Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 1, 2005

For the most part, when we speak about the racing season within these pages, we're typically referring to quarter-mile drag racing, which is a straight run to the finish line in the shortest time possible. Drag racing is a lot of fun, but there are just as many people who prefer turning corners on road courses or maneuvering through cone gates in a big parking lot. This is why we editorialize suspension and other handling improvements, and why we cover events such as the NASA series.

Of course, each group thinks its way of racing is the best. It's rare to run into someone who enjoys doing both types of racing, which is a shame. I've drag raced a lot through the years-maybe not as much lately with family, mortgage, and less personal time-but the first time I got behind the wheel of a Mustang and went road racing (through a Track Time driving school), I had the most fun I've ever had on four wheels. Learning how to drive through corners, passing other cars, learning the basics of vehicle handling and weight, and what the four tires can and cannot do are all things I took away from the course and still use today in my everyday driving. I'm not suggesting you give up drag racing-there's definitely fun to be had there-but do yourself a favor and head out to a driving school, an SCCA event, or an open-track event to give yourself a treat.

These days, no matter which type of racing I find time to do, it's usually limited to the latest game on my PC or my son's PS2. It's cheap, fun, and on the more simulation-type games, you can actually learn a thing or two. Hey, if the NASCAR guys play video games to hone their driving skills and drag racers use practice Trees, why can't Gran Turismo 3 or Ford Racing 2 teach you a better driving line?

Of course, for those with the income to do it (not that it's overly expensive-it's just that I'm always broke), taking your real car out on the road course can lead to sensory overload. That's where the SVT Owners Association [(866) 377-8862;] can help. Each year the organization works with its local chapters to put on several SVTOA ONTRACK driving experiences.

For this story, the main chapter organizing the event was the SVTOA of Tampa Bay, Florida, [www.tampabay-] along with help from surrounding SVTOA Florida chapters and even one from Atlanta. These events allow you to learn how your car handles and behaves at its limits through classroom instruction and time on a road course, autocross setup, and skidpad testing.

One of our favorite SVTOA events is the Sebring Sensation at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, co-sponsored for the second year by Steeda Autosports [(954) 960-0774;]. This year, Ford sent its SVT/Team Ford Racing trailer to the event for display. When the big truck doors swung open, out came an '04 Cobra wearing Competition Orange along with some Ford Racing Performance Parts goodies, an '04 SVT Lightning, and an '04 SVT Focus. On hand for discussions and driving time were Scott Whitehead, '05 Mustang Three-Valve 4.6 engineer; Dean Martin, SVT chassis engineer (and Grand Am driver of the No. 52 Rehagen SVT Cobra); and Tom Scarpello, SVT sales and marketing manager, who was also Saturday evening's keynote speaker. We spent the weekend listening to the '03 Cobra blowers whine, watching the Steeda race cars fly past, and enjoying the wet-car handling spinouts.

It was pure torture to just watch and photograph all this fun and not get any seat time. Next year, I'll bring someone along to hold the camera. Right, Johnson?

We Have a Winner!In addition to enjoying the track time and getting an education about vehicle handling, participants were treated to product seminars from some of the top names in the Ford performance aftermarket, including Gil Cormaci of Vortech, Jerry DeMarino of Hawk Performance, Conrad Galamgam of Nitto Tires, Dan Carlson of Steeda, Eric Breslow of Power Slot, Jim Bottiger of Auburn Gear, and Michael Santa Cruz of Tokico. Besides giving seminars, these vendors also donated products for the Saturday evening dinner raffle, where a framed Ford GT poster, signed by none other than John Colletti, was also auctioned off. All the ticket drawings made for an exciting evening.

Product WinnersAuburn DifferentialRichard Nickels, West Palm Beach, FL

Chin Motor Sports Driving SchoolJered Clemons, Orlando, FL

Ford GT Auction WinnerPeter Dudas, Lake Worth, FL

Hawk Brake Pads (full set)John and Suzie Banks, Tampa, FL

JBA Shorty HeadersMarshall Scialdo, Naples, FL

Nitto Tires 1Jack Clemmons, Palm Harbor, FL

Nitto Tires 2Chad Gieseke, Clearwater, FL

Power Slot Front RotorsShawn Fuller, Jacksonville, FL

Steeda Set of 17X9 WheelsJack Stewart, Crystal River, FL

Tokico HPK Suspension KitTerry Lee, Hypoluxo, FL

Vortech Supercharging SystemGeorge Marino, Oldsmar, FL

All Shined UpSaturday's car-show area drew a great selection of vintage iron and late-model performance in front of host hotel, Chteau lan Resort and Spa, which is adjacent to the Sebring International Raceway. Here's a recap of the lucky winners.

AwardsBest SVTJohn and Susie Banks, '03 Cobra

Best SteedaT.L. McPherson, '97 Cobra

Steeda Runner-UpTedd Siegel, '02 Steeda GT

Best MustangRoy Bocadifuocco, '99 GT

Mustang Runner-UpJosh Laddin, '00 GT

Best Classic MustangAshley Weiss, '66 Shelby GT350

Classic Mustang Runner-Up T.J. Tschanz, '82 GT

Best Cobra Bennie Sorgie, '03 Cobra

Cobra Runner-UpDave Siegel, '03 10th Anniversary

Best Lightning Jan Yantz, '03 Lightning

Lightning Runner-UpGeorge and Julie Lindsay, '02 Lightning

Best FocusJohn Fleishman, '04 SVT Focus

Focus Runner-UpMartin Matthews, '03 SVT Focus

Best FordScott Gabriel, '57 Fairlane

Best EngineSteve Procko, '97 Cobra

Best PaintJerry Miller, A/C Cobra

Best of ShowJohn Handel, '03 Roush