Kristian Grimsland
Associate Editor, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
January 3, 2014
Photos By: Marc Christ

Straight-line performance has been and will continue to be one of MM&FF's favorite challenges. Real-world testing offers us firsthand knowledge of the capabilities of FoMoCo and the aftermarket's latest vehicles and parts. But we aren't just about straight-line performance. We like all types of driving, including open track.

With that said, Track Guys Performance Driving Events invited team MM&FF to Sebring International Raceway for its 12th Annual Sebring Sensation open-track event this past May. Sebring is a world-class track known for its premier event, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and of course, the tough 17-turn, 3.7-mile course. It's a demanding track that takes ample amounts of time and training to drive well.

Track Guys owner and lead instructor Jeff Lacina invited your author to its Sebring Sensation driving school to teach me the fundamentals of open-track driving. I joined the other 100 or so enthusiasts for a weekend of fast fun.

Track Guys breaks down the drivers into four groups (beginner, novice, intermediate, and advanced). Being a complete newbie to open-track racing, I was placed in the beginner group. Hey, I was given the chance to hit some apexes—who could say no?

Included in the package is classroom and in-car instruction—actually it is mandatory for both the beginner and novice groups. Off the bat, I learned proper driving techniques and on-track etiquette. Track Guys events are about learning, improving your driving skill, and having fun, but it's not about "racing."

"Track Guys offers performance driving education events for drivers of all skill levels," Lacina told us. "We will get you on track and help you learn more about yourself, your car, and performance driving than you ever thought possible."

"You are encouraged to learn and drive at your own pace, regardless of your level of experience. We strive to put on the types of events we would want to attend. We focus on education, safety, and making sure everyone gets maximum track time in a safe, fun, and educational format. These are not racing events; they are performance driving education events. That means you do not need a purpose-built track car; any car can be driven well and no one will dive-bomb you in a corner."

"Don't make a bunch of modifications to your vehicle just before attending one of our events. We want you to focus on learning how to properly drive and control the vehicle you already have and are comfortable in," he added. Best of all, "You do not need any previous racing or performance driving experience."

For any of you who have even the slightest interest, we encourage you visit Track Guys website and attend its next event. You won't be disappointed.

Cobra Prep

Track Guys offers a great educational program for racers and enthusiasts who want to make their way onto the track, but one of Track Guys biggest and most important rules is safety. Before we headed out to Sebring, we had to prep our '98 Cobra. So far, it has mainly been used as a daily driver and for strip use. Due to the amount of driving it sees, and just breaching 100,000 miles, we wanted to make sure it was up to par and ready for the track.

When it comes to road racing, the minimum you want to do is change your brake pads and fluid. Regular street pads are an option but can leave you vulnerable to brake fade. The brake pads and rotors on my Cobra had seen better days, so it was in my best interest to replace them.

We contacted EBC Brakes, a leading provider of brake components, for replacement upgrades. We weren't looking to switch to overkill mode, just simply something better than stock that could also be used on the street. After speaking with Brendan Cashman, automotive manager at EBC, he recommended their Yellowstuff brake pads, and GD Sport rotors.

"Our GD Sport rotors matched with our Yellowstuff brake pads make for a great track and street combo," Cashman said. "The pads are not overly aggressive on the street and adjust to track temperatures nicely. Yellowstuff pads have a maximum operating temperature of 1,250- degrees Fahrenheit, so they have no problem withstanding high-heat track environments.

"Our GD rotors were recommended on the Cobra because of their cooling capabilities. GD rotors run on average 200-degrees cooler than OEM and slotted rotors. A cooler braking system will outperform and brake much better while performing on the track."

While we were upgrading our brakes, we made sure to give our braking system all new hydraulic fluid. We also changed the engine oil (and gave the Cobra a once-over) before we headed out on track.

With everything revamped and refreshed, we made our way over to Sebring for some on-track fun.

