Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
April 10, 2014

Steeda Stampede

In years past, attendees were hesitant to leave the Steeda campus to attend other events. As such, Steeda decided to make its annual Stampede—a car show/open house/dyno day—into a full-day celebration. It sounded like a good plan to us, so we hopped in Project Vapor Trail and cruised down to South Florida to take in the event.

Rather than acting as a precursor to another activity, the Stampede provided a day for South Florida Mustang enthusiasts to hang out and learn about Steeda's wares. Even Editor Turner's PVT braved tickets from the highway patrol to attend.

While this new format got off to a bit of a rocky start due to some morning rain, the weather wasn’t enough to chase off hundreds of Mustang enthusiasts. Fortunately, the weather cleared and attendees were able take in tech seminars from Steeda main man, Dario Orlando, peruse scratch and dent deals in Frank’s Garage, and enjoy lunch while being entertained by a DJ.

We had a great time getting to check out the cars and chat with the Mustang fans in attendance. If it sounds like a good time to you too, the company will be doing it again this year. Stay tuned to its web site (www.steeda.com) and social outlets for an announcement of the 2014 Stampede date.

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ProtoBoost

When it comes to endurance racing, there is no greater event in the United States than the Rolex 24 at Daytona. And for many years, the dominant team in U.S. long-distance sports car racing has been Chip Ganassi Racing, which has championed the Grand Am/IMSA Daytona Prototype class the last four years straight.

Ford’s main partner in IMSA’s Tudor Sports Car Series is Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields two of these Riley-chassis’d mid-engine prototypes. The preeminent prototype team, Ganassi’s 2014 effort features an impressively strong and deep driver line-up. One of these is the crafty, demon-fast Scott Pruett, who started his career with Ford in Trans Am, and includes Indy 500 winner Tony Kannan among others.

Now Ganassi has teamed with Ford for their engines. Dearborn is eager to highlight its EcoBoost technology via a surprisingly stock, yet 650hp, 3.5 EcoBoost V-6 as more commonly sold in the Taurus SHO, Explorer Sport, and F-150 pickups. We were able to get an insider’s tour of the 3.5 EcoBoost racing program during The Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the race’s official test session held in surprisingly chilly weather immediately just after New Year’s.

Just as surprising is how many stock parts carryover from the production 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 to the race version built by Robert Yates Racing Engines for Ganassi. Depending on who’s talking, somewhere between 65 to 75 percent of the race engine is stock Ford production parts, an amazing figure for a pro-race engine. These parts include the block, cylinder heads, and the majority of the valvetrain. Many of the parts changed for racing are different not because they are inadequate to the job, but rather for packaging in a mid-engine race car. These include the front cover, which incorporates engine mounting ears in the Riley-sourced Daytona Prototype chassis Ganassi runs, and the valve covers, which can be more compact because they no longer need to house the variable cam timing gear because it is banned by IMSA.

Other parts are changed for weight savings, including the billet crankshaft, which saves 6 pounds of rotating mass. Changes mainly for power or durability include dry-sump oiling, the stock sized but upgraded exhaust valves, the hand-fabbed, Inconel exhaust manifolds, the custom composite intake manifold, and, as expected, the significantly larger Borg-Warner EFR turbochargers. The engines are choked by IMSA-spec restrictors, turn 7,500 rpm, run Bosch engine management and are integrated into the car’s traction control system via fuel intervention.

A unique long-runner intake manifold has proven especially beneficial to the 3.5-liter EcoBoost Daytona Prototype engine due to the relatively low 11.5 pounds of boost. It features a pair of large, tapered, curved plenums atop tall runners.

All told, the Daytona Prototype EcoBoost engine is an impressive showcase of the power and durability of the 3.5-liter V-6. Our visit was early in the program—the Daytona test marked just the third time the engine had powered a car—and neither Ganassai, Ford, or Michael Shank Racing—which is also running the Roush-Yates EcoBoost 3.5 with Ford’s blessing—had hard data on how much fuel the new engine might save over the out-going 5.0-liter.

All said the savings were real, but it might end up a wash. The 3.5 is about 100 horsepower more powerful than the 5.0, so whatever savings realized by the smaller displacement engine might likely be consumed developing the extra power. This will be an interesting angle to monitor as IMSA’s Tudor Sports Car Series works its way through its varied schedule.

From the marathon 24 hour slog at Daytona, to the rough Sebring 12 hour and various street and road course races, the Tudor series promises a strong test of the largest of EcoBoost engines.—Tom Wilson