So you want to drive like Ken Block and get your Focus RS sideways as often as possible? The engineers at Ford have a handy solution for you in what the company is billing as the first-ever “electronic handbrake.” It’s a big metal lever positioned next to the driver’s seat that, like a hydraulic handbrake in a rally or drift car, allows for locking up the rear tires at will.
This is the point where we remind you Ford says this is for track use only, so don’t try to drift on public roads. Or if you do, at least capture your drift crashes on camera for YouTube posterity.
Anyway, the Drift Stick was created by Ford Performance engineer John Wicks, leading the device to be known internally as Project Wicked Stick. Rather than all the complicated modifications needed for a true hydraulic handbrake – new brake lines, calipers, etc – this system is all done through software. When the driver tugs the Drift Stick, the Focus RS’s on-board computers disengage the rear differential clutches, then command the ABS to apply the rear brakes. The result: easy slides that won’t damage the car’s all-wheel-drive system. The feature works in tandem with the existing “Drift Mode” setting available from the drive-mode switch in the Focus RS.
During development, Ford even got drift-master Ken Block to sign off on the Drift Stick’s performance.
“I think it’s really cool that Ford Performance is offering customers a way to create large-angle drifts in the Focus RS,” Block, he of Gymkhana video fame, said in a statement. “It definitely makes the car even more fun to drive.”
As you can see in the gallery below, the Drift Stick neatly mounts between the driver’s seat and center console, adjacent to the factory parking brake lever, and then simply wires into the car’s OBD-II port. That connection also allows some extra functionality: a USB port on the Drift Stick allows owners to download diagnostic data or upload new performance calibrations.
The Ford Performance Drift Stick will be available for order from December 1 in the U.S. and Canada for $999. It works on any 2016-2018 Ford Focus RS – and it doesn't affect the car's factory warranty.
Gallery: Ford Performance Drift Stick
GET YOUR DRIFT ON; FORD PERFORMANCE OFFERS WORLD’S FIRST ELECTRONIC HANDBRAKE
OCT 31, 2017 | DEARBORN, MICH.
The all-new Ford Performance Drift Stick is the world’s first electronically controlled performance handbrake
Ford Performance developed and tested the Ford Performance Drift Stick, approved by Ken Block
Built-in USB port connectivity allows diagnostic capabilities and performance calibration loading
DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 31, 2017 – Ford today announces the all-new Ford Performance Drift Stick, the first-ever, rally-inspired electronic handbrake, developed and designed for Focus RS and approved by rally and stunt star Ken Bock.
The Drift Stick – internally called Project Wicked Stick and led by Ford Performance program manager John Wicks – was born out of the Focus RS industry-first Drift Mode and developed by the same team.
“The passionate engineers at Ford Performance are also enthusiasts,” said Dave Pericak, global director, 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.”
The Drift Stick is an aluminum lever between the driver’s seat and manual transmission, which uses the innovative Ford Performance all-wheel-drive system in conjunction with the antilock braking system, opening up the rear-drive unit clutches and applying hydraulic pressure to lock the rear wheels to induce drift with the simple pull of a lever. The results are clutch-free drift turns very similar to the experience of a real rally car.
An idea born of rally racing
Ford Performance was formed in 2014 with the intent to combine Ford’s racing efforts with its performance vehicles and parts divisions. As the new organization took shape, the Focus RS engineering team started developing a rally-inspired handbrake based on the all-wheel drive, drift mode enabled Focus RS they developed. They immediately discovered how wickedly fun the technology was, and so the Ford Performance Drift Stick was born.
For final sign-off, professional rally driver Ken Block was consulted on the Ford Performance Drift Stick. Noted for his viral Gymkhana videos, Block is one of the most prolific users of the hydraulic handbrake in rally cars. He pushed for the electronic handbrake to provide every-day drivers with the quickest possible way to get the Focus RS sideways for large-angle drifts.
“I think it’s really cool that Ford Performance is offering customers a way to create large-angle drifts in the Focus RS. 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," said Ken Block. “It definitely makes the car even more fun to drive."
Since a hydraulic handbrake would have required substantial modifications to the car that couldn’t be easily reversed, the Ford Performance Drift Stick was developed as an entirely electronic technology. Once the wizardry began, a Ford Performance engineer noted the many similarities in its electronics with a part Ford already sells on a regular basis – the professional calibration tool. Integrating this existing technology resulted in easily plugging a USB cable into the Ford Performance Drift Stick to pull select diagnostic data and upload powertrain calibrations for the Focus RS.
The digital design enables a number of key benefits:
Instantaneous engagement and release – just five to six pounds of pressure is required to operate the Ford Performance Drift Stick – significantly less than a hydraulic handbrake – for easy, precise use
Installation and removal is easy, as there is no welding, hole drilling or calipers as necessary in a hydraulic kit
It also connects to the onboard diagnostics port on the car, allowing it to function as a professional calibration tool
Like the RS’s exclusive drift mode, the Ford Performance Drift Stick is intended for track use only. It is available for customers in the United States and Canada, and priced at $999. The kit includes the Drift Stick lever, mounts and circuit board with professional calibration functionality. The car’s warranty is unaffected by its installation.
The Ford Performance Drift Stick will be available for order by Dec. 1 through authorized Ford Performance Parts distributors. Consumer information can be found at Ford Performance Parts, along with many other performance-enhancing parts for Ford cars and trucks.