By on October 10, 2012

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Oak Tree flagger lets the blue flag fly
Like a warning for the engine-bay unable;
Let us go, slideways through the track-out,
The supercharger shouts
And restless Vettes with small-blocks spinning hard
And sundry other so-called fast cars
Moving to the right like a conga line
The four-lobe whine
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
This GT500 is tha shiznit.

Hard over the crest of VIR’s back straight and this almost unspeakably mighty car is cutting the morning fog in two with the violence of a cruise missile sonic-booming under the radar ceiling and my Blue-group student is starting to regret his ride-along with widening eyes and that C6 blocking me at the Oak Tree exit is a blurry memory in the mirror and I am grabbing fifth now and down the backside we thunder and now the wind has a physical force in the cabin on my face and a couple of gas-station receipts tornado-stutter-spin between us and the speedometer has force in the motion, man, one-fifty one-fifty-five one-sixty one-sixty-five spin the dial arrow marker hard on the brakes and there is nothing, the pedal moans and the pads are suspended from the rotors by the infernal combustion burning the material into a millimeter cushion of murderous free-floating gas and I push through it and the ABS chatters and we bounce up the hill past the curb it’s still anyone’s guess and my student is cringing now eek eek SQUEAK SQUEAL SLAM fifth to fourth ROAR fourth to third ROAR SQUEAK BOOM SQUEAK off the brakes and down the Rollercoaster with the five point four (edit: five point eight!) lunging us towards the exit curb on hot tires and the student says

whoa.
ah.
ha!
how.
fucking.
fast.
was.
that.

and I say

one.
sixty.
eight.

When we last left our 2013 Shelby GT500 test car, it was fresh from a meeting with its hardcore track sibling and was on the way to Virginia International Raceway via the backroads of rural Kentucky. I loved the big-hearted Ford the same way I’ve loved pretty much every Mustang built since 2005. Hell, as a former CMC-class racer I love all the Mustangs from 1979 forwards. But not all loves are the same; I love the V-6 Mustang the way I love a trusty female friend and I love this Shelby-that-should-be-called-SVT-Cobra the way I love the woman who sits at the center of my blackened heart, pulling the strings that make me gasp for breath when I see her picture or hear her voice.

A slight mix-up with the nice people at Ford — who provided this lovely car to me at no charge and even made sure the tank was full when it arrived, I don’t feel the need to do some bullshit Jalopnik-style hipper-than-thou disclosure which implies I’m so above it all that I feel no emotion upon receiving the keys to a 662-horsepower automobile — meant that the Shelby arrived with a “MyKey” that limited my ability to fuss with the stability control and steering/suspension settings. Day One at VIR I spent just running students around and running the Goodyear F1 Supercar tires down to the shadow of the cords on the outside edges. I didn’t bother to run for time because I knew I’d bump into the limits of the AdvanceTrac.

In actual use, the AdvanceTrac is charmingly unobtrusive. You really have to get the car out of shape in order for it to intervene. If I had a student learning to drive on a racetrack with one of these Cobras, I’d tell him to leave it on. Still, there are a few places on the track where it’s useful to do more than the computer allows. Sunday afternoon a package arrived from FedEx with the regular key. I turned off the systems — taking a mild breath when I did so since this is the kind of car in which uncorrected mistakes can be big — turned on my MyChron beam-timer, and headed out for a timed lap.

Let us go then, as the poet said.

As we pass the start/finish line we are chugging past 130mph and the GT500 doesn’t feel remotely out of steam. I dislike supercharged track cars for two reasons. The first is that they are subject to heat-related performance reduction, and sure enough as the day went on the GT500 found its top speed on that long back straight dropping to an indicated 160 or so. One-sixty! Hardly moving. What’s the point. But I digress. The other problem with supercharged cars is that they are strong at 1500rpm but weak as kittens at the top of the rev range. Not the Shelby. It just keeps going, and going, and churning power all the way to the amazing 7,000-rpm “temporary redline”. The car will let you run past the nominal 6250-rpm redline for up to eight seconds, and on a track you will do that over and over again.

Time to brake for Turn One. Well, here’s the bad news. This car doesn’t have close to enough brake on it. It needs the same kind of brakes you get on a Vette ZR1, because it’s fast like that and it’s heavy like an ’82 Marquis Brougham. Every lap around a racetrack with the GT500 is spent managing the brakes. They can give you a few different responses. Initially they are just kind of weak. Then the pedal travel goes long. Then the scary behavior begins as the overheated pad material vaporizes and actually holds the pads off the rotor for a moment before the pedal sinks right into an ineffectual ABS chatter. I can see why the mainstream auto press was a little scared of the Mustang on-track because the brakes are a crapshoot and the news gets worse and worse as you continue to lap. There isn’t much to hit at VIR so in each case I did my best and trusted to fate. Still, on both straights I’m braking a hundred feet early at least. The Shelby covers a hundred feet in four-tenths of a second. The cowardly lion inside me wants to make that brake point a full second earlier but where’s the glory in that?

