• Ford RS Nation Exclusive Interview with Tim Smith

    RS Nation Exclusive Interview with Tim Smith Performance Vehicle Engineering at Ford Motor Company

    Tim was noted as "permanently positive" (seen at 1:09 in the video) in the Rebirth of an Icon Series and having had the good fortune of meeting Tim, I can attest that not only is his a very positive guy, but a real car guy. It was Tim that first shared the news that Ford was working on a fix for the 1-2 bang experienced by Focus ST owners when driving spiritedly and shifting between those two gears. His retelling of identifying that issue made it abundantly clear that not only is he a real car guy, but passionate about what he does.

    Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed! For the first time ever, the RS will be sold in North America. For some of us, it's been a long wait, and from what we are reading and seeing, well worth it! Our members have closely followed the Rebirth of an Icon series and remembering your involvement in the ST, we were glad to see that you were on the project.

    ? Were you on the RS project right from the beginning?

    There's a lot of work that goes into setting up a program for success before the engineering team really gets going. Other than helping gather some data here and there during the initial phase, I didn't really start getting into the program until summer of 2013 after the launch of the Fiesta ST.

    ? Any adventures during RS development and testing that didn't make the series that you can share with us?

    I will say it was pretty cool how the series managed to distill down thousands of hours of planning/designing/engineering/testing/struggling into something digestible that really captured the process. It was sprung on me a bit last minute that there was a camera crew coming for that drive out west. You're thinking "Oh man, who are these guys, how's this going to work out"?, but they were great to work with and really part of the team.

    ? You've worked on the Focus and Fiesta ST and now the RS, what other projects have you been involved with?

    I joined the group in 2003 working on what became the 07 GT500. After that launch in 06, my main program was the Raptor until 2011 when I became the "ST Guy?" in the US. All throughout I lent a hand on other programs such as KR, 10, 11 and 13 GT500, GT350 and some others that didn't or haven't seen the light of day.

    ? In your opinion, what alignment of the planets was it that allowed the RS to finally reach our shores?

    The first hurdle that we cleared was the fact that the same platform already came to the US. Remember, we never got a version here of the Focus that the previous RS was built on. There is a lot of cost/effort/engineering in developing a body and powertrain that is compliant to US laws. A lot of that work was already done at the platform level for the new car.

    Additionally, the global nature of the program really helps make the business case work out. The added volume from the US takes the pressure off the European and other markets to absorb enough units to make the whole thing work out.
    Also, we have excellent support from the leadership at Ford. There is a real recognition of the value that performance products and engineering bring to the business. The joining of the North American and European performance groups along with racing and performance parts under one umbrella as Ford Performance resulted from that recognition. Being team gives us critical mass and makes knowledge transfer between EU and US, production cars and racing a lot easier.

    ? Track Days: A lot of guys who track their STs complain about brake fade and overheating. Is the RS truly track day ready? Compared to a ST, how better equipped is a RS to address brake fade and overheating?

    You've seen the specs so you know the brakes are a lot bigger. We also worked at directing more air to the brakes via routing, shields and deflectors in the front of the car. The fade resistance at the track is MUCH greater than the ST.

    ? The RS was designed with track days in mind, so why no Track Package / Key for the RS like the one found on the BOSS Mustang.

    It's a Ford Performance product so the standard key IS the track key ☺

    ? Knowing that the RS moniker means "Rallye Sport" do you foresee the Focus RS earning that badge and paying homage to it by competing in WRC (World Rally Cross) or even on the world's rally stages?

    Good question! I'd love to see the car in competition. We'll all have to wait and see??

    ? We have been voraciously reading everything we can about the AWD system on the RS. What makes the GKN AWD system better / different than offerings from the likes of RS's competitors? (Golf R, Subaru STI, Mitsu EVO, Audi RS3, Merc AMG.

    Most Focus RS competitors use conventional AWD systems that do not have the ability to vector, or over speed, the outside rear wheel in a turn. The EVO does offer torque vectoring capability but uses a differential in the rear axle which does not allow for truly independent left to right torque control.

    ? The turning radius of the ST is abysmal. At the ST Academy we joked that the Ford 15 passenger van we were riding in had a better turning radius than the Focus ST. Any changes in turning radius for the RS? Why is it the nature of the beast?

    Twin I-beams (E-van suspension) are awesome for wheel cut, aren't they? ☺. We have the same package constraints on the RS that we had on the ST so turning circle is still a challenge.

    ? A rally car allows for generous use of the handbrake to quicken it through the turns. Will use of the handbrake in the RS have any impact on handling and or the drive system?

    There isn't any direct electronic interaction (i.e. AWD or stability control changes in response to hand brake usage). If you're in an environment where handbrake turns won't get you thrown in jail, it definitely works better with ESC off or at least in one of the sportier modes. Also, just use it to trip the car if you really have to. You can then keep it out on the throttle.

    ? Has the RS been tested with ham handed American?s at the wheel to ensure that there will be no clunk between 1st and 2nd gear shifts!?

    We all learned a big lesson on the 13 ST. The RS has spent way more time drag racing in both EU and US. No worries on the clunks!

    ? As if 350 HP isn't enough, there are some of us who want "more power" Care to comment on what might be left on the table say via Ford Performance or Mountune support?

    Stay tuned!

    ? Many of our members have already ordered the RS and are eagerly awaiting its arrival. The performance data and North American price point have poised the RS atop the Sport Compact segment. Is the Ford Performance prepared for hot hatch / sport compact performance wars?

    The whole team is really excited that the car is finally hitting the market. We've spent a lot of time in the direct competitors as well as in some cars that might be considered a stretch for us and we're ready for all comers. There was a very clear vision of what we wanted to achieve and the support and push to achieve it. It was a bit dodgy at times but it always is with performance cars when you're really trying to push the envelope and at the end of the day we're really proud of the new RS.

    Thank you most kindly for your time from all of us at

    Thanks for the continued support from you guys. I can't wait to start reading about everyone's adventures when they start taking delivery of their new cars.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Ford RS Nation Exclusive Interview with Tim Smith started by Shomare View original post