By on July 2, 2015

The year was 2008. I was working the course at the SCCA Toledo Pro Solo during the Ladies’ class runs. For those of you who don’t know what a Pro Solo is like, I’ll try to explain quickly. It’s a mirrored autocross course with two competitors, one on each side. Instead of being waved onto the course by a flagger, like in a regular autocross, there’s a drag tree that starts the drivers. It’s the closest thing to “racing” that you’ll find at an autocross.

As I watched one particular pairing of cars leave the line, I noticed that one of the cars, a Mini Cooper S, was getting up on two wheels in the first 3-cone slalom. As the car rocked back and forth from the left two wheels to the right and then back to the left, the front left wheel bent and caught the cement, tripping the car and causing it to flip forward. It bounced off of its roof, and ended up landing on its wheels, facing back toward the starting line.

It was the ultimate case of jamais vu. I had been autocrossing for about three years, and I had watched hundreds of runs, but I had never seen a car flip before. That sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen in autocross – it’s supposed to be a totally safe way to participate in motorsports. I froze where I stood for several seconds before I snapped back to reality and ran as quickly as I could across the airfield to the car where the young lady who was driving had exited and fallen to her knees, screaming and keening like a banshee.

My brother had been working the other side of the course, and he and I were the first people to arrive at the car. We were also the only two people to really see what had actually happened. It was a clear case of equipment failure – the wheel had bent under extreme load. However, the wheels had been sold by the Tire Rack, and their on-site representatives were quick to denounce the incident as “driver error.” People were screaming in each other’s faces. It was an ugly, ugly incident.

It was equally ugly on the autocross forums. Amazingly, people who were hundreds of miles away from the incident all of a sudden became experts on physics and driving dynamics. For whatever reason, people just didn’t want to admit that the combination of a high-grip, concrete surface, R-compound tires, and a vehicle with a high center of gravity was a recipe for disaster.

Well, it’s happened again, and this time it’s happened with a car that nobody, least of all me, wants to admit may be flawed. But I’ll be the first to say it to a mass audience: the Ford Fiesta ST may not be safe to autocross, and you deserve to know.

Three-wheeling the FiST isn't hard to do

The SCCA already banned the non-ST version of the Fiesta from street class autocross due to its high center of gravity back in January, citing it as a rollover risk. The ST meets the SCCA’s CoG guidelines, which are basically just a mathematical formula. But when I got my Fiesta ST, I received a few warnings from autocross friends of mine, all very hush-hush, Facebook Messenger types of warnings: “Be careful autocrossing that car. Those things are easy to get up on two wheels. And I’ve heard of people rolling them, too.” Nobody ever gave me any specifics, just that they had “heard” of incidents with them. A Google or Bing search for “Fiesta ST rollover” produces no results.

But that hasn’t kept the video at the top of this post from making the rounds of the autocross community. Eric Simmons, well-known as a serial car buyer, posted this video from an autocross at Hersheypark on November 9th, 2014, and it immediately become the subject of several forum threads. As you can see at about the :22 mark in the video, Simmons gets his Fiesta ST up on two wheels in a tight right hand turn, causing him to miss the next gate. The video, while somewhat terrifying, isn’t exactly news in the autocross community at this point.

The news that a Fiesta ST was rolled over the weekend, however, is. Word is that an autocrosser at a Texas autocross site rolled his ST in a fairly standard ninety-degree turn at relatively high speeds. A few friends of mine posted about the event on Facebook, some of them specifically to warn me because they knew that I have autocrossed mine before and plan to do it again in the future.

All of them were contacted and asked to take down their posts, either by their local SCCA regions or by the non-SCCA sanctioning club where the event took place. The obvious question is: Why?

Are they protecting the driver who rolled it? Possibly. It’s not unheard of for an autocrosser to have a contact-related incident during an event, load his damaged car onto the trailer, dump it in a ditch somewhere, and call his insurance company.

Are they protecting the SCCA and other autocrossing organizations? Eh, maybe. If too much press gets out about an isolated incident such as this one, then it could cause regions to lose their dearly needed autocrossing sites. The SCCA goes to great lengths to make sure that people know that autocross isn’t a “race” (despite the constant whining of its membership) because what parking lot owner would be dumb enough to have people racing cars on his property? The insurance risk is already fairly high for these sites, and nervous sponsors and site owners might just decide it’s not worth the risk if they were to hear about somebody rolling a freaking Ford Fiesta.

