Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
A Sticky Situation
The Red Hot Chili Pepper bites hard with slicks from Mickey Thompson and brakes from Steeda Autosports.
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Our last drag test with the Red Hot Chili Pepper project Focus left us feeding in the throttle off the line to prevent our turbocharged sport compact from spinning its front wheels with reckless abandon. Since we intend to add more power to the potent Zetec engine, we thought it was time to look into some sticky tires for the front-driver.
At the same time, we've noticed that the stock brakes are rather inadequate, especially when compared to those on the SVT Focus we drove. We felt we really needed to address that as well, not only because of our increased track speeds, but also for better performance in the stop and go of New Jersey's rush hour.
After talking with Steeda's Dan Carlson, we ordered up a pair of Power Slot Rotors, EBC Green Stuff Sport pads, G-Stop brake lines, and a bottle of EBC's Hi-Temp brake fluid. "We use the same disc/drum setup on our Steeda Focus road race car," said Dan. "The wheel bearings in the drums actually last longer than in the disc brakes."
These Steeda brake components were just what the doctor ordered, but we want to accelerate as much as we want to stop, maybe more so. With our stopping power increased, we turned our attention toward the tire department.
Searching through Mickey Thompson's catalog, we found part number 3019, which netted us M/T ET Drag rubber, size 22.0/8.0-15. That's right, 22-inch tall slicks. M/T also makes a 24-inch tall slick (PN 3015), but time was of the essence at this point, as we were readying the Pepper to run in the Focus Frenzy class at the upcoming Garden State Fun Ford Weekend in Englishtown, New Jersey. We had also seen other Foci running the same 22-inchers, so we knew they would fit for sure.
Rather than grab some oddball rims from the boneyard, we called up Konig Wheels for a pair of its 15x7-inch Next lightweight racing wheels. Priced at $129, they're pretty inexpensive, yet they weigh but 12 lbs 9 oz each. Not even Yugo wheels are that light. Konig molds the wheels with a single-bolt pattern so that they can hog out the rest of the thick aluminum hub to save weight.
Danny's Pro Performance in Keyport, New Jersey, took care of the brake component install--which took less than an hour--as well as mounted and balanced the slicks for us. Then it was off to E-town for some bracket racing in the Frenzy.
The weather was quite unbearable all weekend (upper 80s with high humidity) and as such, elapsed times were 3-5 tenths off for everyone. We didn't get nearly as many runs as we would have needed to really find the optimum launch with the new tires, but we nearly equaled our best 60-foot time even in the searing heat of qualifying. Our previous best on street tires was a 2.18, and we hit a 2.19 the first time out. Our best elapsed time of the weekend was a 15.19 at 90.06 mph, quite a bit off from our previous 14.56 at 93 that was achieved during 40-degree weather.
We qualified fifth in a field of eight and rolled up next to number one qualifier Tom Lesperance of North Carolina in the staging lanes. Tom had qualified with a 13.32 at 115 mph, but bumping boost up to 27 psi in his turbocharged Focus netted him a stunning 11.88 at 123 mph later in the day. Lesperance left .096 second early, tripping the red bulb and the win light for Team MM&FF.
For the second round we squared off against two-time Fun Ford Weekend winner Brandy Burd of Ohio. We thought we had her number this weekend. Evidently, we were wrong. We had the advantage on the tree by .038 second, but the 4F27E automatic tranny stayed in First gear as it swept past its 6,200-rpm shift point. We pedaled the gas to get the Pepper to shift, which slowed our elapsed time down considerably. Burd ran closer to her dial-in and thereby taking us out in round two.
We'd like to thank Lesperance and Focus-Power in North Belmont, North Carolina, for the advice on tire pressure, as we really were not sure where to begin with a front-wheel-drive machine. Eighteen psi did the trick, and we're looking into the transmission issue as well.
So now we've got some sticky Mickeys for our commando commuter's track tests and we have better braking for those times on the highway when New Jersey's driving population jams on their brakes at the first hint of precipitation. We also have a bunch more modifications planned for the Pepper as well. So stay tuned...