When Ford included a ‘Drift’ mode in the ESP settings of the 2016 Focus RS model, this marked the most overtly sporty dynamics feature of the RS range. Many thought Ford wouldn’t go further, but they would be wrong as the blue oval’s Ford Performance division has now developed a rally-inspired handbrake for the model, named the Ford Performance Drift Stick.
The Drift Stick, billed as the first-ever rally-inspired electronic handbrake, is an aluminum lever fitted between the driver’s seat and the manual transmission. The lever connects with the all-wheel-drive system in conjunction with the antilock braking system, opening up the rear-drive unit clutches and applying hydraulic pressure to lock the rear wheels to induce drift with the simple pull of a lever, with just five to six pounds of pressure required to operate it. The results are clutch-free drift turns claimed to be very similar to the experience of a real rally car.
The US$999 unit was first devised when a Ford Performance engineer noted the many similarities in its electronics with a part Ford already sells on a regular basis: the professional calibration tool. Integrating this existing technology meant that a USB cable could be in easily plugged into the Drift Stick to pull select diagnostic data and upload powertrain calibrations for the Focus RS. No welding, no hole drilling or calipers, as would be necessary with a hydraulic kit, and its installation does not affect the car’s warranty. The Drift Stick also connects to the onboard diagnostics port on the car, allowing it to function as a professional calibration tool.
For final sign-off, professional rally driver Ken Block – one of the most prolific users of the hydraulic handbrake in rally cars – was consulted. He pushed for the electronic handbrake to provide average drivers with the quickest possible way to get the Focus RS sideways for large-angle drifts.
“I think it’s really cool that Ford Performance is offering customers a way to create large-angle drifts in the Focus RS. Obviously it’s something that I’m really passionate about, having been a part of the development of the production vehicle, so it’s exciting to see it come to life,” said Block. “It definitely makes the car even more fun to drive.”
“The passionate engineers at Ford Performance are also enthusiasts,” said Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. “Our engineers will leverage the learnings from [the Drift Stick’s]development for many future products for Ford Performance and, ultimately, take back even more of an innovative spirit when they rejoin our mainstream engineering teams.”