I never thought I would drive anything this aggressively, but the Mustang had tons of grip and more than handled the abuse I put it through. After day one, I pushed the limits of my comfort zone. Each lap and each session, I fixed mistakes I made and completed better, smoother laps.
The second day I felt 100 percent more confident than I did just a short 24 hours prior. This time, I strapped myself into the seatbelt as tight as I could stand by locking the belt, which helped transfer what the car was doing right to my body. A harness would have been best, but locking the seatbelt was adequate.
My first lap of the day went really well. I felt like I nailed it and Fern told me how well I did. I couldn't disguise the smile on my face-I was tracking out of each turn properly and building major-league speed on the straight sections. Each lap ended with the thumbs-up and I was officially hooked on road course driving.
Being a long-time drag racing enthusiast, I'm not used to being on the track for very long. It's amazing how much seat time you get when road racing. I spent a total of two hours on the track during the two-day event, which some might think makes it a better value than the couple of minutes a drag racer might spend on track during an event.
Luckily for Marc and myself, the Steeda crew was on hand to service the cars after each session. They checked condition of the tires and the pressures, fueled the tanks, and maintained all the fluids. Even the sound of the cars going around the track is completely different than that of a dragstrip. I can honestly say I fell in love with the high-pitched growl of a Porsche cruising by me on the straightaway doing 150 mph.
A day at the road course is truly something every automotive enthusiast should experience. You can forget about high horsepower being the goal, as you will learn the artful combination of braking, corner entry, exit, and acceleration. Try it once, and with the proper training, you'll be hooked!
Revvin' Evan Smith
To say I was excited about attending the Sebring Sensation with Track Guys would be a gross understatement. I have a strong affinity for road course driving, and on this trip I was going to be wheeling a brand-new (and I mean new, with just 200 miles on the clock) '12 Roush RS3 with upgraded brakes and sticky Nitto tires.
Honestly though, I was just as excited for Marc and Elisa, as I knew what they were about to experience. After the mandatory morning driver's meeting, we took to the track in organized fashion and that's when the mental buildup turned to real fun. I had a set of race pads and Nitto NT01s strapped to the RS3 and it performed flawlessly, despite the searing 95-plus-degree central Florida heat that was bearing down.
Aside from enjoying the purity of the moment, my job was also to evaluate the performance of the RS3. And this machine was a dream to drive. I set the adjustable steering to Sport for the firmest feel, and found that 31 psi in the tires gave me the greatest grip. With 540 hp, the Mustang had plenty of power, but most importantly, the handling was neutral and stable.
The supercharged 5.0L engine had wicked-good response, but more impressive was the road holding and the brakes. Approaching each turn, I found myself late-braking as the modulation and performance was to my liking. Turn-in was precise and I liked the feeling of the EPAS. I rarely found myself making corrections after initial turn-in. I simply braked, turned in, aimed at the apex, and turned back out to exit, all while planting the power.
When I hit the apex correctly, it was as if I was catapulted off the corners. And this allowed me to hold my own against much pricier (and lighter) BMWs, Porsches, and Corvettes. I saw 148 mph on the back-straight a few times! Ultimately, I was clipping off lap times in the 2-minute, 35- second range-and that was running the car at only 80-85 percent.
If there was one downside, it was the noticeable reduction in power as the engine grew hot. Granted, it was a 95-degree day in Central Florida, and at Sebring you are wide open and in boost for very long periods of time. I controlled this by rolling just out of the boost once I got up to speed in the straight, and the RS3 never spit a drop of coolant.
I'm glad to report that our team ran the entire weekend incident-free. I drove the RS3 71 miles from my house to Sebring, raced over 125 on-track miles, swapped tires, and drove it home. And Marc and Elisa kept the shiny side up in their respective Steeda rides, too, as each Mustang performed perfectly. It says a lot about two amazing companies, Roush and Steeda, both of which bravely turned over cars to our staff and allowed us to run flat-out in blistering heat on a very fast and exciting race track for two days.
In addition, Track Guys put on a killer event, and in the fall, Lacina and his crew will be teaming up with Kenny Brown for the Kenny Brown 25th Anniversary Celebration at Putnam Park in Green Castle, Indiana. This is the site of my very first road course experience, so I can't wait to get back with my staff for more on-track fun. Be sure to check out musclemustangfastfords.com for exciting videos from the event and dozens of photo extras.
Another Texan, Larry Ewers,...
Another Texan, Larry Ewers, did a fine job in the Advanced Group in his ’95 GT.
Justin Starkey of VMP tuning...
Justin Starkey of VMP tuning was on hand with his Dynojet chassis dyno.
Tom Shoecraft Sr. had this...
Tom Shoecraft Sr. had this radical-looking ’03 Cobra at Sebring.
A nice surprise was seeing...
A nice surprise was seeing a few Boss Mustangs at the Track Guys event. This one, belonging to Tedd Siegel of TMS was modified with a tune and sticky Nitto tires.
When he wasn’t instructing...
When he wasn’t instructing a student, Brock Ivers could be found wheeling his ’91 Mustang. Ivers hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The winged coupe of Branden...
The winged coupe of Branden Thorton was flying.
Marc Schultz brought out his...
Marc Schultz brought out his real ’66 Shelby GT350H for a little road course fun at SIR.
Sebring’s long straights are...
Sebring’s long straights are connected by long, sweeping corners with a few tight turns as well. I pushed the Roush right to the edge and it hardly barked back—in fact I passed four Porsches in one session. I mainly drove at 85-90 percent of my ability, as that was a comfortable and very fun place to be.
Rudy Rodriguez of Orlando...
Rudy Rodriguez of Orlando had a blast with his ’93 GT.
Jonathan Blevis tackles the...
Jonathan Blevis tackles the track with his trusty GT500.