Are they trying to protect the Ford Fiesta ST’s reputation? We might be getting closer to the mark. The FiST has proven to be a very popular autocrosser nationwide. It’s taken the top spot in H Street class at nearly every national event in 2015 and has made up eighty to ninety percent of the field. It’s cheap, you can get inexpensive wheel/tire combos, it’s easy to modify, and it’s hella fun to drive. If word gets out that the FiST is a high rollover risk, then a fairly significant number of people might drop out of autocrossing, at least until they can replace the FiST with something else. The SCCA can’t afford that.

The problem seems to begin when you start messing with things that affect the grip level of the ST. In Simmons’ case, he only changed two things about the car, but they were significant: a stickier tire and a smaller wheel diameter, both of which change the behavior of the car in ways that can’t be perfectly replicated at Dearborn’s testing grounds. There’s talk that the smaller diameter of the FiST’s front sway bar (it’s actually smaller than the regular Fiesta’s) might be the culprit – any serious national-level autocrosser will replace it nearly immediately.

As you can see in the photo above, I have gotten my FiST up on two and three wheels several times, but I’m not a rookie, either. Rumor has it that the Texas incident occurred in a 40 mph sharp turn with a novice driver who had replaced his stock Bridgestone tires with the new RE71R, a tire that pulls more lateral Gs than the racing tires of yore. The car got unsettled in a corner, but instead of sliding laterally, like it normally would on the OEM tires, the tires gripped and the narrow sway bar couldn’t handle it, so the car started acting less like a car and more like a bicycle. As a novice driver, he likely got freaked out and dialed in more steering, which caused the roll.

Honestly, I’m not too worried about it for myself. I’m not a “fast hands” type of autocrosser, so I typically don’t unsettle my car that much. But, I do think that these sorts of incidents should be discussed and shared, not shoved into a closet. If the FiST is Unsafe At Any Speed (copyright Ralph Nader), how will those who think that the reputation of the “sport” and the clubs should take precedence over the safety of particpants feel the next time a FiST ends up wrong side up? There’s no legal obligation to share information, but shouldn’t there be a moral one?

I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t autocross your Fiesta ST, but I am going to tell you that there’s a risk, and that you should be aware of it. The rest is up to you.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

98 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: The FiST Is a Rollover Risk, and Some People Don’t Want You to Know...”


  • avatar
    redav

    Unrelated, but with all the talk of getting up on two wheels, I couldn’t resist.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2015/06/27/nissan-juke-nismo-rs-sets-two-wheels-goodwood-video/

    • 0 avatar
      Stamperman

      It happens. I rolled a Pontiac LeMans/Opel Kadet back in 1991. Sticky tires, stock suspension and trying to make a gate I should have given up on. Since then I’ve seen a almost brand new Toyota pickup and a mod class Yugo go over. The Yugo we rolled back over, then the guy made another run and flipped it again. I also had my FSP Scirocco on 2 wheels when I tried a 15″ wheels and Hoosier bias ply experiment. Two years ago I saw a new Civic way up on 2 wheels. Personally, I’ll never seriously run a car that I don’t 100% own again.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Cant run from your roots.

    I really love the FiST, but between this issue and the unusable back seat I had to pass. Shame. Oddly enough, a GTI is not much heavier, despite being a much bigger, wider, more luxurious car. Choice is obvious but predictable for me. I want this little oddball….

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      are the Fiesta and GTI even in the same class? Seems the Focus is more the one to compare.

      • 0 avatar
        eamiller

        The GTI is a tweener. Interior room is closer to a Focus, but overall length falls pretty much in the middle between the Focus and Fiesta hatch (slightly closer to the Focus hatch). The Fiesta sedan is longer than the GTI because of the grafted on trunk.

        • 0 avatar
          golfnotgolf

          When you put my brother’s Fiesta ST and my GTI next to each other, they appear to be almost the same length and height. The GTI looks much wider.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Unless you see it happen, how could you tell a Fiesta was ever rolled?

  • avatar

    With SCCA, preventing news of an accident from getting out is 100% liability and site-related. My region confiscates phones and pours over facebook for any posts after any incident – pretty sure it’s part of the prescribed procedure along with getting the paperwork filled out.

