Back to this post! (and this one's long, so read at your leisure)
A couple of weekends ago I was at the Milwaukee Mile for my first high-speed track event (where there were some pretty impressive cars--the Panteras were my favorite). It was AWESOME! Anything and everything you like about this car on the street is magnified 10x on a track where you get to push the car hard...I mean REAL hard, and not just in a straight line. After this event, drag racing to me is nothing more than a joy-ride (unless you're doing a 10 second quarter mile or faster, which is getting scary fast) my 72 does it in the 11 second range and there is simply no comparison to this sort of experience and autocross--this is "driving" using all the skills needed to bring out everything a car has to offer. Accelerate, brake, turn, heel-toe shift, accelerate out of a turn, feather brake/accel in the s-curves, plot a line, know who's in front/behind, cooperate w/others: short of adjusting the radio, if it's done in a car it's done 10x harder in autocross. What a blast! Nothing like the smell of burned rubber in the morning.
Here's the set-up: oval track, infield open for s-curves and a hairpin turn, entry to infield a psuedo-hairpin. Top speed was 110mph (along the back straight), top cornering 90mph (which along the outer turn was about her limit). Each round was 15 minutes, we covered an ave. 15 miles in that time, about 1 hr. break between sessions (plenty of cool down time--a cool day too, 55 degrees). I stayed to run 6 sessions for the day. I definitely got faster as the day progressed--learning this car is such a joy.
1. The 235/50/18 BFGs were respectable for a bone stock car. There's no doubt that there's room for improvement in the tire category, but for my current level of skill, this wasn't the car's real Achillies heel. I had them inflated at 30 lbs all around. They definitely screamed at their limits, but for the most part they were predictable (making pushing them quite fun).
2. The brakes--here's where I found a lot of room for improvement (even for my skills). There was noticeable fade after the first session that became quite noticeable after the second session, but by then it was pretty constant after that. I cooked the brakes pretty hard but I didn't think I was getting crazy with them. So, for this summer's next session I'm definitely upgrading to high-temp fluid and Hawk pads (probably HPS). I blew the hairpin into the infield 3 times that day, because I was trying to push 105mph into the front straight just prior to entry into the turn, and she wouldn't come down fast enough. I think 55 was the max this car could do in that particular turn, so you had to come down hard from the 105 I was attempting...she did make it down from 100. Fortunately, blowing this turn only meant you went by some cones and returned to the oval...blowing the inner hairpin only left you in the dirt (which never happened to me).
3. The stock leather seats were horrible. I was thrown around quite a bit, and when my dad rode shotgun he spent most of his time just hanging on. This makes for some "fun" but not much for control. I've already started looking into a dedicated race seat to swap in/out for events. The MOMO Cup Seat is high on my list.
4. As nospeedlimit mentioned, my fuel gauge was swinging wildly the whole day--and that was with over 3/4 tank full. One time, it became "stuck" at 1/8 tank when I know I had at least 1/2 tank. I let the car sit w/the key in the accessory position for 15 minutes and it slowly crept back up to its right indication.
5. MPG were shocking! I was averaging 7.5 mpg. 15 miles, and I consistently used 2 gallons each run. I had the engine in the 3K-6K RPM range almost the entire time, bumped the rev-limiter only twice but that gives you a sense of how aggressive we were running.
6. On wide turns she had a comfortable understeer that was very linear, very predictable. On hard turns the same applied, and I had no problems feathering her rear out whenever I wanted--power was ample for that task. I know others have reported issues with this, and I think a combination of their altitude and overinflated tires had a bit to do with it. I did notice some tire chunking on one very-very aggressive turn into the infield (a short/tight turn), but even when pushing 90+ in the wider turn the car was not wild. I got great feedback in the handling.
At the end of the day I was very pleased with the overall performance and durability--no issues at all and I drove home an hour and a half away without a glitch. One guy had a Mazda 6 there that couldn't take the abuse--his wheel bearings got so much heat (heavy braking) that they started to give up some of their grease and you could see where it was flinging out of the hubs. But the Mustang was tough. I took out that Mazda and a well equipped Miata (which are viciously fast in the corners) and (barely) hung with some 03-04 SVT Cobras in the corners--but man those things come OUT of the corners and onto the straights with some fury (I had to let them pass). Some day I'll have a supercharger of my own on my side, and I'll revisit those boys.
So the plan was to run her in bone-stock form (mechanically at least), get to know her a bit, then start slowly upgrading. I'm hoping that by the next event I'll also have a tune installed to deal with the slow throttle response, but mainly I want to get a sense of the new brake pads and fluid. We'll be heading to the famous Road America! I'm already practicing on improving my heel-toe shifting.