Turns 1 and 2 can be taken in second gear if you really want to make time but the Cobra can break traction at any moment as you’re heading for Turn 3 so it requires some finesse. This is where you make money on all the slower cars running Hoosiers and adjustable suspension. The Mustang is not unwilling to turn but here you do get a sense of what that extra weight in the nose does. Compared to a Boss or a GT, it just takes some time for the Goodyears to grab and change direction. It feels a little tippy-toe here, but nothing too worrisome. Just get the thing pointed straight, if you can, and ride the lightning. A touch of left-foot braking to get the nose down and we’re into Three hard enough to get the inside wheels in the air. Grab a quick shift before having another gut-check brake into Four and Five.

We can rotate the car on the throttle at any point but that takes time off the clock and it heats up the rear tires. We need them cool and you’ll see why in about seventy seconds. Hit all the curbs and run 5a to 6 and 6a. Flat out to the bottom of the Climbing Esses and we will need to brake to an entry speed of somewhere between 120 and 125mph. The experienced VIR locals can probably do better but trust me, that speed feels like enough. This year the curbs have been paved and expanded so we can let the car run pretty straight up the hill. Unlike many cars, the Shelby can accelerate up the Esses very quickly so you’ll have to watch the throttle.

The Nine-Ten exit is frankly scary. There isn’t enough grip at these speeds to do anything other than track out and hope the front tires will catch you. Step on the brake hard for Ten and dive in on light throttle. If you apply full power too early, the GT500 will step out on the back of the hill and that, my friend, is how you will hit the wall at ninety-five miles per hour. Unlike my Boxster, the Shelby won’t take all the engine’s torque if the outside wheels are on the curb. Not today in these kind of humid conditions, anyway. It’s a finesse thing all the way down the hill.

There’s no sense trying to do Eleven right. You have too much momentum. Smoke-chatter the poor brakes and rotate for Oak Tree and the exit to the back straight. I took this turn in third for most of Saturday but on Sunday I grabbed second for the extra tenths of a second it might offer. So help me G-d if you do not have the wheel straight in this car when you are in second gear on hot tires it will slap your face so let’s exit the way Ross Bentley told me, clean and smooth.

Now it’s a drag race and the Shelby can’t break 160 due to the heat. With yesterday’s cooler air I’d have another eight mph in pocket. With decent brakes and cool air I’d have another twelve. Maybe fifteen. 175 on a road course! It’s sexy, brother. In practice the GT500 must be braked at the “arrow” before the first brake marker and even then it’s a dicey airborne ABS-bounce up the “prototype line” to 14a.

On the downhill, we can spin the tires at will so throttle modulation is the order of the day. I’d thought initially I could get through Turn 16 without the brakes but that’s stupid, it kills your exit. So let’s use the left foot here. Around this time you get the sense of why some journalists openly prefer the Scion FR-S to this car. Every mistake in the Ford is a big one.

The car bounces through 17 and squats on its suspension to 17a. If you are hasty with the throttle, as I was in my early laps, the GT500 snaps sideways and points your nose at the pitlane entrance. Silly snake! We don’t want to go there! What are you doing! You’re just a car, you don’t get to tell us where to go! Keep in mind that “hasty with the throttle” doesn’t mean “full throttle where half is called for.” In this car, it means “80% down instead of 75% down.” You aren’t really wide-open until your back wheels pass the end of the 17a curb. This is where you need those rear tires to be cool enough to grip. The time you set this lap will be heavily influenced by how careful you were in the minutes previous.

It’s a drag race again and my oh my we love those. The timer says

2:10.84

Racer excuses: the tires were smoked. The engine was hot. The brakes were nonexistent. A fresh GT500 in the morning on Hawk Blues is a 2:05 car. I’m pretty sure of it. But that 2:10 time is absolutely consistent with what solid track rats are seeing in stock C6 Z06es, and did I mention I set the time with a female passenger in the car, in traffic? Respect is due to the engine and the overall balance. This isn’t a one-trick pony.

It isn’t perfect. You know it isn’t. A GT-R is certainly faster, although I didn’t do anything but pass GT-Rs that weekend. But this is a car to know, then love, then eventually master. You won’t figure it out on your first trackday. The limits are so high, the power is so stupendous, the experience is humbling, really. If I could change the car in any way, I would put brakes on it. If I bought one, I would put brakes on it pronto. No question. The rest of it I’d leave alone.