1. EBC Brakes supplied us with a full set of its front and rear GD Sport rotors (PN GD7021, $245.73; PN GD7024, $203.74). We also received a set of its front (PN DP41131R, $120.27) and rear (PN DP41156/2R, $108.12) Yellowstuff Street and Track brake pads.
2a. Starting with the front, we jacked up the Cobra and began by removing the front wheels and two-piston calipers.
2b. Starting with the front, we jacked up the Cobra and began by removing the front wheels and two-piston calipers.
3a. EBC’s Yellowstuff brake pads are made with a higher-friction material than factory. When paired with the GD Sport slotted rotors, they offer improved stopping capabilities.
3b. EBC’s Yellowstuff brake pads are made with a higher-friction material than factory. When paired with the GD Sport slotted rotors, they offer improved stopping capabilities.
4. Here we installed the new rotors onto our spindle assembly.
5. Before installing the brake pads into the brake caliper, EBC includes a black rubber felt noise protection piece, along with noise reduction lubricant.
6. EBC recommends driving 300 street miles on a vehicle before hitting the track to allow the brake pads to bed in. Here you can see the break-in coating.
7. Here’s what they look like installed.
8a. While we were upgrading our brakes, we decided it would be a good time to bleed our brakes and install new high- temperature brake fluid. Fluid temperatures can get high when open tracking your car, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have the right brake fluid. We choose Amsoil’s 600 series DOT 4 fluid. This high-temperature fluid is good up to 580-degrees Fahrenheit.
8b. While we were upgrading our brakes, we decided it would be a good time to bleed our brakes and install new high- temperature brake fluid. Fluid temperatures can get high when open tracking your car, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have the right brake fluid. We choose Amsoil’s 600 series DOT 4 fluid. This high-temperature fluid is good up to 580-degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Before any type of racing, it’s always a good idea to change your oil. We used seven quarts of Comp Cams 10W-30 synthetic engine oil for our 4.6L Four-Valve engine.
10. Once we arrived on track, we swapped our street shoes for some racing ones. We had a set of Steeda Ultra-Lite wheels with Nitto NT05 road race tires sitting in the back of our warehouse, so we swapped those on. A road-race–specific tire is made of softer compound compared to a street version. This will allow us better grip and handling for the track.
11. First, we needed to go through a technical inspection. Inspectors make sure components such as your battery are held down properly, that there are no loose items in your vehicle, and that your safety helmet is up to proper specifications.
12. Once finished with inspection, we made our way over to the 8 a.m. drivers meeting. There, owner and lead instructor Jeff Lacina explained all the rules for that day’s event.
13. For the beginner and novice groups, it is required that you attend several classroom sessions throughout the day. Lacina coordinated the classroom sessions. Here he used a Mustang model to explain how a Mustang’s geometry and physics work under acceleration, braking, and cornering.
14. I was anxious to get on track, but before we could begin, beginners and novice drivers were paired up with an instructor. Mitch Sirlin (left) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, would be schooling your author on how to drive.
15. Instructor Sirlin set me up with a headset so he could talk to me throughout the session. As you can tell, your author is endowed with a big head and chubby cheeks. (Save the laughter for later.)
16a. Making our way through the pits, we entered Sebring’s road course.
16b. Making our way through the pits, we entered Sebring’s road course.
17. When out on the road course, its important to remember that you’re out there to be coached, so listen with an open ear to your instructor. Sirlin explained the rules and etiquette of being on track to me. Every lap gave me more experience with the 17-turn course, and eventually I was able to nail every apex. Try and remember, this isn’t a race—it’s about having fun and improving your driving technique.
18. Saturday afternoon, all Mustang racers lined up on the front straight for a 50th Anniversary photo. It was an amazing weekend of on-track fun, and your author certainly learned a lot. I was forewarned by many that I might become addicted to open track racing. I can attest to that statement—my passion for the 1,320 may be on hold for a while.