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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for May 2010

MotorSpaceNW crashes Ford Fiesta launch, San Francisco (Fin)


For some reason the sun was painfully bright for certain members of the press the morning after the Ford Fiesta Gymkhana reveal. The Pirate stood outside the Hotel and sucked down a cigarette like it was breathing life back into him. 

Shortly thereafter our caravan of Fiestas departed and meandered its way out to Candlestick Park for the mysterious “Autocross” and “Competitive Activities.” We arrived to find the entire parking lot taken over by Ford.

A sea of mini orange cones dotted the pavement to form a makeshift single lane racecourse of sorts. To the right of the lot, a long line of cones formed a lane change maneuver, jutting inward abruptly after a long straightway and then back to the original course just as quickly. 

To magnify the Fiesta’s ultra-grippy technology there were also a half dozen or so Toyota Yaris’ and Honda Fits in attendance; nice little cars from two of the most respected names in the biz. Using my fox-like intellect, I speculated the point of the set up, beyond the pure fun of throwing little cars around a test track, was to illustrate that the Fiesta was an “economy” car that could still hit the track like a performance car, whereas the:

TOYOTA YARIS felt like a… Toyota. Nice, but obviously not suited for aggressive driving. 

HONDA FIT… We weren’t allowed to take the Honda on the lane change maneuver unless one of Ford’s drivers was behind the wheel; it took a professional to keep it in a semi-straight line. 

FIESTA handled the road course and lane change like it was made for the track, making it even more impressive when I hit the lane change at 55mph instead of 45mph and managed to completely destroy the lane change portion. 

Yes, my speculation seemed to be correct, but for the economy portion of the comparison here’s a Press Release: 


“DEARBORN, Mich., May 17, 2010 – Ford’s all-new 2011 Fiesta – an Internet star even before it goes on sale this summer – will now stand out on the highway with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified 40 mpg rating, making it the most fuel efficient car in its class. 

The Ford Fiesta 40 mpg (29 mpg city), achieved with Ford’s new six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission is 5 mpg better than the Honda Fit and 4 mpg better than the Toyota Yaris.” (1) 

In a final buttering of good press we were given a sack lunch, coffee and cookies before boarding the shuttle back to the airport. I had to ditch the chips and cookies before the security gate. My carryon was already struggling to accommodate the entire contents of the mini bar. 

Thanks for reading. 

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Part 5: 



MotorSpaceNW crashes Ford Fiesta launch, San Francisco (5)

Be sure to check out the ultra low-grade video I took of my Hotel Room in “New Videos.” It’s the end product of putting a bracelet on my hand that gets me free drinks at a bar where Ken Block is about to reveal his new Ford Fiesta rally car. 

Beforehand we had dinner at the Americano Patio off the main lobby of Hotel Vitale. And cocktails. Being completely virgin to such professional mixers, I waited to see if anyone was paying for their drinks before ordering a nice scotch. It tasted like candy. Better be careful. 

I turned to my left and saw a familiar face. Like when you see someone at a party but can’t remember their name or how you know them. Oh wait it was Ken Block. He was having a beer and talking to a Ford guy. There were Ford guys throughout the crowd, having drinks and talking about this and that, mostly about the Fiesta, cars, their jobs, etc. 

Fast Forward.

Ken Block makes a short speech. He looks dirt tired; it took him a long time to fly back to the states due to the troublesome eruption of Eyjafjallajokul. 

Fast Forward. 

Dessert. Don’t ever try Basil ice cream. It tastes like basil, not ice cream. 

Fast Forward. 

We exit a shuttle just down the street from the hotel for the reveal of the Gymkhana Fiesta. Wait a minute. This is a bar. A bar tender notices my paper Fiesta wristband/drink less hand and asks if I know about the free drinks. I don’t believe him, but after testing the wristband out on several other bar tenders I’m convinced. Steady as she goes. 

Outside the bar the press crowd is buzzing up a storm in front of the Gymkhana Fiesta still hidden beneath a cover… Is that The Pirate or are these drinks free? 

Yes. He’s filming a preliminary video segment with his cameraman. When the camera goes on the pirate goes into character… It’s not a big transition. As it turns out he’s not a pirate, but a guy who’s obsessed with his Chevrolet Nova. Imagine that crossed with a getup that could be mistaken for a pirate and you have his persona*. 

Just as the free drinks are getting boring the girls that were dressed like biker chicks crossed with Hooters girls emerge from the bar. Apparently they were showgirls all along, making their attire much more appropriate. 

The music is getting louder. A swell of people politely forces me out of my front row position. They’re random kids not involved with the press event, equipped with Iphones. 

Fast Forward.

Ken Block gives a speech. Bumpin’ music. The showgirls are ready to pull the blanket off the Fiesta. Iphones shoot above their owners’ heads streaming live video across the Internet. 

Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! The cover comes off and the rally Fiesta looks scary. From Edmunds:

“The 2,425-pound Gymkhana Three Fiesta gets a purpose-built Olsbergs engine “capable of up to 850 brake horsepower, but restricted to 650 hp in order to give Block the torque band he needs to control the car,” the automaker noted. The engine is linked to an Olsbergs MSE Maktrak magnesium six-speed paddle-shift sequential transmission. Ford said the car sprints from zero to 60 mph in 2 seconds.” (1)

Cameras swarm the Fiesta, kids stream video, jockeying for position. The Pirate grabs Ken Block and interviews him intensely. Ken looks exhausted but seems to enjoy himself more than a standard interview. 

I’m tired too and jump the next shuttle back to the hotel. In my luxurious sweet, amongst the tattered remains of the mini bar is the schedule:

8:30-8:45am. Depart for Autocross

8:45-10:30am. Competitive activities at Candlestick Park

Stay tuned for one more. 

*I’ve been completely unable to find The Pirate on the Internet, although I believe he may have been from FuelTv. Catch him if you can. 

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Part 4:

Fiesta Movement: 



MotorSpaceNW crashes Ford Fiesta launch, San Francisco (4)

The 2011 Ford Fiesta makes a noise like an old woman hawking up a loogie when you grind its gears. In my defense, I got all the way through first gear before discovering this. The Pro’s camera stared back at me blankly while I swore at it. It was time to make up for lost time.

“So, how much driving experience do you have?” he asked as the trees closed in over the top of the tight little road and the rain turned steady. 

“Very little,” I replied, “Just bought a 1995 Honda Civic with a stick, it’s got Costco tires.” 

No response. It was his turn to be scared. 

I drove as fast as I thought it was safe to, but then I got more confident. The Fiesta will do that to you. The trees overhead were so thick that the road stayed dry from the rain in places. It created a wet, dry, wet, dry pattern that was completely random. 

Several times we were pulling hard through a banked turn that suddenly became soaked half way through. When this happened I could feel the Fiesta kill a slide before it happened. It illustrated the connection in my head between racing technology and safety technology. Both ways saved our butts. 

Eventually my bun-clenching pace paid off and we found ourselves trailing a line of Fiestas that were having their own fun but not at the rate we had been. We arrived shortly thereafter at Byington Winery. It was beautiful. There were complimentary snacks and Ford personnel on hand to talk about our experiences on the public “rally” road. 

“We drove it until we thought it was going to fly off the road, and it didn’t,” I said to a Ford guy high up on the engineering ladder. 

He smiled at me uneasily, but with a noticeable pride. Once the meet and greet was through The Pro and I piled back into our Fiesta and made our way back down the road. The Pro, being as such, took the wheel once more and continued to terrify me. Nearing dusk we stopped at a lookout point over a valley of rolling hills. 

The Pro snuck the Fiesta beyond the parking stops to the edge of a massive drop off and set up his tripod to film a portion of his review. As this was happening, a helpful man emerged from an old Toyota Celica to inform as that San Francisco had been wiped out by a nuclear war.

“It’s all gone,” he said, “watch out for the acid rain. If it starts up again, wrap a cloth around your hands before you open your car doors or your fingers will get burned.” 

I was less concerned with acid rain burning my fingers than where I was going to sleep that night with the hotel having been destroyed. This guy was off base. 

He retreated to his Celica and laid back in the driver’s seat where he wept for the loss of the city as The Pro filmed a high-energy segment for his website. It went well. Shortly thereafter we arrived at Hotel Vitale. Somehow it had survived the nuclear assault. Our schedule said we had half an hour before dinner and cocktails on the back patio followed by, “Transfer to Ken Block Gymkhana reveal”. 

Translation: “Ken Block reveals his new Ford Fiesta rally car. 

Yes, he left Subaru for Ford. He also wound up having a beer with me at dinner… Sort of. 

Stay tuned.  

Fiesta Movement:

MotorSpaceNW crashes Ford Fiesta launch, San Francisco (3)


It was only a matter of time before I screwed this up. The Pro as he will now be referred to, expected me to act as his co-driver. In our TSD rally, the title came with three main responsibilities:

1. Give directions
2. Inform driver of required speed changes.
3. Record odometer/time readings

For a while everything was peachy. I called the turns as we pulled out of the parking lot and made our way to the freeway. The first exit brought us onto the long bends of a two-lane road in a hilly portion of country. 

With our speed set at 30mph the conversation picked up and I forgot to mention a speed change. 

