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2013 Ford Focus ST Lap Times - A Closer Look




A few weeks ago, Car and Driver posted their annual new and updated performance cars test - Lightning Lap 2013 (Car and Driver's Lightning Lap 2013 - A Closer Look). While the Focus ST has yet to disappoint a reviewer in terms of driving balance and handling, especially for a front-wheel drive, performance numbers and lap times were a little lower than expected.

The Lightning Lap is held at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), where the Focus ST posted a lap time of 3:21.4. In case you are not familiar with the track and the lap times, this time puts it behind competitors like the Golf GTI MkVI, the Subaru BRZ, the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works, the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Mazda Mazdaspeed 3. One thing to note, though, is that it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Focus ST during Lightning Lap 2013.

The Lightning Lap test is simple in that cars are ranked based only on their lap times over 3 days of tests. They usually record the fastest lap times on the second day, which makes sense because they wouldn't be as familiar with the car on day 1 and exhaustion probably hinders progress on day 3.  In an unfortunate incident (for the Focus) the keys were smashed and the car was forced to miss the second day of lapping, which means it possibly missed its chance to record the fastest lap time. A recent Motor Trend comparison test may have just redeemed the Focus ST's numbers though.

Motor Trend posted a comparison test between the 2013 Mazda Mazdaspeed3, Ford Focus ST and Subaru Impreza WRX Special Edition a couple of weeks ago. The comparison included hot lapping the 3 cars at the 1.55 mile Streets of Willow Raceway where they ranked third, second and first:

1 - Impreza WRX: 1:27.40
2 - Focus ST: 1:28.40
3 - Mazdaspeed3: 1:29.51

While at VIR with Car and Driver the rankings were different:

1 - Mazdaspeed3: 3:16.2
2 - Impreza WRX: 3:16.5
3 - Focus ST: 3:21.4

You can't always carry the same lap-time-based order/ranking from track to track. This is clear here where the Mazdaspeed3 is a couple of seconds slower than the WRX at Streets of Willow but 0.3 s quicker at VIR. However, during the Motor Trend test, the 3 cars were closely matched and the same stands at VIR, except for the Focus ST which is far behind. It's not unusual for a car's performance to vary a lot from track to track, though, because different track configurations highlight different strengths and weaknesses.

So what are the Focus ST's weaknesses compared to the WRX and Mazdaspeed3? We know from reviews that it's the best handler, objectively and subjectively. It is the most neutral with the best turn in and posts class leading grip and braking numbers. The only category where the Focus ST trails is acceleration. Add that to the fact that it lacks a mechanical limited slip diff, which is something it's always critiqued for, and it's apparent that what the Focus ST needs to post better numbers is one thing; Speed.

The question is, does it have enough speed to post a faster lap time than the 3:21.4? The answer, in my opinion, is a definite yes. The VW Golf GTI Mk VI, a direct competitor for the Focus ST, posted a lap time of 3:19.3 at VIR when it was tested for Lightning Lap 2009. The Golf GTI has less hp and torque - 52 hp and 63 lb-ft torque to be exact. The Focus has stronger brakes, more grip and a more composed chassis (in terms of performance). The Golf GTI even has to do with an electronic brake-based limited slip diff, much like the Focus ST. In terms of performance, the GTI should have no advantage over the Focus ST.

So what do I make out of this? The Focus ST should be able to at least post a better lap time than 3:19.3 and probably closer to the 3:16.x range. There's no way to tell for sure, though, so I hope Car and Driver brings the Focus ST back next year for another round of testing.. Now enough with all that bench racing - if you have a Focus ST, you know it's a pretty quick car and should be able to hang with the best in class so take it out to a track or an autocross event and see how fast you can take it!

Source: Car and Driver and Motor Trend

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