    It’s kind of a yearly thing, with one event on a road course every year that puts at least one car into armco or concrete. Each time it’s a big to-do about not taking pictures or posting video.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      Here’s a question. Police by law, do not have a right to confiscated cameras (lets not discuss if they actually do).

      So how does the SCCA justify this behavior?

      I thought this was America?

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        The Constitution protects you from the government, not from the SCCA.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          I read my membership agreement, and nothing in it allows confiscation of private devices that I recall.

          In any event, the proper remedy is judicial enforcement of the contract – self-help is never permissible. SCCA would need to convince a judge that taking or posting photos from an event somehow breached a prior agreement between me and the SCCA.

          • 0 avatar
            John

            This is the difference between laws and rules, which a lot of folks don’t understand.
            Laws are made by the government, and; ultimately, can be enforced WITH force, up to, and including, death. For example, if a the police find you have used your phone to make child porn videos, they can seize the phone from you by force, if necessary. They can forcibly imprison you if you post the videos to Facebook.
            Rules are mutual agreements between people and others, such as sanctioning bodies. They are voluntary agreements, and force cannot be used to enforce them. Thus, you can voluntarily agree to not post video of an event, but if you violate that agreement, the body cannot use force to enforce it – it they do, it is a criminal act – for example, taking a phone used for video by force would involve the crimes of battery and robbery. The body CAN to such things as revoking your membership, or imposing a VOLUNTARY fine.

      • 0 avatar

        Their justification is that it also protects the person that owns the vehicle from liability/embarrassment, as mentioned above. This was a specific case of someone that was corner working posting pics of it from the course, and they either took or threatened to take his phone if he didn’t pull the pics.

        He definitely could have made a bigger deal of it, but just took down the pic and went on.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          But what is the legal justification they have? Is there some sort of agreement you sign?

          They can kick you out of the event, but I don’t see how they can confiscate property or control what you post to Facebook.

          • 0 avatar

            I can’t see that they would have any legal right, other than an “our event, our rules” expectation of courtesy from the person in question.

            The case of an inherent fault in a vehicle is obviously way different than isolated accidents. I would hope SCCA is investigating, just not releasing anything until something definitive is determined.

            Classing decisions that force people out of their well-prepped cars is a common enough practice, I can’t see them fudging the facts to keep one class full?

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          And there are certain auto insurance companies that might take an interest in this information as well . . .

          “We noticed that you unplugged your driver monitoring device on Saturday, June 13th, from 1:30pm to 4:30pm”

        • 0 avatar
          notapreppie

          That’s a safety issue. No cell phones while working the course. Period. If you want to take photos you can’t be working the corner and you MUST have a spotter.

          They should have taken his phone (at least) or kicked him out of the event.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      I saw a modded MG almost roll at an SCCA Auto-X event. There was no phone confiscations or hush-hush. A semi-pro competitor had photos of the whole thing on his site and it was available via my local region’s FB page.

      If they tried to confiscate my phone or edit my social media, I’d laugh in their face. The only way I’d turn over my phone is pursuant to a lawfully issued warrant.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    For drifting etc, the Fiesta is just too narrow for its height. Thank its Euro roots.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    First off, there is no such thing as a completely safe motorsport event.

    Modifications lead to other modifications, or at least they should. Stickier tires may very well require different anti-roll bars and lowering springs, as well as different dampers. If you’re pulling 1g’s or more, you may well want to invest in a roll bar and six point harness.

    This goes double for track day cars. If you put those DOT approved race tires on your Corvette, you should consider putting in the safety equipment, If you go off the track at a high rate of speed, you may need it.

    The manufacturers do a very good job of engineering a car for its intended usage. Once you start making mods you are the new chief engineer for your car, and it’s up to you to make sure it is up to its intended use.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      exactly!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I’ll add the qualifier that I’ll be convinced of the FiST’s hazardous nature as long as the suspension and driveline has not been modified in any way on a rollover vehicle. Just as a high horsepower drag car can be turned into a showboating wheelie machine with a few minutes’ modification of the 4-link, so too can corner-carving automobiles be turned into rollover deathtraps with a few simple mods of sway bars and wheel/tire combinations.

