That sounds like a shameful confessional, but let me finish: this is no ordinary Fiesta. If a regular Fiesta is your dog, then this Fiesta is like if Ford engineers kidnapped your dog and did terrible things to it with turbos until it could run from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds.
Yesterday I was at Ford's Fiesta ST GRC test event, where they showed off their rallycross-spec Fiestas. Rallycross has long been popular in Europe, and is starting to take off here in the US. Their main goal, of course, is to show Americans how much fun a small hot hatch can be, which most of our readers already know.
The Fiestas here do differ in some details from the production ones. A careful look at the specs shows a turbocharged Ecoboost engine making about 600 HP or so (restricted — they can actually make up to 900 HP), and certain eagle-eyed enthusiasts may notice the full space frame and massive radiator mounted in the rear. Other than the entire car's materials, engine output, instruments, chassis structure, suspension, etc. there's hardly any difference at all.
I'm being a sarcastic jackass, of course. These are extremely impressive AWD little monsters.
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Andreas Eriksson, who heads up Ford's team, says that the Fiesta ST GRC car is "... the fastest car. Maybe not drag racing, but a car that can actually climb and fly." That's what he said: "climb and fly."
He also admitted that maybe the power in these cars was a bit much. He said the car would do 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, or, depending on gearing, 0-90 in 3.5 seconds. And it can do the opposite, 90 to 0, about as fast. They're highly nimble but tricky cars, as he said in his great understated Scandinavian way,
"... you can overdrive, and the car can put you in big problems."
Yes, that does sound like a good way to get put in big problems.
So what's it like to drive in one of these monsters? They wouldn't let any of us journalists drive them, because of track rules against vehicular homicide (thanks a lot, Obama), but they did let us ride shotgun with the loons who know how to drive these things.
I was first to go, and got to ride around the coned-off course (sadly, all tarmac, no dirt) with driver Toomas Heikkinen, one of GRC's youngest drivers. He did a very good job of trying to liquefy me. Here's some video, first from the on-board GoPro:
... and here from my backup hand-held camera:
It's really hard to get a sense of what it feels like in there from the video, unless you have some special haptic feedback chair that reads G-force data from video streams. When the car first takes off, the feeling of acceleration is like nothing else I've been in, even the GT-R. It feels like your organs were suddenly transmuted into iron and then your spine became an electromagnet.
The car gets to speed in no time, and the driver doesn't seem to be slowing for any of the turns, which seem to all be taken sideways. Looking out the windshield is confusing, because it almost always looked like we were heading right for the barriers or walls, even though, somehow, the car never quite touched anything.
The lateral forces on a course like this are absolutely insane. It's like having the Hulk behind you trying to give you a sensual backrub, but instead just flinging you back and forth, never letting up his grip. Take a hint, Hulk. I'm not putting out.
But, also like a date with the Hulk would be, it's incredibly fun, and it leaves you feeling like you're made of udon. The forces of acceleration, braking, turning are all constantly flinging you around like a ragdoll in the steel cage of the car. It's wildly physical, and I wasn't even driving. It takes a huge amount of focus and physical conditioning to drive one of these cars like this.
One little detail about the Fiesta ST GRC cars I noticed that Ford should consider implementing into their production cars is the lights. Well, actually the sort of lack of the lights, and what that does. See, they're using some real Fiesta body parts on here, including the light lenses, even though the light units themselves have been removed.
What that leaves are these two little windows into the engine bay that give exciting views into the car's guts. I saw one that was open but still mounted a small LED light unit. A production car with light enclosures that allowed a view into the engine bay could be pretty damn cool, I think.
If you get a chance to watch these cars and racers in action, I recommend it. They're bonkers, and that's not a word I throw around carelessly. Actually, it is, but still.