Nick From ModBargains Gets Schooled: Ford ST Octane Academy Hoonigan Reception
or: How I lived Forza Horizon
After an overnight stay in Vegas, my intrepid Codriver Kevin jumped back into the Fiesta ST and headed for Utah. Let me first preface what I have to say about that with this: Southern California, our hometown and home of ModBargains, has been in something of a drought for the past coupe of years – that means our mountains have been mostly dry and brown all winter and not much green to speak of. SoCal is beautiful in its own sundrenched yellow way, but Utah, as we’ve experienced it, has seemed more like something out of a videogame than anything real.
What do we mean by that? Utah isn’t all just the red rock deserts and rock arches we recall from Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons.
Not long after we left Vegas, the ground slowly went from brown to red as we went further and orange and red rock formations rose on either side of us like giants.
For all the beauty of the desert parks, we really weren’t prepared for how insanely pretty it got as we drew closer and closer to Park City/SLC. For starters, let’s begin with the skies. It’s no secret the air in LA is a little smoggy, but here the skies are this positively unreal shade of deep blue. The mountains are so close to you at many points, blanketed in a thick layer of white snow atop their peaks framed by lush green hills and meadows below.
It’s like Pre-War Austria at the beginning of The Sound Of Music. Only the buildings remind you that you’re not in the Swiss alps or something. And about the highways – the may as well have been the alps! Climbing sweeper after climbing sweeper. If you’ve ever played the Xbox 360 title Forza Horizon, it seriously felt like living a videogame. Was this really happening? Were we really out here, doing this? How could anywhere be so bloody gorgeous?
The trouble was, we looked at the clock and realized that due to our crossing into another time zone, we’d lost an hour of road time – and we had a hard deadline of arriving at Hoonigan HQ by 5:45pm that Friday night. If we weren’t there on time, we weren’t getting in. We had to quit messing around with photo ops until we got there if we didn’t want to find ourselves SOL in SLC.
Of course, as we climbed the mountains our fuel economy with our Stage I 91 map on the Cobb AccessPORT V3 installed on the Fiesta ST, fuel economy took a minor dip down from 31ish down to about 28.5, understandable considering we were at over 5000ft elevation.
Considering the time crunch, we didn’t want to stop needlessly and held off until we needed to stop for food. When we made a quick pit stop for lunch, where exactly in Utah, I’m not sure, but we used the opportunity to switch over to the Economy map, and by limiting the car to just wastegate pressure (7psi) and trying to keep it out of boost (using the AccessPORT’s Boost Gauge function), we managed to get it back up to 32mpg despite constant uphill grades. Despite the reduction in horsepower the car still made easy work of the climb thanks to the fact that it makes a stupid amount of torque for a teeny 1.6L four banger.
We arrived a bit early at the top secret location of Hoonigan Racing Headquarters in Park City, a quiet little unmarked building hidden in an industrial park. Our early arrival meant we were the first to arrive, so we had the chance to take a few photos to capture how incredible this part of Utah is.
As it got closer to 5:30 more ST owners tricked in, until about 20 of us were milling about in the parking lot, and the doors opened to one man’s vision of work/play car-vana.
We signed in and were given a brightly colored Hoonigan/80s-tastic wristband and let into Block’s rather eclectic space. The wristband really drove the “Forza Horizon” feel home. Part garage, part office, part mancave, part house and part workshop, the feel of it is hard to describe. We were shown around the front lobby and offices of Hoonigan Racing, including a tour of Ken Block’s office.
The entire interior seems to be like a fusion of someone’s home, an office, a Scandanavian sensibility and eco-conscious design. Each of his 10 or so full time staffers work in offices housed in cleverly stacked shipping containers, giving the office an easily movable or expandable modular design.
A Ken Block edition Focus ST sits in the lobby, slammed with Fifteen52 Tarmac 5-spoke wheels for Focus ST, Ken Block logos, Ford Racing Exhaust System developed by Borla– indeed, it does clearly represent Hoonigan the brand with bright 80s-esque color splashes everywhere, pieces of rally cars proudly hung on the wall like fine art. Ken’s office is especially unusual with a patio indoors stretching out from the side of his office, a stuffed bear, chainsaw, fireplace and other bits of Eco design remind you that you’re in the mountains.Next to the Focus ST is a kitchen, which looks like it came out of someone’s very nice house who also happened to REALLY like Monster Energy Drinks.
You can see how Ken Block’s 600HP AWD Fiesta Rally Cars built in this very cool episode of How It’s Made – for bonus points, you can see a Fiesta rally car wearing “43” numbers in the background. At 5mins long, it’s a great watch over a coffee break.
But the real magic was what was behind the door separating the workshop and the “office/lobby” area – and here we weren’t allowed to snap photos, so here are a few from the website to give you an idea. A 3-door Widebody AWD converted Fiesta Rally Car, and next to it sat a livery-free 5-Door Widebody Fiesta rally car.
As a Fiesta enthusiast, we are accustomed to seeing 3-door Fiestas in racing, so seeing a 5-door model like the US Fiesta ST was really badass. We scrutinized the rear suspension of the cars, how it had been mounted to the cars, where everything was housed – it was especially cool to see the work in progress as they prep a new rally car for the upcoming season. Check out the YouTube video above to find out more.
Ken’s snow monster, the Raptor Traxx was also there in the garage, and it’s even more beastly to behold in person. It’s like the crazy vehicle your 5-year-old-self imagined as “the coolest truck ever”. It’s ridiculous in the best way.
All in all, it was a really neat experience and it was nice to sit down and have a meal with other Ford ST enthusiasts at the end of the day, get to know everybody before getting serious for Racing the next morning.
In addition to feeding us, our hosts from Ford Racing School came out to introduce themselves and walked us through some basic tips for the next day – like remembering to hydrate often throughout the day due to the altitude, a brief overview of what we’d be doing in the morning once we got to Miller Motorsports Park, and what time we needed to show up – and they clued us in to one more little secret – if we showed up early, we could check out the Miller Motorsports Park Museum. While it doesn’t sound that thrilling on name alone, consider this: The collection houses one of every variant of the Ford GT40 ever made and also houses many history-making racecars younger folks like myself have only seen in photos on the internet, so we were really excited to check that out – and that meant setting our alarms a little earlier for tomorrow morning.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves from here, but no sooner than we walked out the doors of Hoonigan HQ, we were ready to get racing. Join us next time for Part III of our Road Trip to the ST Octane Academy at the Ford Racing School at Miller Motorsports Park.
Story & Original Photos by Nick Gregson
Select Photos Courtesy STOctaneAcademy.com
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