  • avatar
    bmwohio

    I think the FoST should be on that list too….I’ve heard a couple of instances of this happeneing as well. In fact, this is a FoST at the Toledo Pro as well driven by a friend of mine…

    Yes…this is a screen shot up on 2 wheels as well…..

    https://scontent-ord1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/t31.0-8/1071514_10100250131237010_654720859_o.jpg

    In fact, here’s the run –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdVmAgtJLlA

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    This is where logic needs to take a stand:

    “The FiST has proven to be a very popular autocrosser nationwide. It’s taken the top spot in H Street class at nearly every national event in 2015 and has made up eighty to ninety percent of the field.”

    If 8 out of 10 cars are Fiestas and the car has a significantly larger risk of rollover than the average car, there should be a lot of rollovers. Not one. Not one that everyone has “heard” about but never seen plus this one which equals two. More. It has to be more.

    • 0 avatar

      Not necessarily. As I said, a national-level autocrosser has also likely made suspension modifications which could offset the extra lateral Gs from the tires. A newbie who is making one mod at a time is the most likely culprit.

      • 0 avatar
        bmwohio

        Not necessarily….The Focus was a GS car on A6’s….no Newbies there by any stretch….

      • 0 avatar
        ThirdPedal

        What modification could an experienced autocrosser make to the suspension that affect the rollover risk? In HS trim, nothing could be done that would change the alignment, spring rate or ride height.

        • 0 avatar
          eRiic

          Keep in mind that tires act like springs. And changing tire sizes may change the ride height. For example going from a 205/40-17 to a 215/45-17 tire effectively raises the ride height and softens the spring rate via a taller sidewall on the same diameter wheel. That and increased grip may have contributed to getting on two wheels. In the olden days we swapped our OE 195/60-15 tires for 205/50-15 to effectively lower the ride height and stiffen the suspension. Win-win.

        • 0 avatar
          notapreppie

          Stiffer shocks would make compression slower simulating a stiffer suspension for a brief period of time.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        Something like the American Alpine Club’s “Accidents in North American Mountaineering” would probably be beneficial for the SCCA and its members. Too bad there are insurance companies involved.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Doesn’t its narrow track give it a huge advantage slicing through cones? Not many rollovers doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of ‘saves’. I’d think drivers at this level know what to do when a car starts to tip over.

  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    Cars are way too damn tall because idiot drivers think that sitting a foot higher makes them safer. A Fiesta ST is taller and narrower than my E46. Of course it will roll over with sticky tires on a bumpy parking lot.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Tiny cars are also taller for packaging. More height means more upright seating, which means more efficient use of what little space there is.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        And one of the main reasons that cars are tall today is due to the pedestrian impact design requirements – due to this, we will never see cars again like early 1990s Hondas/Acuras with excellent frontal view and a low, sloped nose.

        Look it up, it’s true – we are sacrificing driver visibility for pedestrian protection. Personally, I don’t agree with that.

        A few years ago, a local guy ran over one his neighbor kids as he drove slowly into his driveway – he didn’t see the kid on his trike because he was right in front of his car. This is my worst nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      If you buy a FiST to “sit higher”, you’re at least a little bit unusual…..

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Cars are tall because people like tall cars.

      The long/low ass-on-the-floor thing is something that stylists and enthusiasts like, but if you look at cars from the early 1930s to the 1950s, then look at SUVs and CUVs, you’ll see that people generally quite like sitting up higher and not having to duck into a car. Low cars are an exception, not the norm.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Oh pooh, y’all are wimps. Watch ’em autocross a Corvair 95 van sometimes (yes, swing axles).

  • avatar
    Andy

    So… people are driving them too fast? And that’s the car’s fault?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m puzzled by what you mean by “too fast.” In nearly every other car that is designed for sporting driving, entering a corner too quickly induces either oversteer or understeer. The former results in a spin, the latter in a push. Neither should flip your car on its roof.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Isn’t the Saleen xp8 Explorer designed for “sporting driving” too?

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Depends on lateral grip and surface camber. Tap a curb or sufficiently off camber bump hard enough in even a WRC trim rally car, and it can go over. It’s surprising how little felt contact it takes even in something as low and rigid as a shifter cart to lift the inside (At least when the driver is an old fatso placing the whole system’s COG somewhere around gut level…. :( ).

