In NASA-Southeast's region, the driver of the #5 American Iron is a fixture of NASA's American Iron (AI) class. Affectionately known as "the M.A.D. man," you can usually find Mark A. Dandurand sharing a laugh with his fellow competitors between sessions. He's a sales professional by trade, and his friendly demeanor, charisma, and 'MAD' obsession for racing earned him an appointment as NASA-Southeast's American Iron Director for 2006.
Like most of his peers, Mark began his motorsports addiction with a Mustang. He purchased a 1996 Mystic Cobra and subsequently outfitted it with various track-rat goodies to improve its left-right manners. Some bigger brakes, suspension add-ons, supportive seats ... you know how it is. You get a little taste, and you come back for more.
Shortly thereafter, Mark spent a weekend in racing's red-light district, Road Atlanta's Panoz Racing school and got totally hooked. Soon, Mark's little track-action vice spiraled into a full-blown addiction. He started running around with the other addicts in NASA's multi-step program for drivers with the racing itch - the High Performance Driving Event (HPDE). Upon graduation, it was time to do some door-to-door racing. But, instead of hacking into his pristine mystic Cobra, Mark began to search for another car to feed the racing monkey ...
About this time Mark's relationship with speed parts dealer HP Motorsport was strengthening. After some searching, resident racer Paul Brown located just the thing to feed Mark's need: it was appropriately named too - 'El Diablo.' Wrapped in a blood-red package, it had components to keep Mark hooked. This nasty little thing was a 1996 Cobra that HP Motorsport had built for a customer in 2001 from a virgin 40,000-mile street car to campaign in SCCA's T2 category. The majority of the modifications performed (and allowed) were in the interest of safety including a full roll cage, which Mark was definitely going to need.
In a dimly lit parking lot in Omaha, El Diablo was loaded onto a transporter and 'smuggled' to Atlanta. Once delivered, Mark immediately began transforming it into an AI-worthy machine. The result of three years of development lies before you on these pages.
Like a Kalashnikov rifle, Mark's track weapon is deadly in its simplicity. You won't find any tricked-out suspension setup or a thumper motor, just off-the-shelf components from Maximum Motorsports and drop-in 2003 Mach 1 crate engine. The HP Motorsport-installed cage still remains, yet just about every other component on the car has been either replaced or upgraded.
The aforementioned Mach 1 mill inhales though a K&N filter located in the fenderwell, a C&L Trueflow inlet pipe, and an Accufab twin 60mm throttle body. A Canton road race oil pan keeps the engine on life support through high-G corners, but should the engine's oil pressure ever flatline from a G-overdose, Canton's Accusump will inject oil into the 4V's veins until it's resuscitated. Bassani 1-5/8-inch mid-length headers puff the exhaust through custom piping featuring an X-pipe, flat tubing, and side exits. El Diablo was then checked into Balanced Performance for computer rehab. Ed Snef prescribed a custom-tuned pill for the Ford EEC-V's brain, yielding 333 horsepower and 339 pounds of torque to their in-house treadmill.
What does it sound like? When Mark lights the ignition, the 4.6-liter responds with a sharp bark before settling into a mesmerizing throb. On track, El Diablo's pipes play Jimi Hendrix on trombone; raw, distorted, and powerful. But alas, like a lot of Jimi's music, it was determined to be too loud for some, so Mark installed two deflectors on the ends of the side-exits ... as if to say, "shhhhh" to the decibel meter.