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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Does anyone want to read another Octane Academy experience? 4,000 Miles in Five Days

I just got back from Ford Performance Racing School's Octane Academy, which is a first class motor sports facility in Tooele, Utah. They have a Ford racing museum, which is where we had dinner. Everyone who purchases a new Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST is eligible to attend the Octane Academy (for free), but it is not open to the public. They offer a fleet of Fiesta and Focus ST's equipped with safety modifications like a full roll cage and racing harnesses.

At the orientation dinner, they told us to "drive it like we stole it", and the next day, after some classroom instruction and racetrack familiarity runs with an instructor riding shotgun, they turned us loose on the big track to put our lessons into practice. I flung their cars around the big track, sliding through the turns, tires squealing, brakes sizzling, and having the time of my life.

I thought I was driving it like I stole it, but then one of the instructors got in the driver's seat with me riding shotgun and showed me what the cars could REALLY do. He would fly into a turn WOT and then at the last second hit the brakes so hard that I thought they would catch fire. Then, he would smoothly release pressure on the brake pedal as he applied steering angle to start the turn, then turn so hard that I thought the car would flip over. As we would approach the end of the turn he would take out some steering angle as he smoothly applied throttle until he was standing on it. He repeated this motion smoothly for each turn, using all of the track like they taught us. Even though I was strapped in with a four point racing harness in a Recaro seat, I was all over the place inside the car. It was not until then that I realized just how hard they expected us to drive their cars.

They taught us some maneuvers on the "Urban X" course like the Ace Ventura style parking box slide and 180 degree handbrake turns. These cars get driven HARD all day every day, but they just kept going. Then we got to put all of our new skills together in a timed run around the whole Urban X course. They also let us drive a "skid car" equipped with hydraulically activated casters which allowed it to develop a sudden case of under steer or over steer. I did particularly well in this lesson, and only in this lesson.

At the end of the day, they gave us each some nice gifts and a trophy for the fastest time, along with special emblems for our cars that are only available to people who complete the course. The Ford Performance Racing School offers classes like these to purchasers of the Focus RS, Mustang GT 350, and Raptor trucks. No other manufacturer offers a course like this for cars in this price range.

FYI, The Focuses they are running are all ST2's in Tangerine Scream with the grey inserts in the Recaros and they put Ford Racing exhaust on the Focuses along with upgraded brakes. They also removed the fog lights and ducted air to the front brakes to aid in brake cooling. I couldn't help but to push in the clutch and rev the engine. With the windows down, it's pretty loud, even with the helmet on. The Fiestas have the safety equipment and decals but the only other mods are the hydraulic handbrake and Castrol SRF brake fluid.

After the whole day of racing, they gave us vouchers for free kart races at the karting place on site. At the last minute, I decided not to go. I was just too whipped, and still feeling funny from the altitude and I had a bit of a drive ahead to position myself closer to home before the next two long driving days ahead. All in all, I spent six long consecutive days in a Recaro, and while my butt is no longer numb, my right thigh is still a little tingly a week later.



I drove my Focus ST 4,000 miles in five days, as much as 15.5 hours per day through Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma (thanks to a crappy GPS), Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. I went to the Bonneville Sale Flats and drove my ST on the salt at the Bonneville Speedway, where land speed records are set. I am here to tell you, that salt tastes SALTY! It's only an hour and a half away from Tooele, and definitely worth the trip down I-80, which incidentally is a great place to find out how fast your ST can go. For whatever reason, 'premium" fuel in this part of the country is only 89-91 octane. I'm thinking it was a combination of lower octane, high temperatures, and high altitude that when my foot "slipped off the brake" on I-80 my car only hit 148. Heck, since I was only minutes away at that point, I drove to Nevada, figuring that I will probably never be out this way again. So, yeah. I've been to Nevada, yes I have. If you visit the salt flats, make sure you spend a few extra minutes (15?) to drive out to the actual Speedway where they set the records. If you've got some more free time on your hands, the "Lonliest Road in America", which is Route 50 through Nevada, is not too far from here. I didn't know about it, and I wouldn't have had time anyway.

Oh, did I mention that I made the whole trip without a radio? Of course my new car has a radio, but I couldn't figure out how to scan for stations. I pressed every damn button on that touch screen to no avail. It turns out the seek and scan are on the bezel, not the touch screen but I didn't find that out until I was on the way home and even then only found whichever one lets you bump the frequency up or down a bit at a time. I pretty much gave up when I was in the mountains. So, six days of driving with only an old Blood Hound Gang CD. Most of the trip was spent in silence or with me singing silly songs to keep myself motivated.

I was absolutely blown away by the beautiful scenery in Colorado, Utah, and parts of New Mexico. I almost cried when I drove into Colorado, it was the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen in my life up to that point. By the way, the ST LOVED the mountain roads but the flatlander behind the wheel did not. Where we live, the roads have only two dimensions, and I enjoyed it, but that third dimension made me nervous. I hit a bug somewhere in Colorado, I mean I hit lots of bugs but I hit one somewhere in Colorado that was so big it left a red blood spot on my front bumper cover the size of a quarter! Just when I thought it could't get any more amazing, I rolled into Moab, Utah. Holy crap, that place is so beautiful it's just surreal. The guys who drew the Roadrunner cartoons must have spent some time in Moab. Lots of balancing rocks and such just right there next to the road. Oh yeah, I saw a low of 43 degrees on the Fourth of July in the mountains of Utah. FORTY FREAKIN' THREE! I made sure to get off at Albuquerque so that I could take a left turn. Also, I stopped in Tucumcari, so I could say, in a gravelly voice, "This train'll stop in Tucumcari". One of the more bizarre things I saw in New Mexico were the signs along the interstate that read, and I am not making this up, they read, "Gusty winds may exist". Well OF COURSE they may exist! I mean, Bigfoot may exist! Did they really find it necessary to install signs letting us know that "gusty winds may exist" in such a windy state?
I was concerned about finding a church to attend, since the dinner reception was on a Sunday. Spending my whole life in Southeast Louisiana, I imagined that Salt Lake City was swarming with Mormons and I would be unable to find any other church. My fears were unfounded, as I realized through an internet search that I had many to choose from, so don't worry if this applies to you.
I also got to see real Indians. No, not the ones from India that run apparently every hotel (they were very nice and accommodating) but Navajos and Utes ("The two what?") and such. I even saw a sign promising "Indian tacos". Too bad I didn't have time for lunch.