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I’ve seen a bone stock Corolla hit a bump on an off-camber road and rollover. It didn’t take much. Modded suspensions don’t help the matter. It’s the sudden release of energy. Similarly jumping a stock pickup on a slight down grade can easily send it ass-over-tea-kettle from the stiff rear springs designed for heavy loads.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well I noticed when the car was introduced that it was roughly as tall as the Focus but about 25% narrower, that does seem like a recipe for a rollover.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Can somebody explain what a sway bar is supposed to do? I know all cars have got em, and that on old GM B-bodies they need replaced at the front usually. And that on the XC70 you can make it ride a lot better if you upgrade them.

    I also need new rear ones, as the bushings are worn out on mine, apparently, so they’re jiggling.

    • 0 avatar

      Many cars only have one sway bar(including the FiST). The sway bar couples the two sides of the suspension and allows the side that is under compression to increase its spring rate. In essence, you’re transferring lateral grip from one side of the car to the other.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Ah ha. So it makes sense for AWD cars to have two, to better handle the grip.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Not really, as AWD cars distribute grip by other means. Many cars only have one sway bar but most have two.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          No. What sway bars do is manage weight transfer when cornering. While you can’t change how much weight is transferred, you can control on which wheels it happens, and use that to change a car’s handling balance.

          They also reduce the amount of body roll a car exhibits without going to stiffer springs, the latter of which has a bigger effect on ride quality.

          For an intro on how these things work, you can check out this sample chapter from one of Keith Tanner’s Miata books:

          https://flyinmiata.com/pdf/HPMM_sample_chapter.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      A sway bar is a spring that ties the two sides of the suspension together. It’s job is to try to keep the car level from side to side, ie not lean as much in a corner. When the suspension on one side is compressed it tries to compress the other side a similar amount.

      Take a car that does not have a sway bar and jack it up from one side. You’ll notice that the opposite side stays at about the same relative height. Now put a sway bar on that same car and start jacking and you’ll notice that the opposite side of the car gets lifted up too.

      That is why people who off-road often remove them, install disconnects or in some cases the vehicles come with disconnects from the factory. The sway bar reduces articulation meaning that the down force is transferred away from the wheel that isn’t being compressed making it loose traction, or in extreme cases contact.

      Sway bars themselves don’t need replaced they don’t really wear per se. What wears out are the bushings and in case of the ones that use ball joint style linkages to connect them to the suspension those end links. Moving to a stiffer bushing, ie from soft natural rubber to a harder polyurethane makes the sway bar more effective at transferring the forces, in other words it is like putting a larger (stiffer) sway bar on.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Thanks, this is some good detail. So when you bought a 90’s Buick or TC with a Grand Touring or Dynaride package, it probably had stiffer bushings for the sway bars?

        My bushings are bad, the mechanic said, and the rear bars are rattling a bit. I think they quoted $230 to replace.

        • 0 avatar
          Felis Concolor

          You should notice a significant difference replacing the bushings – and if you go to a higher durometer set, you’ll notice snappier response on turn-in. With larger bars you can often get away with a softer main spring to give you a cushier ride while still maintaining good cornering performance. Just please don’t go with aluminum bushings; that’s a track-only modification even if some call it street legal.

          In the late 80s through 90s, the softest spring rates for Corvettes were paradoxically found on their highest performance models, which took up the slack via larger sway bars as part of their suspension tuning.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks, I’ll see what’s available whenever I’m in for my next oil change service.

            It’ll be about 9 months.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I briefly tried out a turbo front sway bar on my Volvo 240 wagon, after reverting to stock.

          I concluded that the new bushings did more for the handling than the bar (despite all the rants and raves about putting turbo stuff on).

          Thicker bars help with enthusiastic driving, but aren’t critical in day to day driving.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Bark’s answer is correct but may also be somewhat confusing. An anti-sway bar couples the two corners of the suspension but it so doing it acts like a spring. Changing the diameter changes the spring rate, as does changing from solid to hollow. This spring force counteracts the force that causes the body to roll toward the outside of the turn. But you cannot say it transfers “grip” from one side to another; it transfers corner weight. The tire’s grip curve is not a straight line. As corner load (“weight”) increases lateral grip will increase but at higher loads it starts to increase less with additional load until the tire is “saturated” at which point lateral grip will fall off with additional load.

