Fast, compact cars have been part of the very fabric of Ford’s presence in the European market ever since Walter Hayes asked Colin Chapman to provide Ford with a 1000 Lotus engines to homologate a car for Group 2 racing in 1963. That car became known as the Lotus Cortina and ever since there has hardly been a time when Ford did not have a genuinely high performance family car in its model lines.
But the line that leads directly to this new Focus RS began a little later, in 1968, with the introduction of the original Ford Escort. Fast versions existed from the outset and, in Twin Cam form, Frank Gardner won the 1968 British Saloon Car Championship. Cars like the RS1600 and RS1800 won cult followings even before Ray Doyle appeared in an RS2000 in ‘The Professionals’. From there it was XR3s, XR3is until, in 1992, the whole genre took a massive leap forward with the Escort RS Cosworth. Ironically it wasn’t really an Escort at all but a cut down, re-clad Sierra but at the time few noticed and fewer cared. The Focus replaced the Escort in 1998 but it would be another four years before the first Focus RS was launched with a 2-litre turbo four producing 212bhp and a chassis offering landmark handling for a front-wheel drive car.
But we’d still have to wait until 2009 to see the next Focus RS, this time with a Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre five cylinder motor producing a 301bhp in the standard car and no fewer than 345bhp in the Focus RS500 – all through the front wheels. As family car rides went, they came no wilder than this.