Developing the Wicked Stick

The Ford Performance Drift Stick was specifically developed for those who like to drift in their vehicles.

Although the Ford Performance Drift Stick was specifically developed for those who like to drift in their vehicles (i.e., deliberately oversteer: the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle so that the rear tires break loose), it is also an interesting story in development.

Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance (who will be getting a new role, as engineering director for Unibody Vehicles, reportedly, by the time you read this), notes, “Everyone here is encouraged to think outside the box, so project ‘Wicked Stick’ was born.”

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Presumably, that name had a little something to do with the surname of the Ford Performance program manager: John Wicks.

The device was developed for the all-wheel drive, drift mode enabled Focus RS that the team had created.

One of the ways that a car can be put into a drift is by applying the handbrake. This is an approach often used by Ken Block, rally and gymkhana driver extraordinaire, who consulted with Ford on the project.

An issue the developers faced was that a hydraulic handbrake would have required substantial modifications to the vehicle. Once a brake like that was installed, it would be exceedingly difficult to remove.

So they decided that an electronic approach might be better. One Ford Performance engineer recognized that there were similarities to what they were thinking about with a part that is in the Ford Performance catalog: a professional calibration tool. So they integrated that with the equipment that became the Drift Stick.

The calibration tool provides a USB cable that is plugged into the stick, which is an aluminum lever between the driver’s seat and the manual transmission. The electronics serves as a connection between the Ford Performance all-wheel-drive system in the Focus RS, as well as the ABS. It also facilitates opening up the rear-drive unit clutches and applying hydraulic pressure to lock the rear wheels when the lever is activated.

The system is easy to install—and remove—as there is no drilling or welding required.

Engagement is quick and light: it requires just five to six pounds of pressure on the stick to lock the rear wheels, which is less than that required for a hydraulic handbrake.

And as it connects to the onboard diagnostics port of the car, it functions as a calibration tool.

All for the sake of drifting.