Jamie gets behind the wheel of Hendy Performance’s 500bhp+ tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3, the eye-catching #HP500 development car.

Review from Fast Ford magazine. Photos: Jason Dodd.

As a tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3 owner, I spend a lot of time behind the wheel of the most recent Rallye Sport model. In fact, it was my own Focus RS that I took to Hendy Performance HQ to test the team’s #HP500 demo car.

Hendy’s #HP500 isn’t exactly a newcomer to the fast Ford scene, and avid Mk3 fans have no doubt already seen videos on the internet of YouTubers and other RS enthusiasts giving their feedback on the big-turbo bruiser.

But, until recently, the finished product hadn’t been available. Until now. I was lucky enough to be driving the eye-catching development car after its most recent round of updates, which the guys at Hendy claim have totally transformed the tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3 from its previous setup.

The project began a couple of years ago, when Hendy’s team bagged themselves a fully-loaded Nitrous Blue Mk3 Focus RS to use as a development vehicle to showcase the performance upgrades on offer. As Mountune dealers, the team quickly fitted a raft of performance upgrades from their friends in Essex. These included fully forged engine internals, BorgWarner EFR-7163 turbo, Piper Stage 2 cams and springs, ARP head studs, balance shaft delete, baffled sump, Mountune V3 exhaust with sports cat, Mountune intercooler, Mountune intake kit, and an Xtreme DI fuel pump.

Tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3 engine shot

In addition, the Hendy team also added a Quaife ATB, fitted Eibach springs, had the cylinder worked on by Ian Howell at Area Six Motorsport, and worked closely with Motorsport Developments to develop a set of multimaps purely for this car – the first is 445bhp/405lb.ft, slot two is 475bhp/480lb.ft, while slot three serves up the full-fat 520bhp/550lb ft – hence the #HP500 tags.

But just as the project began, the world was struck by the Coronavirus pandemic, which limited travelling from Southampton to Blackpool, so the first stages of software were written according to data log files sent back and forth between Hendy and MSD.

Kevin, Hendy Performance’s technical supervisor, describes the process: “The first file was developed using info MSD already had from similarly spec’d cars on their dyno, but we carried out various data logging and Stu at MSD would make tweaks to improve things. For example, one revision saw us install one of MSD’s new 4-bar MAP sensors, and there have been four or five updates to the software since then too.”

Kevin goes on to explain that the car hasn’t yet been fully finished as he tosses me the keys to the tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3: “Now, with nearly 20,000 miles under its belt (thanks in part to Covid-delays) we’ve been able to finalise the settings and all that remains to do is the final setup on MSD’s dyno when we can get up to Blackpool – it’s a totally different beast to drive now.”

Tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3 wheels

Even though I take the time to sample all the power slots, you’ll not be surprised to learn that I spend most of my time in the full-power 520bhp setting.

Despite this, as I make my way out of Hendy’s HQ and head for some open roads, I have to confess its road manners when sitting in traffic and cruising along the motorway at steady speeds are the same as with any other Mk3 Focus RS I’ve driven; certainly, it has the same factory-feel that I admire about my own car. The wrap does get some looks though.

Before long, I turn off the M27 and start hunting out some good roads in the New Forest National Park…

My goodness! This car comes alive when you allow it to stretch its legs.

I’d read some of the reviews and watched some of the videos on the #HP500 before I got chance to drive it, and one common thread was the increased amount of turbo lag. A trade-off for a bigger turbo is traditionally always going to be some increase in response time, but I must admit I haven’t really noticed it. I don’t know why; perhaps my driving style is better suited to the car? Or the fact that I own an RS myself means I’m more accustomed to the power delivery? Or, more likely, the recent updates have made significant improvements to the car since those reviews were made.

If anything, I think the bigger turbo and slight increase in lag actually helps this tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3; it means the power is introduced in a more linear fashion, and that makes it more manageable… Because when the boost kicks in, all hell breaks loose!

You really wouldn’t want 550lb ft of torque kicking in at 2000rpm (where the standard car makes its peak 350lb ft because it would just be a wheel-spinning monster.

Instead, with full boost not coming until you’re above 3000rpm, you’re already moving, and traction is generally less of an issue before all of that boost is unleashed.

But that’s not to say it won’t still light the tyres up if you aren’t on top of your game – on slippery, narrow, stone-covered roads like these you need to have your wits about you if you want to poke this particular RS with a stick; it wants to poke you back…

And for me that’s one of the best things about it. The reason we love fast Fords over other marques is because they are full of character. Yes, there are plenty of fast (faster, in many cases) German and Japanese machines available, but they can tend to feel a little soulless in comparison. Fast Fords are supposed to excite and make you feel alive, and boy does the #HP500 do that in spades.

I carry on enjoying the B-road blasts until I run out of fuel. I just don’t want to give it back.

The downside, as is so often the case, is that the hardware requirements needed to enjoy all this extra power – particularly the forged engine internals – adds significantly to the cost of the upgrade. From a bone-stock car to full-fat #HP500-spec you’re looking at a minimum of £10,000.

But those upgrades don’t all have to be done at once, so speaking of which, anyone know where I can get me a deal on some RS forged rods and pistons…?

Want a Mk3 Focus RS? Check out our buyer’s guide. If you’re an owner looking for modifying advice, check out our Mk3 RS tuning guide.

Tech Spec: Tuned Ford Focus RS Mk3 from Hendy Performance

Mk3 Focus RS, Mountune/Mahle pistons and Carrillo conrods, BorgWarner EFR-7163 turbo, Piper Stage 2 fast-road camshafts and valve springs, ARP head studs, Mountune V3 exhaust with sports cat, Mountune intercooler, Mountune intake kit, Mountune hard pipe kit, balance shaft delete, baffled sump plate, Xtreme DI fuel pump, ported and polished cylinder head, 4-bar MAP sensor, Motorsport Developments MSD500 software (multimaps), Quaife ATB, Eibach lowering springs, custom #HP500 wrap