Announced at SEMA 2017, the Ford Performance Drift Stick is an electronic handbrake for the Focus RS that is designed to do one thing – induce drift. The automaker claims that the unit is "intended for track use only," but with no sales restrictions, such as to those holding a motorsport or Gymkhana license, it seems destined to appeal to all manner of Ken Block wannabes.
The Focus RS already offers a Drift Mode, which Ford actually promotes as a safety-enhancing application of the electronic stability control (ESC) system that helps the driver control the vehicle. This mode allows the all-wheel drive system to send up to 70 percent of the abundant torque to the rear wheels, and up to 100 percent of that to either rear wheel to achieve torque vectoring that reduces understeer and enables power oversteer. By making use of the ESC, Drift Mode compares the car's yaw rate to the driver's steering inputs and prevents the yaw rate from exceeding the driver's ability.
The Drift Stick takes things a little bit further. The Stick part is an aluminum lever located between the driver's seat and the manual gearshift and it operates what is essentially an electronic handbrake to disengage the clutches in the rear drive and use the ABS to activate the hydraulic brakes on the rear wheels. That enables clutch-free drift turns while reducing the risk of damage to the rear drivetrain. It was developed for the Focus RS by the same team responsible for Drift Mode and its installation doesn't affect the car's factory warranty.
"The passionate engineers at Ford Performance are also enthusiasts," says Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. "Everyone here is encouraged to think outside the box, so project 'Wicked Stick' was born. Our engineers will leverage the learnings from its 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."
Enthusiastic endorsement of the Drift Stick was given by professional rally and Gymkhana driver, Ken Block, whose stunt videos have a worldwide, viral following. Block is a prolific user of conventional, hydraulic handbrakes in rally cars, but the modifications required to adapt an original-equipment hydraulic handbrake system to function like the Drift Stick would be substantial and inappropriate for normal road use. In comparison, the electronic technology of the Drift Stick is easily installed and removed (remember, this if for track use only), operates instantaneously and requires only 5 to 6 lb (2.3 to 2.7 kg) of pressure to operate.
"I think it's really cool that Ford Performance is offering customers a way to create large-angle drifts in the Focus RS," says Block. "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. It definitely makes the car even more fun to drive."
A useful by-product realized during the development of the Drift Stick was its potential application as an enhancement to Ford's professional calibration tool. Simply plugging a USB cable into the Drift Stick enables the extraction of select diagnostic data and the uploading of powertrain calibrations.
The Drift Stick will be available in the US and Canada from December 1 for US$999.