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One Girl’s Journey to Build a Competitive Race Car in Two Months
“’Build a Race car,” they said. “It’ll be Fun,” they said.
November 2015 started off pretty normal. After a wild ride preparing for the SEMA Show, things at Roush Performance were finally winding down and getting back to normal. As a shows and events coordinator, I was under the assumption that we were preparing for a pretty quiet winter, with not much going on until the spring, but I was wrong.
Up until last February my daily driver was a 1992 Mustang 5.0 LX. You might remember it from a couple of years back, when my engine swap (a mild 306ci with heads, cam, and intake) graced the pages of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords. We had fun with that build, but with 340 hp at the rear wheels, it just wasn’t potent enough for my taste. When I brought home my new truck last winter, the Mustang was finally retired to sit in the garage, driven only on nice sunny days. It was in desperate need of TLC. While I really wanted to build a car to compete in NMRA, I knew it would be a couple of years before I could even begin to pull it off.
The truth is I never saw this build coming. We had planned for a Maximum Motorsports Launch Box suspension install for the Fox, which you’ll see the installation in an upcoming issue, but the rest of the future build was undetermined and unplanned. So when Roush Performance came to me in late November and said it wanted to offer me a sponsorship to race the Fox under the Roush Performance banner in 2016, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. Could we pull off a total build in less than two months? We decided to try.
After Christmas break we pulled my 1992 Mustang into the Roush Performance facility, the same one that manufactures 2016 Roush Mustangs and F-150s, and Project Roush Fox was born. After landing a 2012 Coyote engine, Roush graciously handed over a Phase 2 Roush Supercharger good for 625 hp. The phone calls and emails started flying. The Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Indianapolis had been an integral part of making connections for the build, so with a small stack of business cards in hand, we put together a proposal and started reaching out.
Because this build was happening with Roush Performance at my back, and being covered online and in print, it was no doubt easier to get some of the best names in the company to pick up my phone calls and hear me out. Guys like Harvey from Performance Automatic, JC from Strange, Brad from JMS, and so many others were all important to the process.
Parts started arriving at Roush, and Roush Performance got the video crew together to shoot footage for the company’s YouTube channel. We had just one person completing the build, Chris from Roush Performance. He had never taken on a project quite like this before, so it was a learning curve for all of us. With the exception of the gas tank, body panels, and interior panels, not a single stock part was to remain, so we knew we were in for a real challenge. Luckily, most of the guys we work with are enthusiasts, so we were getting plenty of advice as we went.
Twelve-hour days and weekends in the shop meant that Chris and I were quickly becoming exhausted. With such a small amount of time to complete the build, we had to bring in reinforcements. Luckily, my boss, the man behind the original sponsorship concept, Don Manfredi, was a strong supporter of the build and getting it done in time. He stepped up to help us by arranging help in the form of another pair of hands. Dan stepped in the last couple of weeks before Bradenton, Florida. Together, Chris and Dan got a huge bulk of the project done.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many project cars, we just couldn’t pull it off. We had to load the car to ship to Bradenton for the NMRA Spring Break Shootout by Saturday night, and Friday afternoon had brought its own series of challenges beyond our control. The fittings for our hydroboost brake system and fuel system were all wrong, and we realized that we had reached our limits. The sobering realization hit me like a ton of bricks: We weren’t going to make it to Bradenton. After months of stress, struggling, and trying our hardest, we didn’t make the cut. So what now?
I met with the team over the engine bay and we discussed our options. If I could convince my superiors at Roush to send the car down to Bradenton to display with Brenspeed, it would make the loss sting just a little bit less. After a conversation with Don, the outcome was even better than expected. This was a project that we had worked really hard on together as a team, and I understood his frustration. But what he said next just about shocked me—“Tell me if this is a stupid idea. Why don’t you take the 2015 RS3 down and race that, and bring the Fox body to display?” It was an incredible opportunity, and I was totally pumped. I mean, who gets to do that?
In a twist of serendipitous luck, Kent Nine from Brenspeed was at the shop to pick up the Brenspeed trailer, and we caught him just in the nick of time. He agreed to transport the RS3 so that we could transport the Fox down in our own trailer, and I ran (literally) into the back lot to dig the car out of the Michigan snow and get it loaded up. We spent all day Saturday staging the car to look as complete as possible, and it was wrapped in stealth Roush Performance vinyl. We pushed it onto the trailer 15 hours after walking into the shop, and sent it on its way.
While I was completely looking forward to driving the Fox, the 2015 RS3 is a total beast in its own right. The production 2.3L TVS Roushcharged 5.0L Mustang has been equipped with a Phase 2 Supercharger Upgrade Kit and is boasting a mean 727 hp.
The weekend in Bradenton went well. The Fox got quite a bit of attention, and the RS3 performed exceptionally. The car cranked out a best pass of 11.70, trapping 121.75 mph after letting off at the top end. During testing earlier in the week, it had been trapping 125-mph passes, so I know it had more in it, but with the weather and stock 20-inch wheels wrapped in street tires, it was running pretty consistent 12.0s and we decided to run after the 12.0 index. My first two qualifying runs were 12.020 and 12.025, so I qualified in second place—a huge feat for a rookie in a car I wasn’t comfortable in. Unfortunately, tire spin got the best of me in my first round of eliminations, and I fell to talented racer Kennady Jones with a 12.218 pass. All-in-all, I left with 18 passes of experience (we had a test day earlier in the week thanks to Susan Roush-McClenaghan) and a real appreciation and understanding for the class I’ll be competing in for the rest of the season.