.m.

The stability control was only noticeable in high-speed transitions, otherwise it was fine.

On our Fiesta the traction control can be turned off, but the stability control cannot.

We're already looking into our options for disabling these systems, both for autocross and for B-Spec.

6/1/12 6:17 a.m.

i drive a 2012 mazda2 as a daily commuter. the traction control on it is easily defeated with a switch on the dash! mine has seen the track at PCA events and does surprisingly well.

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