Scott Parker
Contributor
December 1, 2007
Photos By: Chris Winter, Track Time

Tired of using all of your AAA tows to get your Mustang home from the dragstrip? Frustrated with waiting around all day for less than 30 seconds worth of racing? Maybe it's time you gave road racing-or more specifically, open-track driving-a shot. Even autocrossing can't compare to the amount of seat time you'll get in one afternoon at an open-track day. Plus, the adrenaline rush you'll feel from pushing your car to its limits and beyond is difficult to beat.

It's too expensive, you say, or you may damage your car, but the reality is that with some of the basics under your belt, you can spend the day at a road course and push youself and your Mustang to the limit (or just under, which is what we prefer to do). While top-notch racing schools like Skip Barber and Bondurant charge thousands of dollars for a couple of days worth of racing, there's a more economical approach to road racing you may not have entertained. The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) hosts a number of open-track days throughout the country for the common man or woman, which requires no racing license or experience, only a car and the desire to learn.

Chris Winter at Crazy Horse Racing got started by removing the stock seat with a 15mm socket.

NASA High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) were created with the beginner in mind, providing valuable experience at $200-$300 at a time. First-timers and rookies (Group 1) get one-on-one instruction from an expert driver while putting their hot rod through its paces. Class-room instruction supplements seat time, and instructors offer additional pointers and advice on how best to negotiate your local track. As you progress, you'll move up in class (Groups 2 to 4), running the course in a field of more skilled drivers with less (or sometimes no) instruction, so you never have to worry about getting caught in a field of slower cars. Through this system, you may even advance to the point of obtaining a competition license, whereby you can go fender to fender with other Mustangs and Camaros in American Iron or the Camaro/Mustang Challenge.

To get the full experience, your author enrolled in Group 1 of an HPDE at Pocono Raceway to obtain off-track advice from Northeast Division owner Joe Casella, and on-track advice from instructor Chris Winter of Crazy Horse Racing, who practically grew up at HPDEs at Pocono. As you may know, Winter is an American Iron racer and a veteran of HPDEs. He was more than qualified to not only give me pointers on unleashing Gangsta Stang on Pocono Raceway's double infield Long Course, but also to aid in setting up the SN-95 for its duties as an open-track warrior. As you may recall, Gangsta has undergone quite a bit of changes since its introduction, resulting in one predictable and reliable ride. In its current state, Gangsta is well balanced and decently powered-the perfect weapon for an experienced yet intermediate driver such as myself. Its heavy-duty SSBC brakes, Tokico springs, D-Spec shocks, and a few bolt-ons make it well prepared for road-course duty. However, like anything else, it could always be better.

Gangsta's biggest problem is a lack of rear-end gear ratio to get it into its powerband, but we'll tackle that in another installment. In the meantime, we wanted to try and make the most of the power it did have by using a set of rear lower control arms to maximize efficiency and minimize the absorption of power (or lack of efficiency) in the chassis and suspension. Steeda was kind enough to furnish Gangsta with a set of aluminum control arms with polyurethane bushings to stiffen the suspension and reduce the weight. A lack of steering responsiveness could also be solved with Steeda's four-bolt aluminum caster/camber plates. The adjustability to the caster would allow quicker steering recovery, while the greater camber range will be useful later if Gangsta is relieved of its street duties-so we can run an extreme amount of negative camber for increased steering responsiveness. In addi-tion, the 7075 billet-aluminum alloy plates will help distribute the load across a larger surface area with its four-bolt design.

For increased grip, we nabbed a set of Nitto NT01s from our garage (left over from the DOT tire shootout). The meaty 275/35ZR18 R-compound rubber should help Gangsta pull some serious g-forces in the corners and keep us from burning up what's left of our street tires. Thanks to the previous mileage, the NT01s were basically shaved, and with its sparse tread pattern, it was practically a full slick. To mount these skins we gave Steeda a call, and they sent over a set of Ultra-Lite S197-style 18x9.5-inch wheels to clear the big brakes. Besides a good set of R-compound tires, one of the best investments any Mustang owner can make for road racing is a racing seat. The stock seats are so unsup-portive and flat that it becomes an exercise in futility to maintain seating position as your butt and shoulders slide around through the corners. A quality adjustable seat from a top manufacturer such as Corbeau can add tremendous comfort for street driving; however, I preferred to go with the 16-pound, fixed back FX1 Pro for weight savings. Though I would have liked to enlist one of Corbeau's five-point harnesses to completely lock into the seat, the lack of a rollbar would have made it unsafe in the event of a rollover, making the driver susceptible to a broken neck or compressed spine. The CG Lock seemed the perfect compromise; it would lock the lap belt while allowing mobility of the driver's upper body.

To help preserve Gangsta's 4.6 mod motor, I had intended on slightly short-shifting the T45 on the road course. An Auto Meter Digital Pro Shift System (DPSS) Cobalt gauge and gauge pod seemed the best way to facilitate this as it has a built-in, programmable LED shift light. The DPSS is the Rolls Royce of shift lights, boasting four-stage programmable shift points, progressive-color shift lights, custom shift light colors, and 80 seconds of playback.

For a second safeguard against excessive engine wear, a call was placed to Royal Purple for a case of full synthetic XPR 5W30 and Purple Ice coolant additive. As an added precaution, I replaced the 50/50 coolant mix with nearly all water [and one bottle of Purple Ice] for even greater absorption of heat from the block. This, of course, means that before fall and winter begins slapping New Jersey with its stinging cold, the radiator will need to be drained again and filled with a 50/50 mix, or else the block will most likely crack when the water turns to ice. The stock power-steering fluid will also be drained from the reservoir and replaced with Royal Purple high temperature MAX EZ fluid, though the stock cooler does a good job of keeping temps in check.

The SSBC brake rotors on Gangsta are well vented and have substantial surface area, which has performed flawlessly to date in resisting fade. However, Pocono's double infield is pretty hard on brakes, and there was nothing to be gained by leaving the brake fluid to chance. The brakes would need to be bled significantly and fed a fresh supply of Motul RBF 600, one of the best fluids on the market, with a dry boiling point of 594 degrees F and a wet boiling point of 421degrees F. Following the swapping of fluids, Gangsta will also need a full inspection by Crazy Horse, which is required by NASA prior to turning your first lap. Keep reading for more information on the inspection, the buildup, and the track-day experience.

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