Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
May 31, 2017
Photos By: John Moore

Racing is a long-standing tradition at Steeda Autosports. Company president Dario Orlando has been burning up road courses on the SCCA trail for decades, which led him to open the doors to Steeda in 1988. In the 1990s, Steeda gained prominence with its popular No. 47 1993 Cobra R, and it gained momentum producing an endless list of Mustang parts and racing a real 1995 R-model Cobra that was campaigned in IMSA. More recently, Orlando, along with VP of operations, Glen Vitale, have been winning in SCCA competition with a 2016 Steeda Q500R that features mostly off-the-shelf parts.

Mustangs have come a long way since the Fox and S197, with more power, precision handling, plus improved safety and durability. Steeda’s parts have progressed as well. In fact, the S550 catalog offerings can get you everything from a dropped stance to a kiss from the trophy girl.

“We’re competing in SCCA T1 (Touring 1), which is comprised of BMWs, Vipers, ’Vettes, Nissan 370Zs, and other cars,” said Glen Vitale. “It’s competitive production car racing. The spirit of the class is that anyone can take a car off the showroom floor, bolt-on parts and race. You can add suspension links, bushing, and alter the set-up as long you maintain the stock pick-up points,” he added. “We race because it’s fun and there’s no better way to develop performance parts then to go racing. It exposes all the good and bad points.”

The Mustang’s Coyote 5.0 is mostly stock, save for the induction, headers and tune. Steeda selects between a stock, Boss 302, and GT350 intake depending on the track configuration.

MM&FF readers may remember this Q-Series Mustang wearing a supercharger, but the engine was returned to a mostly stock configuration to meet the SCCA requirements. According to Vitale, “You can run dead stock, or do bolt-ons and SCCA will penalize you with weight and a restrictor plate. You can also blueprint the engine to SCCA T1 specs, but that also carries weight and intake restriction penalties. Steeda has modded the stock 5.0L engine with a cold-air intake, tune and Stainless Works long-tube headers with Steeda mufflers. At certain tracks, the team will opt for a Boss 302 or Shelby GT350 intake. The better-breathing intakes allow more rpm and better high-rpm power, despite the restrictor plate that must be used in conjunction.

And while the Steeda Q500R looks fantastic, many of the go-fast enhancements are hidden under the skin. Keeping the contact patches flat under corning is the name of the game so Steeda went into battle with its Pro-Action adjustable dampers and recently released progressive lowering springs. “We’re running all equipment from our catalog, but we use spring rates that are way higher than what you’d want on the street,” explained Vitale. “We just introduced the progressive spring (PN 555-8241) that’s on our website. It came from what we’re doing with the race car, and match nicely with our Pro-Action shocks, the same ones that we use on our Q-series street cars,” he added. “It’s a spring that we recommend for track use, but it can absolutely be used on the street. It’s been very popular. You can use it with stock struts, but we recommend using our Steeda Pro-Action or Koni dampers.”

The front utilizes Steeda’s adjustable anti-roll bar, and billet end links, caster/camber plates and bumpsteer kit. The rear is fortified with Steeda’s Rear Adjustable Sway Bar, IRS Subframe Alignment Kit, Aluminum Differential Bushings, IRS Subframe Support Braces, Rear Spherical Bearings, Adjustable Rear Toe Link, Billet Aluminum Vertical Link, Rear Adjustable Camber Arm, IRS Subframe Bushing Support System, and Billet Rear Shock Mounts.

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Steeda’s years of racing and development helped them arrive with a race-winning combo of balance and speed. Here you see the front Pro-Action struts along with the Wilwood brakes and the meaty anti-roll bar.

“A lot of our IRS upgrades for S550 customers came from what we learned on track,” said Vitale. “For instance, the stock bushings are rubber and have lots of deflection. They are great for normal driving, but our Delrin bushings have far less deflection so you get better control, improved feel and increased traction. For the IRS we use our adjustable camber arms to dial in the suspension. In early testing we had issues with understeer and we adjusted sway bars and springs, accordingly. Then we had overseteer issues. We learned that we were running too much negative camber, so we developed our Adjustable Camber arms to dial in camber quickly at the track. And that’s where we are right now. We’re constantly developing because everything is fresh; we learn something every time at the track. Ultimately, we’re designing a Mustang to be predictable when at the limits of adhesion, to allow drivers to extract every bit of handling and speed,” he added.

