Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Jeff Nemeth is just two kart lengths ahead of me as we bullet under the bridge at Zwartkops go-kart track. He is firmly protecting his lines but two aspects are against his plans: my determination and the massive width of this track. The immediate turn is a sharp right-hander. Thankfully it’s wide enough to pull a classic Hamilton move. Late braking…actually make that NO BRAKING at all and we hit the preceding incline side by side as a treacherous left hander with roughage and camber changes beckons. Kodak moment fast approaching now; He goes wide and I go tighter. Bumps; opposite lock; (flash); Phuti Mpyane is in front and Ford SA CEO beaten.
No hard feelings from Jeff for being out-cornered by a guy wearing a pink shirt... His company is poised to score a far bigger victory than this little scuffle we’ve just enjoyed.

As a fresh breeze washes over my cheese-kop while I de-helmet, a white Focus RS scorches by emitting a most chillingly glorious holler at the real track below. Ford’s new Focus RS is here and it’s a steely iteration compared to the widely popular ST version. War paint includes a huge roof mounted spoiler; a menacingly wider front air-dam, slats on the bonnet, two big bore tail pipes and a diffuser designed into the rear bumper.

You’d pop inside expecting it to have no floor carpets, a fire extinguisher and the dashboard ripped off as per rally car specifications. What you do find instead is a cabin similar in architecture to the ST and acres of carbon fibre effect inserts while deep Recaros stand guard. The cabin is well manicured and strangely for a model built on super virility, it feels that much more luxurious than the lesser Orangey species. Even its progression on tarmac feels more accomplished and has that great German sedan cushion to it in spite of its lowered road stance and rubber that looks more painted than fitted onto handsome multi-spoke alloys.

Drivability is so polished. This doesn’t quite back-up the message about the RS being track specialist. I mean, heck, the tiller yields to hand inputs with zero resistance that again belies the true nature of the beast. Having gingerly cruised to tap into its Clark Kent side of the business and being convinced that it has good mannerism that can see owners use it on daily basis, it was time to rip off the shirt and get airborne. With the throttle buried, the power comes in emphatically. First a smidgen of lag is felt due to a bigger turbo being fitted onto the basic 2.5-litre 5 potter, the power swells up from low down and then KA-POW. This is where glaring differences to the ST surface. It too sounds fantastic but importantly, it backs that bark with real go. However, this is one part of a juicy RS Focus. The other is to be REVO-KNUCKLED.

This is Ford’s new suspension tech developed with input from the company’s WRC outfit. It’s a bit of Chinese-Mathematics that I will spare you from but the basic concept here is that power is shifted to the front wheel with the most traction. This eliminates the dreaded torque-steer that afflicts vulgarly powered front-pushers and to a good extent understeer is also kept in check and Zwarties is a perfect venue to verify this knuckle-effect. Turn two at the Big Z is notoriously hair-pinned. To do it well is too brake in time and head for an orange cone that marks the center of the corner. Flying in from the main straight, I brake deeper, wider, and turn in while feeding in power. The result is unbelievable.

The KNUCKLES do their thing and shuffle things under there and the orange apex-marker I’d bid farewell to by late retardation is suddenly back in contention. Clip the corner and back on the power. The exercise is riveting and I’m beginning to get all green at the prospects of what owners of these 60 units (all sold out by the way) are going to possess.

It’s a bit of a catch 22 scenario that’s playing out. Ford finally has something that can successfully wrestle back the lost kudos from current class leaders but being a limited and frankly last hurrah before the new Focus arrives, it will go down SA history as a bar-room debate on whether it is/was actually fantastic. Allow me to be the cart that says the Ford Focus RS is/was Ford at its incredible, hatchback best.

Engine: 2.5-litre, 5 cylinder, 224kW at 6500rpm, 440Nm between 2300 – 4500rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual, FWD,
Claimed 0 - 100km/h: 5.9 seconds
Top Speed: 263 km/h
Headline Tech: Revo-Knuckle, larger turbo (1.4 Boost)

Price: R479 000


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