Jeff Ford
March 1, 2004
Contributers: Jeff Ford, Eric English, Shelby Cox Photos By: Eric English, Shelby Cox

Like drag racing, open track is not for everyone. However, more and more shows are having open track or autocross-style driving events linked to their shindigs every year. For instance, the Mustang 40th has an open track event running April 15-18 during the show . We've done the open track deal several times and enjoyed all our experiences behind the wheel.

So what is open track? Well, open track is an event where folks of varying skill levels take to a road course and run it at varying speed levels. For instance, in the novice class you might only be able to run 60 mph tops on the course, 80 mph in the intermediate class, and so on. Open track is not only fun, it also teaches you about yourself and your car.

Tech MeYou'll need to get your ride inspected and approved by the track staff. All loose stuff must be out of the car. Your spare needs to be either out or tied down. If you are running center caps or hubcaps you'll need to remove these. The forces you will be putting on the wheel and tire package will send the wheel covers scurrying for the roadside if not. The interior needs to be clear of all loose items like soda cans, cell phones, and old copies of Mustang and Fords.

Things you'll need and want1. Water: For you more than the car. If you are out in the heat doing this (and you will be at most shows) you'll want to have a steady supply of the wet stuff-and, no, we don't mean soft drinks.

2. Helmet: An absolute requirement for most classes. The only class that won't need one are the folks who do the parade lap.

3. Air Tank: This is some times referred to as an air pig. You'll want it to boost your tire pressure before heading out to the grid.

4. Food: At some events there may not be concessions, and even if there are you may find yourself paying big bucks for a burger and fries.

5. Tools: Things break, 'nuff said.

6. Jack and jackstands: See above.

7. Spare Brake Pads: you'll use a lot of brakes on the track.

8. Long Pants: They won't let you race in shorts.

9. Raceable Shoes: combat boots and work boots are not going to help you negotiate the track, get some small, light running shoes.

10. Tires: We recommend a better tire than a standard street radial.

Viva Las Vegas!While at Mustang Monthly we completed a project on a '72 Mach 1. The car looks totally stock on the outside, but is built to perform. Urethane bushings are at all four corners, the engine has been massaged to 338 horses, and the rear gear bumped to 3.73:1 using an Auburn locker. We are in debt to Orlando Mustang's (407-688-1966, Pete and Peter Giesler for towing the "Lazarus Project" from Orlando to Las Vegas and back, as well as fixing some of the minor problems that affected the chassis via a super front-end alignment. We can't thank the whole team enough for their kindness and helpful attitude during the event.

The Devil is in the details, and he sure showed up in Vegas. We found the strut rods on the '72 were not tightened down. The malady lays squarely at the feet of the editor for this one. I should have double-checked everything, but didn't. After the suspension was tightened up, the car tracked and ran better. Thanks to Peter's help, we got the problem squared before the next round.

After the strut rod "incident," I was back on track and moving fast-for a car with 30-year-old suspension technology and street radials. In fact, I was moving so well I was actually closing on a '01 Bullitt Mustang. The problem was I began to get a serious thump up front on the driver side. I backed off and went behind the wall-again. A lesson was learned here: never run open track with "S" speed-rated tires. I had separated a belt on the tire due to the extreme linear pressures I had been applying to the tires. A better bet would have been Z rated radials.

Some Race TipsBelow are some photos to give you a heads up on what to expect at the track. Though this is definitely not the be-all and end-all of information, we want to help you get more comfortable driving on the track.

Whats My Line?In racing you'll hear a lot of folks talk about "line." Line is the most graceful way around the track. In the photo sequence the Shelby is using a wide arc to negotiate the turn. Note the darker pavement and the cones. The cones show the apex of the corner, and you should try and get as close to these as you can without knocking them over. The darker pavement is the typical "line" drivers have used in the past.

And In This CornerThese two are not just hanging out, they are working the track. This post is linked to all the others on the track by point-to-point (PTP) radios. If a problem happens elsewhere, the track workers will display a flag to let the driver know what to do. Yellow is caution, red is stop, and black, with a point at you, is your sign you have mucked up really bad and must leave the track. No flag? No problems.

Best Suited And InsuranceThough there are cars better suited to go faster, anyone can open track their Ford. We've seen Mustangs, Falcons, and even Galaxies on the track at events-nothing is sacred. remember, like drag racing, there is no insurance on the track you race. you crash, you pay. So, keep that in mind before you buckle-up and drive.