      It is possible that increasing the stiffness of the front anti-sway bar will saturate the outside front tire and cause the front to understeer below the threshold of lateral grip that would otherwise induce a rollover event. That said, I don’t know enough about Fiestas to say that the FiST’s smaller diameter bar vs. the standard Fiesta is less stiff. If the FiST uses a small hollow bar and the Fiesta uses a larger solid bar the FiST sway bar may be stiffer (however I doubt this is the case). Also not being familiar with SCCA Solo rules a front sway bar may be a change that’s allowable in a Street class because it doesn’t affect suspension spring rates.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Sway bars will limit the leaning from side to side, but some amount of lean is good, as it helps prevent a rollover crash. And when the car wants to rollover, there’s less warning with extra stiff sway bars. You want to direct some of the forces down on the outside tires.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Also from the picture of the of blue FiST with 2 in the air, you can clearly see the sway bars are too stiff. The wheels in the air are tucked way up.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            The rear wheel is tucked way up because the car has a torsion beam rear suspension. The inside wheel tucks up because it’s connected directly (minus whatever flex is possible in the beam) to the outside one. GTIs up until the Mk5 generation did the same thing for the same reason. This isn’t a huge issue, because on a hot hatch the inside rear wheel is going to have negligible weight on it no matter what the suspension layout.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The rear wheel isn’t a problem, but the front inside looks almost as tucked up. OK then look at the *outside* front, as seen from under the FiST. It looks normal ride height. The body’s high COG, mostly right behind the front tires and up, needs to rotate (clockwise or counterclockwise) downward, compressing the outside suspension, or it wants to go straight out, lifting the front inside wheel, and that’s a whole other ballgame.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          How do you figure that allowing lean limits rollovers?

          Your statement about “directing forces down on the outside tires” makes no sense. The total amount of weight transferred can’t be changed by suspension settings.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            You can’t change the amount of weight being transferred, but you’ll agree you *can* be too stiff for safe cornering, if a given setup doesn’t compress at all. When pushed hard, the outside tires will just slide instead of bite down. Too much body roll is bad too. You have to find the right balance for the setup.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            No, I won’t agree with that. Tires sliding instead of “biting down” has no basis in physics. The only “down” the tires can go is being pushed by the weight acting on them, and that’s going to be the same no matter what the spring rate is.

            Being too stiff to compress is bad, yes, but you’ll never get to be that stiff via sway bars. What’s far more likely is to have sways and springs that let the suspension bottom out during hard cornering, thus leaving no suspension travel for the wheel to compress. In that case – which is common – stiffer springs and sways actually help, not hurt.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Even an F1 McLaren has plenty of body roll.

            If the body doesn’t rotate on its axis, there’s still downforce on the outside tires, but not as much and more on the outside edges of the tires.

            It could be a combination of things here too. Are the springs and shocks all stock? Each one can be a bit too much.

            If the street tires don’t match an over aggressive suspension setup when pushed hard, you’re sliding too much or risking a rollover.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yes and no regarding stiffer sway bars causing a roll over. A stiffer sway bar will cause an inside tire to be more likely to lift but at the same time it prevents the outside from compressing as much which makes it less likely to roll over.

          Roll over propensity is directly related to the relationship of the center of gravity to the width of the “base” which in this case means the track width. Having the stiffer sway bar actually prevents the shifting of the center of gravity to the point where the car can be unstable, IE roll over.

          In other words just because a sway bar causes an inside tire to lift does not mean that it is likely to induce a roll over event. Without the sway bar the COG would have shifted farther to the outside and actually increase the likelihood of roll over even if the inside tire is still touching the ground. It all goes back to the relationship of the COG to base width.

          Tire grip is a huge factor as well. If the tire starts to slide before the COG can move far enough to cause a roll over then a roll over will not occur.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Thanks, good info. My over all point is you really can take the mods too far for the given car, tires or driving ability.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            This all corresponds with my understanding of how it works, as well, although I’ve read that the shift in COG as a result of the suspension compression isn’t enough to affect anything meaningfully on your average car. Of course we have the Citroen 2CV as the poster boy for a car which leans like crazy in turns, but won’t roll over.

      • 0 avatar

        I was trying to keep it simple :)

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    “All of them were contacted and asked to take down their posts, either by their local SCCA regions or by the non-SCCA sanctioning club where the event took place. The obvious question is: Why?”

    The obvious question to me is “Why did they comply with this silly request?”

    If a car club asked me to take down a post I’d be inclined to add another post informing everybody that they asked met to delete the last one.

    This goes double for something safety related.