A word of warning;
DO NOT STAY IN GREEN RIVER, UTAH! Just don't. If you don't believe me, walk down the main street in Google Maps and see if this city is for you. I wish I had done that before making reservations there.
In contrast, my stay in Tooele was very nice and I highly recommend the Comfort Inn that the Academy suggests. STOA gives you a nice discount and were several ST guys there.

My only other regret is not doubling back to take a picture of the large barn alongside Route 66 in Oklahoma, onto which the owner had painted, in BIG letters, "Joan Jett for Prez!"

If you are like me and have spent your whole life at or below sea level in humidity that you can cut with a knife, Utah will feel strange, almost bizarre. I felt strange, slightly sickly, through most of the school day, a feeling that I've never felt before. It seemed to get better as I drank more water, so I kept drinking. You will have to wear a racing suit that does not breathe, and a helmet. They wash the racing suits after every class but not the helmets, but they do provide free head socks. You can bring your own helmet if it meets the specs on their website. Mine is a motorcycle helmet and it did not. Also, I noticed that I had a lot of bloody boogers the whole time I was there. I guess bloody because of the altitude and plenty because of the dryness. My lips got chapped, and they gave us a tube of Chap Stick in our goody bag. The wind was STRONG and CONSTANT wherever I went.

All in all, I had the time of my life. If you are invited to attend the Octane Academy, DO IT! I really didn't know how capable these cars are, but now I'm ready to practice what I learned.

The ST Octane Academy, "It's worth the trip from anywhere!"
 

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Awesome. I went back in May. It was a blast. I was really impressed with how balanced the Focuses were on the road course.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was impressed with the Focuses on the road course and the Fiestas in the Urban X, especially the slalom. They are such nimble little cars, I wish I could afford one of each.
 

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Thanks for sharing the story and the beautiful pictures!
 

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Good write up! Jealous you got to go on the salt it was flooded when I was there! FYI STAY IN SALT LAKE. It's close to the track and way better than any other area close by for getting food and doing things on your off time. Also spend a few extra days if you can! Like OP said it's beautiful out there!!
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Good write up! Jealous you got to go on the salt it was flooded when I was there! FYI STAY IN SALT LAKE. It's close to the track and way better than any other area close by for getting food and doing things on your off time. Also spend a few extra days if you can! Like OP said it's beautiful out there!!
When you say the salt flats were flooded, do you mean the WHOLE THING? How deep was the water? What time of year would this be likely to happen? The brief time I was out there, rain was not even a consideration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Awesome to hear you enjoyed the OA. Glad you liked the scenery in Utah as well :) It's so underrated here!
I was just blown away by the natural beauty of the whole area. I was not alone, as I sat next to a guy from Chicago who was there for the Mustang Track Attack and he asked me if I was also having trouble paying attention to the road with so much amazing scenery to look at.
 

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When you say the salt flats were flooded, do you mean the WHOLE THING? How deep was the water? What time of year would this be likely to happen? The brief time I was out there, rain was not even a consideration.
So, yeah, it was a surprise to me too when I got there! I drove about an hour from SLC to go see them with my wife and hopefully drive the **** out of my fiesta ST rental. Turns out they are wet until like July or August depending on the weather and some years they don't even dry out at all and the races get canceled. I was in april, so early spring with all the run off from the mountains which made it worse.
 

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I was just blown away by the natural beauty of the whole area. I was not alone, as I sat next to a guy from Chicago who was there for the Mustang Track Attack and he asked me if I was also having trouble paying attention to the road with so much amazing scenery to look at.
If you get a chance to come back definitely take a trip up some of the canyon roads!! It'll be even better :)

So, yeah, it was a surprise to me too when I got there! I drove about an hour from SLC to go see them with my wife and hopefully drive the **** out of my fiesta ST rental. Turns out they are wet until like July or August depending on the weather and some years they don't even dry out at all and the races get canceled. I was in april, so early spring with all the run off from the mountains which made it worse.
Depending on when you came out.. We've also been out of a drought for the first time in over a decade and so the salt flats have been more flooded than usual and have actualyl had to be closed due to how "mushy" they were...
 

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Really enjoyed reading this! One of our workers (me) went to Octane Academy after the purchase of their FoST and had an absolutely amazing time! Took the extra 2 or 3 hours to drive to the Salt Flats as well. Really an awesome experience that we recommend anyone who buys one of these cars brand new tries to take advantage of. Props to Ford!
 

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After reading this I am now even more excited! I get on a plane tomorrow morning in new jersey to head out to utah so i can attend the academy on monday. I've never done any type of racing school before, so this is going to be a totally new experience for me. Big thanks to my wife as she surprised me with a flight and hotel reservation as my 30th birthday gift!
 
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