Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
October 1, 2008
Photos By: Jeff Lacina, Larry Ward, Gene Pavliscsak
Classroom Education is provided with each session. Jeff Lacina handled our class time, which included both Group 1 Beginner (us) and Group 2 Novice drivers.

Our first session on Sunday went off without a hitch. We got into the groove as instructor Franssen offered up pointers and constructive criticism of our line and driving style. He uses an in-car communication system with his students, which makes communicating with each other enormously easier, especially when you're both wearing full-face helmets.

Going out for the Second session, we noticed that the car was running hot in the pit lane. We popped the hood and saw that the electric fan had not turned on. We tried to get out on track to see if the moving air would do the trick for the time being, but the coolant temperature went through the roof and we turned off track at Turn 3. A faulty relay prevented the electric fan and water pump from working, so the coolant in the engine was just sitting in there, boiling. We wired the relay wires directly and just pulled the fuse every time we shut down the car.

Parking Next to the Nitto Tire trailer proved helpful, as we recruited Stephen Leu and Mike Pogue from Nitto to assist us in removing the gas tank from Stolen Goods so we could repair the burned up fuel line. Thanks, guys.

For the third driving session, we were handed a Q500. Steeda's Glen Vitale rode shotgun while we sampled the red Q500, which had been recently upgraded with Steeda's new adjustable Watt's link rear suspension. During our time in the Q500, we caught up to an S197 Roush. We tailed the yellow machine for a good half-lap, until he spun out in front of us in Turn 15 and hit the tire barrier pretty hard-ouch! As Lacina had instructed us during our classroom time, we proceeded past the accident and pitted since we figured the session would be red-flagged, which was the case.

We're not sure exactly what happened, but it reinforced the fact that driving at speed is dangerous and best left to dedicated racetracks like Sebring and not the street. Public roads don't have tire barriers to save your butt, nor do they have track workers and emergency services that can roll to you in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, the driver and instructor were OK, but the Roush was roughed up.

The session following, we caught a ride with Steeda's Glen Vitale, who offered to drive a few laps in the Q500. Given that he races regularly in SCCA competition, we figured it would be a fun ride. Riding with others is a great way to see how each person takes different lines around the track. Now being driven at its limit, and sometimes past it, the Q500 showed that it was a capable and fast performer with just a brake-pad change. The suspension was extremely soft and compliant compared to our Fox-body-no doubt a result of the technological advances made with the S197 chassis.

Foam And plastic are no match for a hot metal exhaust pipe that has seen 5,800 rpm for an extended period of time. This could've turned out a lot worse if we hadn't caught it. Needless to say, it's a good idea to give your car the once-over between sessions.

The Beginners Group 1, which we were in, was the last group of the day to go on track, so it was back in the cushy leather seats of Stolen Goods. Your author got about one good lap in before he realized that he was physically and mentally tapped out. Flying through the double apex that is Bishop's Bend at about 70 mph alerted us to the fact that we had lost concentration momentarily. We took it easy the rest of the session, focusing on the driving line more than driving at the edge. You wouldn't think that driving 20 minutes at a time would be tough, but it's an adrenalin roller coaster the whole time. You just don't realize it.

With the conclusion of our fourth session, the Camp Steeda/SVTOA Sebring Sensation came to a close, and we loaded Stolen Goods up for its ride home. We thought we'd given SG a pretty good shakedown at the autocross that we attended a month earlier, along with the 3,000 or so miles we clocked on the Cobra since its completion, but Sebring International Raceway showed us that we had a few more bugs to work out.

We'll need to reconsider the wheel and tire sizes that we chose. While the 18x10s out back work just fine in regular street driving and at the dragstrip, we found the inside edge of the tire rubbing a bit on the inner fenderwell when the body rolled. We'd done some minor massaging prior to the event, but it wasn't enough. With the way the 275mm tire is stretched over the 10-inch wheel, we don't think we can go with a smaller tire.