February 1, 2013

As pure enthusiasts, we get all perked up at the chance to mash the throttle and drive track-prepared Mustangs.

So when Dario Orlando of Steeda Autosports offered me the chance to tame this trifecta of Steeda-equipped Stangs at the world-famous Sebring International Raceway, I booked my room and packed my gear with little fuss. Deadlines? What deadlines?

Being a car guy, I revel at the chance to drive cool iron, and I've been a lucky guy in that regard. But this would not be the typical road test, as the Mustang trio consisted of a hot pair of SCCA A/Sedan racers and one fully prepped, 650hp open-track killer. Admittedly, the stakes are raised when you slip into someone else's gutted and caged cockpit.

I've driven Steeda Mustangs before, but I've never done a weekend in three totally different race cars at a track like Sebring that can really bite you. Heck, you can enter Turn 17 approaching 165-170 mph and there is virtually no room for error.

The days preceding crept by, but finally I was staring down the Stangs at the Track Guys Performance Driving event. There sat a tractor trailer from Dawson Motorsports with Tom Ellis' championship-winning SCCA A/Sedans (a SN-95 and a S-197) and the Number 20 Steeda Mustang—an all-out racer with every last bit of Steedaness bolted to it.

If you are unaware, A/Sedan is the premier sportsman-level SCCA class for true production cars and the competition is fierce. With a tight rules package, the A/S Mustangs make just over 400 hp, however, in bold contrast, the No. 20 is powered by a Vortech-pumped Three-Valve and makes about 650 hp.

"I wanted you to get an impression of what it's like to drive these race cars compared to the Steeda street cars you've driven," said Dario Orlando of Steeda. "The A/Sedans are vey limited in what you can do, but still are still refined race Mustangs. Our 20 car has a Watt's-link rear suspension, coilover dampers, and is lightweight and powerful. You can't go as far with the class-legal cars so it makes the driving experience quite different."

SCCA champion racer Tom Ellis of Florida turned over the reins of his Ponies for us to evaluate. The Steeda-equipped Mustangs make about 400 hp and really get after it.

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