Back in 2000, SVT created its own Special Vehicle Team Owners Association, a concept that was to enhance the SVT ownership experience and build on the core values of Ford performance for any driving enthusiast. Operated with the motto "Drive Safe and Have Fun," the SVTOA grew as SVT owners and fellow Ford enthusiasts enjoyed the intimate relationship that Ford had developed with its buying public.
Recently, a group comprising former SVT staffers, Ford Racing Performance Parts managers, and SAAC members banded together to put the SVTOA in the hands of enthusiasts, thus ensuring the preservation of the club's name, goals, and organizational structure.
With the changing of the guard, a new enterprise was formed. Specialty Performance Vehicle Clubs, which is comprised of the people who currently handle the successful Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC), has assumed SVTOA operations. The new SVTOA is an independent club that, through its chapters across the country, offers enthusiasts the opportunity to get out and drive with other SVT owners on road trips and cruise nights.
The thing that previously separated the SVTOA from more common car clubs, though, was its series of Ford-sponsored, on-track, high-performance driver-education events. SVTOA On Track events were set up at real racetracks across the country and provided attendees with experienced driving instructors, so that participants at all levels of driving experience could get personalized help improving their driving skills in a single weekend.
The good news is that the new SVTOA has continued this educational and extremely fun tradition, and we were able to attend the three-day On Track event at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. As many of you know, this is a track rich with auto-racing tradition that has been hosting its 12 Hours of Sebring race for the last 55 years on its 3.7-mile circuit.
In addition to the SVTOA On Track experience, Sebring shared the hallowed pavement with Camp Steeda, which brought Steeda Autosports and several of its latest high-performance Mustangs to the event for the performance-hungry to sample. The debut of the new Steeda/GT500 Mustang was certainly a highlight, but Steeda also hauled up a herd of Ponies that included the Q525, the Q400, and the Q335 Mustangs, along with some successful Steeda-sponsored Mustangs from the IMSA and SCCA arenas.
The On Track event started on Friday with the SVTOA staff tech inspection, which was set up in the Chateau Elan parking lot, just a stone's throw from the track. Come Saturday, participants were split into four groups, with Groups 1 and 2 reserved for novice and intermediate students. Group 3 was the wild bunch, as it consisted of newly released students who were on the track solo for the first time as well as more experienced drivers. Group 4 was reserved mainly for the instructors and the most experienced drivers. This was the fast group, and you definitely noticed a difference in pace from the less experienced drivers.
On Saturday night, all On Track participants were invited to the SVTOA banquet, a catered event that featured guest speakers such as Steeda Autosports' Dario Orlando and Bob Adams, as well as SVT's Jamal Hameedi.