Motor Trend just did a comparison between the two cars at the very top of the hot hatch totem pole: the Ford Focus RS and the Volkswagen Golf R. And the car site drove the cars hard—so hard, in fact, that the Focus’s brakes caught fire.
Jason Cammisa and Johnny Lieberman, in a mostly-qualitative comparison, took God In Hatchback Form and pitted it up against a car that is Good At Everything, driving the two in California around some great windy roads and on a track.
They did a drag race, ran some hot laps, and even competed in a timed challenge on the sweet, twisty roads to see which of the two cars was quickest.
The Focus RS, piloted by Cammisa, was quicker in that challenge, but its brake pads also caught fire as those pads worked hard to scrub off the car’s kinetic energy and convert it to heat.
I’ve never seen brake pads catch fire, but from why I understand, brake conflagration is usually a result of oil or brake fluid on brake parts burning off (which is why you’re always supposed to hit your pads and rotors with brake cleaner before installation). I’ve also heard that new brakes can catch fire as they burn off the protective anti-corrosion layer. So it’s not exactly unusual or necessarily indicative of anything untowards.
Either way, it’s an interesting sight to see on a brand new performance car, and it was also kind of cool to see it extinguished with a hard right foot to the skinny pedal.