    • 0 avatar

      The autocross clique is very protective of its membership. The last thing anybody wants is for a site to be lost—the value of a good autocross site cannot be overstated. Since the club that had this incident is NOT part of the SCCA, they may not have even reported the incident.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        You can’t stress this too much. Without a place to have it, you have no autocross. And there just are not THAT many suitable paved lots in the world. The local club I run with is in a serious pickle this year as they have lost access to all but a couple of sites. Mostly due to them being built on but a couple are due to liability concerns. It takes very little to get a corporation nervous about allowing their property to be used in a way that very much could result in someone getting injured and suing their @ss off.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      And its not like it was back in the 70’s when states still had Blue Laws ensuring that businesses were closed on Sundays. Which meant that the local SCCA chapter usually had a couple of empty shopping mall parking lots to pick from, set up their cones and run.

      Nowadays its hard enough to get the local mall, etc. to allow a section to be roped off for a static car display, much less something active.

  • avatar
    eRiic

    Could the problem be that the sticky tire folks use on their FiST is taller in overall diameter than the OE tires? The OE Bridgestone RE050A is 205/40-17 vs. the 215/45-17 RE71R that is an inch taller. This effectively raises the ride height of the FiST by half an inch. So you have more grip but your center of gravity is jacked up. I recall that the FiST on two wheels last year was using 225/45-16 tires which is about a half-inch taller overall diameter. I’ve done two dozen autocrosses and a track day on my Fiesta ST with OE tires and a half dozen autocrosses and a track day on Falken RT615K that are the OE size 205/40-17 without any problems. It’s been on three wheels but never gotten up on two. Also my suspension is stock with the OE front anti-sway bar and no additional bar on the rear. We need Bridgestone to make the RE71R in a 205/40-17 for all the FiST owners.

    • 0 avatar

      From what I hear, the 215/45-17 RE71R rubs pretty badly, so I haven’t tried them. I think that the FiST, as engineered from Mey-hee-co, is pushing the edge of being safe. One modification in any direction, including the height of the tire, might push it over.

  • avatar
    stodge

    If a FiST is rolled and none is allowed to admit it, was it really rolled?

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      If the FiST is rolled and none are allowed to admit it, it still was really rolled, but no one hears it. Just like the tree that fell in the forest, that made a sound that no one heard.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    I think there should be stricter limitations on the tires you can run in Street class. It’s silly to see cars in the “Street” class swapping stickier tires on in the paddock instead of the truly street tires they drove in on!

    The only problem I see is a distinct lack of SAE standards (or any other standards) for traction or treadwear ratings.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Not to downplay what seems to be a real issue on the FiST, but rolling cars at autocross isn’t an unheard-of phenomenon. Aside from the Mini mentioned, there are occasional pictures of Miatas getting rolled on parking lots as well, to the point that some will call you an idiot for not mounting a roll bar, and I think we can all agree that we’re not talking about a car with a high centre of gravity.

    When you’re running street cars on an unprepared surface, often violently switching directions, you get the potential for unhappy surprises. Add in various modifications to the cars that the OEM engineers may not have foreseen, and it becomes even more understandable.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      +1.

      If it wasn’t for cars being expensive enough, and their makers large enough, to get the lawyer trash all excited, it would be a completely predictable and well known risk. That participants would quickly learn to deal with, each in their own way. The whole point is to keep increasing cornering grip until grip is no longer the limiting factor, and rollover instead is. Then work on mitigating rollover, until grip again become what’s holding you back……. All against the backdrop of keeping the car as narrow as possible, in order to allow for a straighter lines. But of course, in a sensible and free world, lawyers and other useless busybodies would have to get a real job, so I guess that is out.

  • avatar
    eRiic

    Remember when this Saturn got on two wheels? It was Stock with sticky tires. No one freaked out or called for a ban.
    https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7579/15199801594_774b95c433.jpg

  • avatar
    sirbunz

    I have driven my FiST on several sets of tires now, including A6s without any issue. I tag myself as an aggressive driver to top matters off. The only safety issues I can complain of have some amounts of driver error involved and will have the same effect on most other cars driven in a racing type of situation. I will admit the Koni Dampers (lots more rebound) and a lesser offset/wider wheel may be helping me. I’m will go ahead and say if the FiST was such a rollover prone car, there would be lots of evidence. This car was targeted for young enthusiasts, but got the attention of the older “hot hatch” fanboys such as myself! Mine will see plenty more tracks and autox in its life