The Pro was not happy. He cracked out his Iphone and calculated that to get back on pace we would have to drive at **mph in a **mph zone for the next 12 minutes. Making matters more interesting, we were set to enter a long stretch of road in the hills with very tight turns, many of which were banked. It was beginning to rain. From my Fiesta press pamphlet: 

“Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing) allows extremely precise, variable control of ‘valve overlap,’ or the window of time in which both the intake and exhaust valves in an engine are open at the same time. By adjusting overlap continuously, an engine can operate at optimum settings for peak fuel economy or power output as conditions demand.”

The Pro demanded peak power output and the Fiesta did not sound like an economy car capable of 40mpg on the freeway. For as hard as the The Pro pushed it, the Fiesta felt like it was made for it. We dove into turns pushing redline and the little engine couldn't have been happier. 

The Pro was impressed. He didn’t seem like someone who was very impressed with too many things. I was terrified. 

During the first handful of turns I was convinced the car wouldn’t be able to stay on the road. We were going to die. I reached for the “Oh s***” handle but couldn’t find one.


Making matters worse, I had hit the juice bar pretty hard back at the presentation and was in dire need of a potty break. It didn’t help having my thighs smashed into the passenger side door and center console repeatedly while fearing for my life. 

The Pro assured me we it was safe to drive the Fiesta in such a horrendous fashion as it was equipped with an advanced traction control of sorts that made it nearly idiot proof. This was good news as we were approaching the driver exchange at a roadside café. 

When we arrived smelling of hot brakes, several other Fiestas were already in the cafe parking lot. Older locals wanted to know what the hell was going on. I just wanted to know where the bathroom was. The Pro said I had time to keep my kidneys from exploding but to make it quick. 

It was glorious. I was refreshed and ready to take the wheel with the confidence that we were back on schedule.

Waiting in the passenger seat, The Pro informed me my personal time had put us behind by 13 minutes. I would have to drive ** in a ** for that amount of time to get us back on track. 

It was beginning to rain again. Did I remember how to drive a manual? 

Stay tuned.  

Fiesta Movement:

MotorSpaceNW crashes Ford Fiesta launch, San Francisco - Part 2

Just outside baggage claim, a lovely blonde haired lady holding a sign with the Ford emblem greeted me with a Southern drawl. Moments later I was helped into a well-appointed Lincoln Navigator with two other press people; one my age, one of the normal press age. Both were dressed casually. 

I loosened my tie. Several miles later we arrived at a building that appeared to be a former car dealership of sorts. Outside shiny new Ford Fiestas lined both sides of the parking lot, continuing out of sight behind the building. I stuffed my digital camera and audio recorder into my Dockers. 

Inside it was not a Dockers affair, although it could have been; a presentation area was set against the main wall with a giant video screen backing it and a bold puple-esque Fiesta off to the right. In front of all this were a section of glass lunch tables. On the far wall, a buffet of catering wrapped around a series of tables piled high with gourmet foods. Several Fiestas sat around the room with Ford personnel close by ready to talk about the car. 

Surveying the room between bites of salmon, pork, and a delightful vegetable quiche medley, the press crowd appeared to be… normal people, dressed plainly. Most weren’t much older than I. There were a few older faces here and there, but they were largely outnumbered by millennial-types up to younger generation X-ers and.. 

Was that a pirate? Long black hair spilled out from beneath a red bandana, his shirt was unbuttoned nearly to his naval before it disappeared beneath the belt-less divide of his tight black jeans. He was missing one of his front teeth. He had his own cameraman. 

Before this could sink in the presentation began*. Several Ford people spoke about the business behind the Fiesta and the car itself. Having caught a late flight I kept stuffing my face and attempted to jot down a few notes here and there. Here’s what I came back with:

-Power Shift Trans= 40mpg
-Available exterior graphics from dealers
-Highly customizable interior colors
-112hp/112lb-ft torque
-? Tech same as on Mustang
-6 Speed auto uses economy of a manual
-Drift/Pull cancellation
-Active nibble cancellation
-Target= millenials, downsizers, baby boomers, import owners. 
-$13,995 –4Dr, $15,795 4Dr (Starting)**

…The pork was phenomenal. I crammed the last piece into my mouth as the presentation ended and the press crowd emptied out into the parking lot to claim Fiestas in teams of two. On the way out the door we were handed a sheet explaining what a TSD (Time, Speed, Distance) rally was and a sheet with directions to Byington Winery nearly fifty miles away. The winners would receive a free weekend stay at a rally school on the East coast. 

Around the back of the lot behind the building a man was yelling for a partner:

“And I’d like to win!” he boomed through a cupped hand.

Bingo. I walked over and introduced myself. 

“You’re not camera shy are you?” He asked. 

I said I wasn’t, but thought again as I noticed he was attaching a camera to the inside of the car aimed at the driver’s seat. This guy was a professional, an Internet professional. He had a scar on his forehead from a rally event. He had driven in many rally events. This was going to be fun. 

Stay tuned.

*More on the pirate soon to come. 
**These specifications are non-official, official specifications to come.

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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