To improve acceleration the Mustang was fitted with an aluminum driveshaft and 3.73 cogs, meanwhile G-Force axle shafts ensure durability. And stopping duties are handled by Wilwood brakes. “We originally used stock brakes, but Wilwood wanted us to test its 6-piston front brake kit with 2-piece 14-inch front slotted rotors. It’s something like 7-9 lbs lighter per corner,” said Vitale, “and that’s unsprung weight so it makes a big difference. We’re presently testing Wilwood rear brakes and I was floored with how much braking power this car has.” Also at each corner are Forgeline WC3 18x11-inch lightweight wheels with either Hoosier P315/30ZR18 DOT slick or Nitto NT01s.

To remain in accordance with the rules, the Steeda Q500R must weigh at least 3,475 lbs. with driver, and there’s a minimum ride height as well. “Well, as far as taking it from street to track, we reduced weight with a carbon fiber KOHR hood and a lightweight deck lid from our catalog. We also upgraded to a C&R radiator, and we added a differential cooler to maintain proper fluid temps on track,” Vitale added.

Steeda’s Q500R has been modified for the track with an AIM computer, Sparco race wheel, and removal of non-essential items.

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The return to the track for Steeda has been good, as drivers Dario Orlando and Glen Vitale won in their first race in Homestead, Florida, and they nearly swept the next race weekend at Palm Beach International Raceway (Palm Beach, FL), taking two wins and a second place finish in the recent Bud Memorial Double SARRC ECR Challenge. The event included two 20-minute sprint races and a 1.5-hour Enduro that included refueling and a driver change.

Orlando, who drove both sprint races, qualified the yellow and black Number 20 Ford on pole. Admittedly rusty, he struggled at the start of the first race, spinning on the second lap, but despite having not competed in over two years, he gathered the Mustang and fought his way back to grab a second-place finish. “It was great to get back in competition,” said Orlando. In the second race he was able to maintain the lead and take the victory. “It was a challenge staying ahead of the supercharged M3,” stated Orlando, “However, the Steeda Mustang prevailed and it was really exciting to take a win.”

The team concluded the weekend running the 1.5-hour ECR Enduro, where Orlando took his third pole. Vitale drove the first stint, poured the coals to the Steeda Mustang and never looked back. He ran clean, leading the race until pitting for refueling and to hand the reigns to Orlando. With 30 minutes to go, Orlando got back in the mix and held off the field for a true flag-to-flag victory.

“It was an amazing race weekend,” said Orlando. “We use this car to develop new Steeda parts, so we’re always pushing and learning. And we can’t want to get back, take a look at the Mustang and then do our job making the best parts for our customers.”

Steeda’s biggest on-track challenge comes from SRT Vipers and Chevy’s Corvette. “The Viper and ’Vette are lighter and were faster when we started this year,” said Vitale, “but the first event was in the rain, it was the SCCA majors in Miami at Homestead. The rain is an equalizer so it worked in our benefit. We went with the Nitto NT01 tires and were able to run consistently fast. We were able to win through strategy, that was the first race, then we won at PBIR and we recently scored a win in the 1.5 hour Armed Forces SCCA ECR Enduro at Homestead.” With such great success, Vitale stated they plan to run more SCCA Enduro Championship Racing events, which covers the Southeast of the United States.

“We’ve worked diligently to produce a Mustang with greatly enhanced handling performance, but one that’s easy to drive at the limit,” said Dario Orlando. “In fact, one of the reasons we race is to show enthusiasts they can have the very best parts on the street or track. Our engineers have developed the most comprehensive collection of suspension, chassis, and power upgrades—that when taken together, provide power and control that is unsurpassed.”

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