  • avatar
    ozmdd

    It’s too bad the author opted not to investigate a little more before publishing. As he mentioned in his own experience, rampant speculation will fill the void left by insufficient information. I was there, watched the entire incident, and did the full accident investigation. If the author would like details and facts, feel free to contact me. I’ll briefly address a few points:
    1) the fist was running in HS and appears to have been all stock save for autox tires on oem wheels and some sort of Cobb tuning device (obviously not legal in street if tuning was adjusted)
    2) the site is not exceptionally grippy, and there were no pavement irregularities in that area. Driver (novice) simply overdrove the corner, then tried to turn-in to get back to the gate, not realizing he was on 2 wheels already.
    3) an announcement was made requesting that workers refrain from taking and posting pictures, out of respect for the driver, as the extent of the injuries were unknown at the time. He is fine, from what I last heard, btw, since nobody seems to be concerned with that part of the story. There is no cover up, and no agenda other than avoiding misinformation and sensationalism. I think a good question to ponder is why some participants left grid and walked 1/4 mile across the site to take pictures after being told that only safety crew and board members should be there, as EMS and Police were already called and on-site.
    Nobody will ever be forced to surrender a phone, erase pictures or remove a post, but they may be unwelcome at any future events unless they did those things with the permission of the driver who had the incident. It’s not oppression, it’s called courtesy. The whole world is not a TMZ story, folks.
    I have been autocrossing in Dallas since 2008, and there has never been a rollover or collision among the 5 (yes 5) local clubs’ events in all that time. Considering how sensational a rollover is, it’s a bit unfair to the sport if it’s the only thing an average person hears about the sport. Still, this incident is not a secret and is already being discussed with other local clubs. Purely my own opinion, but I expect to see the FiST excluded from Street class along with its regular Fiesta brethren.

    • 0 avatar

      I did plenty of research. However, when your club called everybody who posted anything and asked them to take it down immediately, it makes it challenging. I didn’t name the club as a courtesy to a friend of mine. I’m not inclined to continue extending that courtesy, based on the tone of your post.

      Your excuse about needing permission of the driver who had the incident is pure nonsense. Only in the hush hush world of Serious Business autocross would anybody approve such a foolish request. Try hiding a picture or video of a crash in an actual RACE sometime.

      If you don’t want anybody thinking there’s a conspiracy, then stop acting as though you’re conducting one.

  • avatar
    ozmdd

    The club called no one, all requests were made onsite. Nobody iin our board has been contacted by you, to my knowledge. Making threats doesn’t improve your credibility. Bully pulpit much?

    You can call anything you want nonsense, but that was my reasoning for asking people not to post pictures during the event, and I only asked one person to remove a post, and another to stop taking photos. Not sure where the idea that large numbers of people were contacted by the club came from, but it’s false. We have no club policy about the subject at all, and neither do any other clubs, to my knowledge.

    Again, your second-hand information is incomplete at best, unless you’ve since talked to the driver himself.

    I’m sorry you appear to have bought a rollover-prone autox car that is also the wrong car for HS. See you at Nats? Looking forward to competing against you (and beating you.) :)

  • avatar
    SP

    It certainly appears that the problem is the increased grip of autocross-type tires, mixed with the inherent danger of a car that is on the borderline of rollover in stock form. How much lower could the ST’s center of gravity be than the non-ST’s? An inch?

    With that body roll going on, fast cornering transfers a tremendous amount of weight onto the outside tires, which are now very grippy non-stock tires. Those tires respond by gripping hard and pulling the car into the turn. Unfortunately, the rest of the car responds by using the outside tires as a fulcrum and flipping right over.

    It seems that SCCA should, at the very least, inform Fiesta ST drivers that their car is a barely acceptable rollover risk in stock form, and may be unacceptable with tire modifications.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Holy thread resurrection Batman.

    And fook off

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • SSJeep: “Built Wild” is truly lame. They could have done so much better in the slogan department. But...
  • SSJeep: the 2.3 is surprisingly quick and capable in the Ranger with the 10-speed transmission.
  • Lie2me: Despite Ford’s best efforts at another botched roll-out I do think they will be a success. I really...
  • SSJeep: Anyone who hates on this monster is not a true car person. The Durango Hellcat is absolutely fantastic and...
  • CoastieLenn: Man I really hope this new exec turns things around. Nissan is starting to look worse off than...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber