Suspension Part Three: The Pertinents

Going back to our last post (if you haven’t read Part Two yet, you should), we broke down the components of what makes up a coilover system, we’ve been over deciding that coilovers are really the best option and have discussed some of the key features of a set of coilovers. Now we need to dive deeper into some of the features that are icing on the cake. These are the bells and whistles found on premium suspension systems that make them worth that bit extra.

As you will recall, compression and rebound dampening are two major points of adjustment. Some coilovers offer only compression and other more  premium coilovers offer both. Why is this important? A vehicle in a track environment, or even on some twisty backroads, will receive four types of bias. Forward, rearward, left, and right bias are the four categories. When compression and rebound adjustments can be made, and those adjustments can be made on all for corners, then one can properly address all types of bias and conditions. This allows the user to tweak their suspension to perfection for any given condition and setup. Whether it be on the your daily driven street car, your dedicated track car or the more common daily driven track car, having control over your suspension is where it’s at.

Speaking of conditions, a primary concern of many is the ability to get great track performance out of a set of coilovers that is able to be driven with comfort on the street. Range of dampening is a key factor in this parameter. A set of coilovers labeled as “street” will typically have rather soft shocks. A set of coilovers labeled as “track” will conversely be rather stiff. Having a wide range of adjustability, being able to adjust both compression and rebound are what make a good set of coilovers great for both the street and the track!

Another very important feature found on a quality set of coilovers is camber adjustment. Often times the OEM suspension setup doesn’t allow for much if any camber adjustment. Camber or Camber angle is the angle between the verticle axis of the wheels and the vertical axis of the vehicle and can commonly be seen from the front or rear of the vehicle. If the top of the wheel is further “out” in relation to the bottom of the wheel, this is refereed to as positive camber. If the top of the wheel is “in” relative to the bottom, this is called negative camber. You will rarely see positive camber on a street car or road course car. You may see positive camber on an oval track car and it would only be found on the inside wheels. Negative camber is the more common setup due to the fact that it increases grip when cornering by increasing the tires contact patch. Having the ability to add additional negative camber over that obtainable with the OEM setup is a important feature of every driver that races their car. It’s even a requirement for those that just want to achieve a low ride height combined with the aggressive look of wider tires and need to get them tucked inside of the wheel well.

To adjust camber, coilovers employ what’s called camber plates to make these adjustments. You’ll primarily see them in the front simply because the front of most vehicles with the more common McPherson strut suspension do not have camber adjustment capability. This is not often the case with double wishbone suspension and coilovers for those vehicles typically do not come with camber plates.

Hmmm… I wonder if we can’t develop a set of coilovers that will be comfortable on the street, have both compression and rebound adjustability, camber adjustability where needed and perform the job duties on the track? Yes, Yes we can!

Now that the research is done and we know what we want out out a set of coilovers it’s time to build a few sets. With prototypes completed, the fun part is about to begin. The best part of being an aftermarket manufacturer is that testing needs to be done. We’re all car guys, so naturally taking the car to the track is not exactly a chore. It’s no secret that JBR is located in the greater St. Louis area. Aside from some AutoX action, there is not much venue for legal abuse to the extent that we’d like.

JBR’s testing process involved multiple levels. Typical spirited driving is in order for the entire JBR fleet and that happens frequently. What is the fun of owning a performance vehicle without driving it like it was designed? A step above is taken in the routine AutoX outing. Often times, when some early testing is needed on a new part, AutoX is a great tool. It is legal to get some abuse on the parts on this closed course, and gets some real world data based on how the parts will be used.

Although this is the routine light duty testing, the real stamp of approval needs to be received at the peak of conditions the parts will be subjected to. This is why frequent trips to various Midwestern tracks, such as Gingerman Raceway, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Pittsburgh International must be made to get proper testing done. High speeds and high cornering forces are coupled with extensive duty cycling at these venues.

Now what’s the beauty of owning a performance vehicle? We race the same cars that we get groceries with. Clearly being able to drive the car to the track, get the abuse in, and drive it back home would get the stamp of approval. This is where the beauty of the JBR prototype coilovers came into play. Not only did they perform extremely well on track, but off track as well. Due to the large range of compression and rebound adjustment incorporated into the dampers, the vehicle is able to achieve a cushy ride feel on the streets at the turn of a knob.

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Suspension Part Two: The Breakdown

Going back to our last post (if you haven’t read Part One yet, you should), we discussed some suspension basics. We know that two major components in a suspension that can be upgraded to optimize performance are springs and dampers. Springs can be thought of as a coarse control, with the dampers  being a fine control. When looking for the most performance and flexibility for different conditions, a full replacement is best. This is commonly known as a coilover system.

When looking at coilover options, an abundance of offerings will be found. Where does one begin to make choices? Spring-rate, dampening, compression, rebound, and independent adjustability of these are all items to consider when choosing a coilover system.

Spring-rate is a large factor in how a coilover will perform. Simply put, the spring-rate is defined as the amount the spring deflects over a certain load capacity. This rating can be made in either kg/mm or lbs/in. You will see kg/mm often shown as “K” and lbs/in often shown as “#” or “lb”. To understand and compare different systems to one another, use this chart:

700 lb/in = 12.5 kg/mm
650 lb/in = 11.6 kg/mm
600 lb/in = 10.7 kg/mm
550 lb/in = 9.8 kg/mm
500 lb/in = 8.9 kg/mm
450 lb/in = 8 kg/mm
400 lb/in = 7.1 kg/mm
350 lb/in = 6.2 kg/mm
300 lb/in = 5.3 kg/mm
250 lb/in = 4.5 kg/mm

So what does this mean? The stiffer the spring, the more load it will take to compress it. Essentially, body roll in cornering will become less when spring-rate is increased. Spring-rate is generally fixed rate on a set of coilovers. This coarse control by itself would result in a very “springy” ride. Rather than a tire staying planted on the tarmac, with a load applied, it would waiver between loaded and unloaded. An unloaded corner makes for loss of grip. This is where dampening comes in.

Compression dampening is the rate of reaction to a change in compression. This is the car pushing down onto the surface. The rate at which the piston compresses directly relates to the amount of compression dampening. This essentially aides the spring in absorbing fine changes in force exerted. This can be bumps in the road, slight turns, or say the car ends up on the rumble strips.

Rebound dampening does the opposite of compression, go figure. Rebound force comes into play when force is lessened on the road, say at the bottom of a dip in a pothole, in the bottom of a bump in the road, or on the exit of a turn.  More rebound will create more response on weight transfer out of a corner.

One can see how having a fixed spring-rate means that compression and rebound adjustability shifts the burden of your choice onto these variables. Most coilovers will be advertised based on how many clicks are on the dial. This refers to how many different settings there are for dampening. Although more options are better, this is not always the whole story. The range that these choices cover is really the thing to be looking at. Most users will be wanting to track their vehicle, but also have the flexibility to have a bearable ride on the street. A set of coilovers with tons of adjustments on one end of the spectrum does the user no good on the other end. This is why range is key.

Not only is range of concern, but compression and rebound do not always go hand it hand. To really dial a vehicle in for a specific setup and circumstance, these variables should be able to be controlled separate of one another. Though this feature is not something that is seen on the bulk of the coilovers on the market, it is available on quite a few and should be sought after if budget allows.

Ultimately, one must consider the use of the vehicle to make a decision. Often times, paying a little bit more money for a gain in versatility is a good choice. The better range of options offered, the more likely the coilovers will be able to accommodate for the various situations to be encountered.

Next in the series Suspension Part Three: The Pertinents

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Suspension Part One: The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. Most seasoned car guys are aware of a choice between spring upgrades and coilover suspension systems. In the most basic sense, a spring refers to an elastic object with capability to store energy. For the sake of automotive suspension, the coil spring is referenced.

The rate of a spring directly relates to its deflection in a given load capacity. To get more specific to our automotive application, this coil spring is a compression spring. By definition, as load is increased, this spring becomes shorter. This is where roll occurs in cornering. OEM applications require a spring with a low spring rate to provide driving comfort and longevity of shocks/struts.


The OEM shocks and struts are hydraulic dampers. The job of a hydraulic damper is to control inconsistencies in form of oscillations of the spring. Lost yet? Think of it like the spring being a coarse control, while the damper is a fine control. The damper utilizes a piston with an orifice to transfer a gas or fluid through a piston chamber. The energy created from movement is converted to heat, which is dissipated through the gas or fluid. In an OEM application, this orifice is usually a fixed size. The size determines the rate at which the fluid transfers. The rate of fluid transfer relates to the rate at which the damper moves.


A spring upgrade is an inexpensive solution to accomplish a limited goal. Changing your coarse control value gives you an easy performance gain. By stiffening the spring and causing the OEM damper to sit at a more compressed average position cornering performance will be increased, but excessive load will be caused on the damper. Because of the fixed orifice, the damping and rebound rates are also fixed, which limits your fine control.


Upgrading the suspension as a whole will net the best performance gains and long-term reliability. This is where options of a coilover suspension system come into play. The top level systems are designed with every control parameter in mind. Rather than limiting the setup with a fixed orifice, variable orifice valving is used. This allows adjustment. For the best control over your suspension, independent adjustable damping and rebound are desirable. This, in simple terms, means that user inputs allow both the up-stroke and the down-stroke of the piston in the damper to be controlled independent of one another.

In a street application, comfort is obviously going to be a concern. Though springrates are fixed in suspension systems via the compression spring earlier discussed, the damping and compression values are able to be changed. By setting these to softer settings, the dampers will absorb more road turbulence. This allows the cabin to be more level and comfortable.

In a track application, the only thing to be worried about is performance. Setting the damping and rebound to a stiffer setting will net the least roll in and allow for best cornering performance. This holds true until a stiffness is achieved in which rather than the body roll absorbing the sideways movement, the vehicle starts to slide. This is all dependent on road conditions, vehicle setup, etc. This is why adjustability is key.

Next in the series Suspension Part Two – The Breakdown

Like the information in this blog? Check out the James Barone Racing line of aftermarket performance parts!

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Just Bought a Focus ST! Where do I Start?

So you just bought a Focus ST and you are probably looking for an overview of general knowledge, from what oil to use to what performance modifications are best to start with. With expert knowledge from tuners, manufacturers, and retailers in every corner of the ST community, it may be difficult to determine where to start. Here is a quick cheat sheet of info you need to know.

1. What oil do I use?

When choosing an oil, you will encounter a broad range of opinions. Luckily, lubricant technology has come a long way. With conventional, semi-synthetic, and full synthetic options on the market there is a broad range of choices. From experience, we recommend a full synthetic oil in the Focus ST. To understand what the differences in oils are, one must first understand how to read the packaging content.The manufacturer recommends a 5W-30 oil. Let’s break that number down. Viscosity is a fluid’s resistance to flow at a given temperature point. This measurement is taken at two points in rating oil. 5W refers to the oil’s viscosity at 0*F. 30 pertains to the oil’s viscosity at 212*F. These ratings are made through SAE guidelines. There are many full synthetic options on the market for 5W-30. Pennzoil Platinum, Mobil 1, and Royal Purple are a few great choices. 

While oil choice is very important, another very key factor in engine performance and longevity is service interval. Ford recommends changing the oil every 5000 miles. This rating is made with a lot of variables in mind. It is best practice to perform a Used Oil Analysis, commonly referenced as a UOA. Blackstone Labs is the industry leader in these tests. A standard analysis costs $28 and the test kit is free. This will help you determine your engine’s health and a proper maintenance interval.

2. This is my daily driver. Is this vehicle reliable when modified?

The Focus ST is an economy vehicle with performance as a focal point. This being said, Ford designed the vehicle knowing full-well that owner’s would be looking to modify it. The Focus ST is able to be modified pretty substantially without sacrificing much reliability. Following a proper modification path is key to keeping your ST healthy, while getting more enjoyment out of its performance.

3. What are the best “first mods”?

Oil Catch Can – The first modification on every Focus ST should be an oil catch can. The factory PCV system is designed with emissions in mind. In most vehicles, port injection is utilized. This allows fuel to spray before the valves. Fuel acts as a cleaning agent, preventing recirculated particulate emissions and other blow-by from building up. In a direct injection application, like the Focus ST, the fuel is injected directly into the cylinder. The fuel is not able to clean the valves in this manner. Over time, gunk will build on the valves and cause a drastic loss in performance. Adding an oil catch can prevents these from hitting the valves and building up.


Rear Motor Mount - The OEM rear motor mount is a weak point on this vehicle. The OEM component was designed with comfort in mind. It uses a soft bushing that eliminates transfer of NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness). This is a major compromise in performance. Allowing for slop in engine movement, this weakens the transfer of power to the ground. Results of this are more wheel hop and sloppy shifts.


Cobb Accessport w/Tune - The stock tune accommodates for a large range in climates, driver conditions, etc. It is also mapped with fuel economy as a forefront. The Cobb Accessport not only allows you to flash a custom map to your vehicle, it also allows you to monitor up to 6 parameters at a time. This means that not only will your ECU be mapped to your specific desires, but you will also be able to keep an eye on how things are working. This allows you to see small problems before they become big problems.

cobb ap

Front and Rear Sway Bars – The Focus ST has a lot of body roll from the factory. This is designed with driving comfort in mind. The addition of aftermarket sway bars help to counter this. This will allow for much better cornering and balance. The vehicle will perform better in the twisties, at AutoX, and on a large track in road racing.

sway bar

4. Where can I obtain more info? 

The best resources for information on this platform are blogs and forums. While Facebook groups are quick and easy to get an answer on-the-fly, sometimes answers can be incorrect, inferred, or misinterpreted. It is best to obtain information from credible sources. is the leading forum on this platform.

Stratified Automotive Controls has a host of information on ECU calibration and fueling related topics.

Edge Autosport has a lot of information on what brands are the best and which parts suit your needs.

Like the information in this blog? Check out the James Barone Racing line of aftermarket performance parts!

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JBR Featured Owner #2 – Jeffrey Sachse – 2014 Focus ST

In our last Featured Owner blog post we Focused largely on vehicle performance. The following post is going to have a heavy emphasis on using that performance to its potential. Autocross is a great entry into the world of racing. With as few safety concerns that you can have while pushing the limits of a vehicle and a relatively inexpensive fee, you are able to begin your path to acquiring a well-rounded set of driving skills. Some spotlight has been drawn to a few Focus and Fiesta ST drivers in the autocross world, mainly because of their great potential in this event.

One of the drivers in the spotlight has been Jeffrey Sachse from Appleton, WI. Jeff has been around cars his whole life and continues to evolve as a performance enthusiast, ranging from all types of tracks to drag racing. Wanting a daily driver with some spirit without breaking the bank, Jeff found himself contemplating between a Subaru BRZ and the ST we all have come to know and love. We think he made the right choice. With a background in racing Jeff wanted to use the Focus ST in some fun and competitive events. Naturally, having purchased a hot hatch, Jeff found himself chasing gates through cones in parking lots.


Documenting his rookie season in AutoX this year with a blog (which can be found here), Jeff managed to pull off a very successful season taking on the G Street class in the Fox Valley Sports Car Club. Capping off his stellar season, Jeff was awarded the SCCA Milwaukee Region Rookie of the Year. This class has strict rules limiting modifications and is compliant with SCCA classing (for more info on SCCA classing, visit Sports Car Club of America‘s website).


Due to these strict regulations, Jeff has kept his ST relatively stock. If asked, he will point his first and most important modification directly to tires. Choosing the correct set of tires for your application is paramount in performance- both on the track and off the track. Many may think that fitting the largest tire possible on a wheel is best. While this may ring true for some straight-line performance situations, it is definitely counter-productive when you hit the twisties. Finding a balance between soft compound and rigid sidewall is key, as well as a proper size to balance grip and tire roll.


Another key component in Street classing is an aftermarket sway bar. Street class only allows for one upgraded sway bar. Our recommendation is a stiff Rear Sway Bar for improved vehicle rotation and decreased body roll. If one is looking for optimal performance and has no concern for SCCA classing, the addition of a Front Sway Bar will balance the car very well. Following the sway bars, another upgrade that can improve handling and maintain Street classing is a set of aftermarket shocks. Aftermarket springs or coilovers are not allowed within this classing, though if one is looking for optimal performance a set of fully adjustable coilovers is recommended along with Adjustable Camber and Toe Arms and a performance-oriented alignment. These components will allow fine tuning of the suspension to optimize cornering potential.


Once handling has been addressed and higher corner entry and exit speeds are achieved, Focus ST drivers will find additional performance to be desired in the stopping category. The Focus ST is in its first purpose a street car. With this in mind, Ford engineered a braking system with common street car problems at the forefront. Brake noise and dust were primary concerns. To curb these potential issues, optimal performance was thrown on the back burner. For most enthusiasts, a set of brake pads and a fluid change will deliver all of the desired results. Some will choose to have dedicated street pads and track pads. For those that do not want to go through the hassle of changing pads every time they hit the track, Hawk HPS Front and Rear pads are highly recommended with performance in mind. If brake dust is a concern, and you do not plan to track often, then a switch to the Hawk Performance 5.0 pads are a good compromise. Once these pads are installed, braking temperatures will boil the OEM fluid. An upgrade to Motul DOT 4 RBF660 is highly recommended.


Though a Focus or Fiesta ST is an absolute blast to race in stock form, once these areas are addressed, the Focus ST is set up perfectly to hit the track or AutoX course. Classing only allows for certain guided modifications, however, if AutoX classes are not a concern other areas can be addressed as well. After tires, suspension and brakes are upgraded there is a proper foundation set to start increasing power with engine performance parts and a tune.

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JBR Featured Owner #1 – Adam Clover – 2013 Focus ST

Being the Ford Focus ST is a cross between domestic economy and European hot hatch performance, the market spans a wide demographic. This unique cross creates a very interesting community that is different than all others. We see owners from [as jealous as I am to say it at that age] high school students in their first car all the way up to middle-aged performance enthusiasts.

At James Barone Racing, we have observed that with the wide demographic, there is also a great acceptance and warm welcome to new owners. This community is a great place to be and the owners are really a whole different breed than most car enthusiast groups. We’d like to introduce the community to some of these members that stand out the most to us. We would like to introduce our first JBR Featured Owner, Adam Clover.

Living in Green Bay, WI; Adam is a member of Wisconsin ST Club. The Wisconsin community has a strong level of respect for all types of enthusiasts. Adam came from a family background of car enthusiasts. His grandpa restored old cars, and since Adam was 5 he loved to help. While he was helping, he learned a lot along the way. We all know that once cars get into one’s blood, it never fades.- the passion that drives us all to tinker, to love and appreciate the machines for the true beauty they possess.

Starting off with a 1990 Honda CRX, Adam had some work to do for his first project car. Rust plagued the rear of the vehicle, and as a true car guy Adam realized that needed to be addressed. To fix the problem, he bought a second donor vehicle and cut both vehicles in half. He then proceeded to use his fabrication skills to do some surgery and stitch the two back together.

A few vehicles later, Adam found himself with the Focus ST we all know and love. There are corners of the community focusing (no pun intended- ok maybe a little) on aesthetics; performance; autocross events; road course racing; and even the simple utilitarian nature of the ST picking up the kids and transporting snowboards, skis, bikes, and more. Adam happens to have a mixture of a few of these interests.

Adam started by addressing the aesthetic shortcomings of the ST. Starting with a set of Eibach Sportline lowering springs. Shortly after, he dug into the head unit to replace it with a Nexus 7 tablet. Being a maintenance mechanic by trade, Adam has some fabrication skills. He eventually graduated into a few custom cosmetic modifications including wing risers, a custom grill, and a custom crash bar; Adam made his ST one of a kind.

After addressing the cosmetics, Adam moved on to performance. Realizing the hunger for a large amount of power, Adam went for everything at once. Adam’s Focus ST features the following performance modifications:

  • Custom Cold Air Intake
  • Custom 3” Side-exit Exhaust
  • OCD Downpipe
  • ATP GTX2971 Turbo Kit
  • Stratified Xtra Fuel Kit
  • Cobb Accsessport V3 w/ Stratified E42 Tune
  • Cobb Rear Motor Mount
  • JBR 80/88 Duro Side Mount Package
  • Boomba Short Throw Shifter + Bushings
  • CX Front Mount Intercooler

Adam’s favorite modification to his ST has been the Stratified E42 port fueling tune. This is a great bang-for-your-buck modification on every level of ST, from stock form to big turbo. It cannot be stressed enough how a proper calibration is key to getting the most our of your driving experience.

We spoke with Alex at Stratified about the tuning process…

  “There are several important aspects to consider when building a car. It is important to know how the car will be used in order to determine the power level needed and the modifications needed to get to that power level reliably. With modern turbocharged vehicles it should always start with a tune. We use the COBB AccessPort for its capabilities and versatility and the excellent support. 

Adam’s car was a joy to tune. He spent the time and decided on the direction he wanted to take with the car. When he came to us we were able to address those needs with an ATP GTX2971 big turbo kit, Stratified  Aux Fuel System, and full custom tune. He had the supporting modifications needed and since he purchased quality and proven parts as part of this kit, he was able to reach his power goals of 400+whp reliably quickly. Adam was also very quick to respond with data and feedback during the E-tuning process and this allowed us to progress quickly towards his goals. The advantage of coming to us with a clear goal and getting the correct parts and tune is that we can address those needs without having to go through several setups, kits, and headaches that can leave a lot enthusiasts disappointed and cost a lot more in the end. If you have further questions regarding tuning and setting up your Ecoboost Focus don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

This past year has been a lot of preparation on the ST, and now that things are where Adam would like them to be for the most part he plans to enjoy it in the coming Spring and Summer. He would like to use the well-built machine to get some track time under his belt. We hope to see you at the track alongside our test vehicles this year, Adam!

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