SEMA 2017: VMP Turns A Focus RS Into A Triple Threat

We previewed a host of hot hatches in advance of this year’s show, one of which is a Focus RS designed to excel in just about any environment. It was created by the crew at VMP Performance who are well versed in maximizing the fun factor of modern Ford machinery. Thus the company was again selected to create a unique machine for display inside Ford’s coveted SEMA Show display.

We set out to create a car that would do well in all three disciplines. — BJ McCarty, VMP Performance

“We submitted concepts for the RS as well as a Mustang,” the company’s Business Manager BJ McCarty said. “VMP Performance was chosen by Ford for a second consecutive year, partially on the merits and success of our 2017 Mustang GT project, Track Attack. The car was an ‘Excellence in Design’ award winner at last year’s show and Ford asked us to put that same sort of attitude and feel into the Focus RS platform.”

Much like last year’s stunning Track Attack Mustang, the mission for the VMP Focus RS project was maximum all-around performance.

VMP Performance turned Ford Performance’s hottest hatch — the Focus RS — into an all-around performer dubbed the Triathlete. This hot hatch features a custom paint job, an Airlift suspension, and much more. (Photo Credit: VMP Performance)

“The RS is an unusual beast. It’s sort of the hot hatch version of the GT350,” BJ elaborated. “GT350s certainly aren’t just a road course car. They are great touring cars, attention getters at every ‘Cars & Coffee,’ and yes, people even drag race them. We had our VMP GT350 with the front tires off the ground probably before the Dodge Demon was even in concept!”

Heating Up A Hatch

Take that cutting-edge attitude and passion for performance and apply it to Ford Performance’s hottest hatch. It’s a car that is already tuned up to handle well, drift and more from the factory, so VMP set out to heighten and expand its capabilities.

“To that end, we set out to create a car that would do well in all three disciplines,” BJ explained. “We could take it to the drag strip and flog it, taking advantage of all-wheel drive. We could drive it to a track day and have fun flinging it around the turns, and have a car that would look menacing as a street cruiser. Three events, one player — it’s our Triathlete.”

Underhood the Triathlete’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is still stock, but it is augmented by a COBB Tuning cold air intake, a COBB Tuning Accessport tuner, a Ford Performance cat-back exhaust, a Levels Performance intercooler, a Turbosmart internal wastegate actuator, and a Turbosmart Kompact dual-port blow-off valve.

To embody the spirit of its moniker, this Focus RS underwent an aggressive appearance makeover, which includes a custom matte-black paint scheme with airbrushed graphics by Chris Cruz Artistry, carbon fiber accents, and more. All together the package definitely achieved the goal BJ set for the car.

We wanted it to look like it was fast even while sitting still. — BJ McCarty, VMP Performance

“Although it’s cliché, we wanted it to look like it was fast even while sitting still. We went through a few graphic design ideas before we decided to make a simple, targeted statement with its show appearance,” BJ said. “The RS is a short car and our initial design made it appear even shorter! We stepped back, regrouped and repainted. The result was a clean look that accents the car’s natural lines and gave it a longer, lower, and wider overall feel.”

“The carbon fiber aero pieces from Anderson Composites underscore the look as does filling the wheel wells with the concave look of the Forgestar CF5s and the Michelin Pilot Super Sport 4 s tires in 255/35-19 on all four corners,” BJ added. “And, of course, there’s the ability to adjust ride height on the fly.”

Taking A Stance

To set that low and adjustable stance, VMP replaced the factory dampers and springs with a performance air suspension. It offers not only a performance upgrade, but the ability to set appropriate ride height for the situation.

“We wanted the ability to show and go,” BJ said. “At stock ride height the car didn’t display the attitude we were looking for when it was static. The Airlift Performance Suspension allowed us to drop it to the point where the tires are touching without it looking ‘slammed.’ There isn’t a good option for flares for the RS yet, so we wanted to take advantage of as much stance as we could by using the drop and the wheel/tire combo. It actually accentuates the car’s natural ‘flares.’”

Much like its exterior, the Triathlete wears a number of carbon-fiber accents inside the cabin, including the faceplate on the COBB Accessport.

This suspension wasn’t just about the ride height, however. This system fit within VMP’s mission to improve the car’s performance as well.

“When we discussed our target with the folks at Airlift, we of course spec’d the performance line rather than stance,” BJ elaborated. “They are fully adjustable and have been proven to rival, if not exceed, the results of coilovers.”

In practice this setup really seems to work so far, though VMP hasn’t had a chance to really stretch the Triathlete’s legs in advance of its show debut.

Pushing The Envelope

VMP Triathlete Focus RS Mods

Powertrain

Ford Performance cat-back exhaust

Ford Performance short-throw shifter

Ford Performance Drift Stick

Levels Performance high performance intercooler

COBB Tuning carbon fiber cold air intake

COBB Tuning Accessport handheld tuner

Turbosmart internal wastegate actuator

Kompact dual-port blow-off valve

Chassis

Air Lift Performance series suspension

DBA USA 4000 series T3 front/rear slotted rotors

Wheels & Tires

Forgestar CF5 Deep Concave custom, matte black, 19×9.5-inch wheels

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance (265/35ZR19) tires

Exterior

Chris Cruz Artistry full custom paint in matte black with airbrushed graphics

Anderson Composites carbon fiber hood

Anderson Composites rear spoiler

Anderson Composites front splitter

Anderson Composites rear diffuser

Anderson Composites rocker panels and foglight surround

Diode Dynamics lighting with RetroShop custom fitment

Anchor Room lens tint

Interior

Brey-Krause custom bolt-in harness bar

Simpson Racing five-point harness

Ford Accessories carbon fiber shift knob

Ford Accessories carbon fiber instrument cluster

Ford Accessories carbon fiber window switch cover

Ford Accessories cargo area protector

“The car feels great, rides nice, and looks awesome. We obviously were reticent to hammer it into many corners pre-SEMA, so we’ll have more experience once the Triathlete is off the pedestal at the show,” he enthused. “We’ll be seeing track time in between shows so it will have a fun life! Both Triathlete and last year’s car, Track Attack, serve as rolling test beds not only for VMP Performance mods and calibrations, but we invite third parties to contact us and see how we can use this awesome car to further develop the platform.”

After its show appearance, that development will continue with a greater emphasis on increasing the output of the already potent 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine.

“We want to see the power into the 350-plus-rear-wheel-horsepower level and torque in the high 300s,” he said. “Most of these cars are in the 290/300 range stock. For now, it’s a Cobb cold air, a Levels Performance intercooler, Turbosmart wastegate actuator, and custom tuning using the Cobb Accessport.”

How far they can push the platform in the future remains to be seen, but we look forward to following its progress.

“The overall plan is to have a car with enough power to balance its work without necessitating fortifying the bottom end, adding auxiliary fueling, and living on the edge,” BJ said.

To set that low-slung stance over the Forgestar CF5 wheels and Pirelli rubber, VMP installed an Airlift Performance suspension system.

The good news is that all the upgrades thus far are available and can bolt right on to your Focus RS if you are inclined to muscle-up your Focus RS like the Triathlete.

“Just like with Track Attack, we set out to use components that were available via our website, and everything on our Triathlete will be available in our store, plus we can install it all,”BJ concluded. “Other than the full custom paint job, everything can be bolted on.”

For more on those upgrades, you can visit the VMP Performance official site here.

Article Sources

About the author

Steve Turner

As Executive Editor of FordNXT and Ford Muscle, Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge to Power Automedia. He has covered the world of Ford performance for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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