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MODIFIED FORD FOCUS RS MK1 – SWEET SPOT

Posted by Matt Bell on 13th January 2022

Fusing hardcore track-day performance with show-car quality, Jazmin Harrington’s modified Ford Focus RS Mk1 really hits the spot.

Feature from Fast Ford. Words: Jamie King. Photos: Jason Dodd.

Like so many of us Blue Oval enthusiasts, Jazmin Harrington can trace her love for all things Ford back to her parents; in this case a youth spent (mostly sideways) as a passenger in her dad’s Sapphire Cosworth.

With such smoky, smile-inducing memories etched into her head, it was only natural that Jaz would turn to the good Ford when she turned 17 and was able to source a car of her own.

She remembers, “My first car was Ka – a far cry from Dad’s Cossie, but my passion for Ford started when I was young, so I was always going to have a Ford.”

Over the years, cars have come and gone, but that fondness for a Blue Oval never went. If anything, it only grew stronger. And before long, the time was right to find a fast Ford that Jaz could use to really express her passion for the brand.

But what would fit the bill? A Sapphire Cossie like her dad had back in the day? Nah. Too old and valuable (and fragile) to use in anger regularly – most are saved for a handful of shows per year, if that, these days.

What about a new Fiesta or Focus ST? Nope. They lack the Rallye Sport heritage Jaz was after.

Then the answer drove past – literally – and then parked on next-door’s driveway.

“Yeah, this car actually belonged to my next door neighbour,” laughs Jaz. The Ford Focus RS Mk1 started to make a lot of sense; it’s modern enough to use whenever she wants, and is equally as capable popping out to the shops during the middle of the week as it is looking fabulous on the stands at weekend shows and events. It has all the Rallye Sport pedigree (arguably the first of the new breed of RS models) and, most importantly, it has bags of performance potential too.

Jaz finally got the keys to her ideal RS last year, and since then hasn’t wasted any time in putting her own stamp on things.

“The car was largely standard with only a handful of small mods, but the bodywork was perfect,” Jaz says.

Proving to be the perfect blank canvas for her vision of the ideal fast-road RS, Jaz spent the next few months towing the Focus (in her Ranger – of course it had to be a Ford) all over the country, visiting various specialists. Now, we normally see a familiar pattern here: increase power – break something – uprate it – increase power some more – break something else… And so the cycle repeats.

That’s the typical way these stories unfold, but Jaz took a much more methodical and sensible approach. She explains, “The car had covered 68,000 miles, and I knew I wanted around 400bhp, so the first thing I did was take the car for an engine rebuild using forged parts. I wanted peace of mind of that I was going to have a good, strong engine.”

Dave Hill (who builds race engines at Mountune) was charged with the job of assembling all the upgraded hardware, which includes a set of Wossner forged pistons and rods, heavy-duty bearings, ARP fixings, a gas-flowed cylinder head, and vernier cam pulleys, among other bits.

With the new engine in place, the next stop was to see Leighton and Paul at Sabre Tuning in Wiltshire. Based next to Castle Combe racetrack, these guys have built a reputation as go-to tuners when it comes to mapping big-power Focus RSs. Today, the company is getting well and truly stuck in to third generation Focus RS tuning, but it was their work with the Mk1 RS that first caught the attention of Ford fans.

With the brief of ‘I want 400bhp’ ringing in their ears, Leighton and Paul set about installing one of their Stage 4 upgrades. Comprising a 400RS turbo upgrade, ceramic-coated Milltek four-branch exhaust manifold, a set of larger 630cc injectors, a big MAF upgrade and Sabre’s Stage 4 mapping, the Focus was now producing a solid 400bhp.

To make sure that it continues to do so, no matter how hard Jaz pushes things (whether that’s on the road or even on track, which is something she’s keen to explore), the next port of call for the Focus was Spec-R for a full suite of alloy upgrades.

First on the agenda was a decent size and spec front-mounted intercooler – at 400bhp things get very hot, very quickly, so to stop the ECU being a party-pooper and pulling the power back (admittedly to save the engine from any serious damage), Jaz commissioned Pete at Spec-R to build and install one of the monster intercooler upgrades.

Now it doesn’t matter how hard Jaz abuses the RS, the charge air temperatures will remain stable and ensure that the Sabre software can continue deliver the full quota of 400-plus horses.

So impressed by the quality of Pete’s work, Jaz asked Spec-R to add a host of other alloy goodies: a header tank with sight glass, power steering reservoir tank, oil breather separator, brake fluid reservoir, battery cradle and cam cover centre plate were all fitted before the RS left Wiltshire and headed back to Essex.

Along the way, and in between trips all over the country, the RS has also seen its stock suspension binned in favour of some BC Racing coilovers, and the standard wheels have been swapped for a set of menacing Rota D154 alloys – which, in contrasting gunmetal grey, suit the Imperial Blue bodywork perfectly. The rims are wrapped in slightly-wider-than-usual 245/40-profile Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which give a small indication for Jaz’s intended next steps with this modified Ford Focus RS Mk1.

She says, “I’ve already done a few shows with the car, and it’s been very well received, but I’ve fitted the Cup 2 tyres as I’m looking to do a track day very soon. I ordered them slightly oversized to give the car a wider look.”

If it goes as well as it looks, we’re sure Jaz will have fun on track. Come to think of it, however Jaz decides to use the car, it will rise to the task: it has enough power and performance but without compromising on reliability or practicality; it has enough style and road presence to impress and wow crowds at shows and events; and it offers the perfect combination of form and function. It really is the RS sweet spot.

Tech Spec: Modified Ford Focus RS Mk1

Engine:

1988cc turbocharged Zetec DOHC (badged as Duratec RS), Sabre 400RS turbo, Milltek four-branch exhaust manifold finished in red Zircotec coating, Wossner forged pistons and forged conrods, heavy-duty bearings, ARP head bolts and main cap bolts, multi-layer head gasket, gas-flowed cylinder head, original RS camshafts with vernier adjustable cam pulleys, 630cc injectors, uprated fuel pump, Roose Motorsport silicone hoses, larger MAF sensor, Spec-R intercooler and big boost pipe kit, Spec-R header tank, Spec-R power steering tank, Spec-R brake fluid reservoir, Spec-R oil breather system, Spec-R battery cradle, Spec-R cam cover centre plate, Aeroquip braided hoses, Cobra Sport 3in exhaust system, Vibra-Technics engine mount, Sabre Stage 4 remap

Transmission:

Original Focus RS MTX75 gearbox with factory-fit Quaife ATB diff, Sachs heavy-duty organic clutch

Suspension:

BC Racing BR Series coilovers all round

Brakes:

Front: original Focus RS Brembo four-pot callipers and 324mm ventilated discs; rear: solid 280mm discs (all refurbished)

Wheels & tyres:

8.5x18in Rota D154 alloys in gunmetal, 4×108 PCD, ET35, with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 245/40×18 tyres

Exterior:

Original Focus RS, front splitter

Interior:

Original Focus RS interior trim

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