The eye-watering price of $62,000 and change means that only the reasonably wealthy, or hopelessly optimistic, will be able to own one. Still, as the man once said… if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. This GT500 is one of the all-time greats. I love it with all the sincerity, but none of the sadness, of T.S. Eliot’s hero. No scuttling across silent seas here: the GT500 roars across the American racetrack, majestic and mighty.

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45 Comments on “Life With Shelby Part Two: Around The Track In Two Minutes And Ten Seconds (Updated With More Photographs)...”


  • avatar
    raph

    I wonder what is up with the brakes? Jack during your drive out to VIR did the pads dust alot during causal driving? The stock pads on my car will dust quite a bit, I can clean the car top to bottom and in a short 2 or 3 mile drive I have to wipe down the wheels the doors near the scallops and the sides of the rear bumpers.

    This makes me wonder if Ford changed the pad material to appease whiny clean freaks who dont want to look uncool by breaking out a rag and wiping things down at the local Cars & Coffee?

    This also makes me wonder about the rotor size compared to the ZL1 Which sports a set of two-piece rotors up front as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      These pads are fairly dusty as well.

      There’s nothing wrong with the equipment per se. It’s a case of inadequate swept area and thermal capacity plain and simple. Big fast car meets middling brakes.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Hmmm…. I dont remember the first gen cars suffering so much from brake problems but they are nearly 100 pounds heavier with 162 less HP stock.

        Pffftt…. maybe Ford should have put forged 20′s all the way around and bumped the rotor size up front with the additional space.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Jack,

    You missed your calling. That is a beautiful piece of work.
    If car magazines would simply narrate testing progress around a track, as you had done, and worry less about numbers, their readers would get a better “feel” for both the car and the event.

    Thanks.

    ———–

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Sounds like fun. I need to get out to more lapping days.

  • avatar

    Ever see a kid trying to swing a bat that’s simply too heavy for them?

    I suspect that’s how many of these will look on track.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    “This GT500 is one of the all-time greats.”

    Yet it has a sh!tty interior, that has all of the soft-touch buttons wrong, with silly chrome bezels only a mullet-wearing aging baby boomer with a big-haired trophy girlfriend would appreciate.

    And an oxcart suspension.

    • 0 avatar
      THE_F0nz

      I just can’t tell when people are being sarcastic on the internet anymore. If you aren’t… may God have mercy on your soul.

      Bravo on the write up Jack! A interesting addition to the automotive realm.

      • 0 avatar
        Larry P2

        Of course I was being sarcastic. It constantly amazes how some bloggers are so venomously anti-American that they can’t see straight. And this website’s earnest fixation with faddish garbage such as soft-touch buttons makes me think some writers are frustrated interior decorators, not real gear heads.

        Here is a car with real soul, meaner than hell, at a bargain basement price, insanely fast, but will be immediately dismissed and ignored in some quarters for its crude interior and uncivilized rear axle.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I don’t think 67k is exactly a “bargain basement price,” but maybe I’m wrong (or partially right).

        Regardless, this is another great write-up by JB.

        Hey JB, what precise reason would one choose to purchase this ‘Stang over the Boss ‘Stang given the pretty steep price differential (it appears to be around 25k based on current listed prices for new Boss 302s at 42k and change)?

        Caveat Ford Fanbois Butt-Hurt Alert:

        The car packs a mean punch, but it’s sort of hideous inside and out, still doesn’t handle as well as competitors at or near its price point (despite Jack’s comment about experienced track stars lapping more exotic vehicles- such as the GT-R, driven by less experienced drivers), and it’s not like one couldn’t modify a less expensive vehicle and run right alongside the GT500 for far less $$$ (I realize this has become something of a cliche statement, but that doesn’t make it any less true).

        Then again, Mustangs do have some special charm, given that they manage to lure an army of fiercely loyal owners, so I probably just can’t appreciate the GT500 for what it is capable of in comparison with and contrast against similarly priced competitors (i.e. in the 60k to 70k price range).

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        @DeadWeight:
        Knowing what I know: the next generation addresses the deficiencies that you mention… and it worries me that it goes too far down the road not taken in previous Mustang programs.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Hi DeadWeight…

        If we’re talking about fun vehicles in $60K-70K price range, and you can live with a meager 414 HP, you might just as well get absolutely GREAT handling with a 2012 BMW M3 with RWD and 6-speed manual (of course). Four real seats. Outstanding interior. But Wt/HP = 8.9 (still less than the “Magic” 10.0), yet not near ~6 of Mustang. Car gets “5 Stars” (*****) from autos.yahoo.com.

        For Handling:
        ABS
        Brake assist system
        Cornering brake control
        Four-wheel disc brakes including 4-ventilated
        Electronic brake distribution
        Electronic traction control (via ABS & engine management)
        Immobilizer
        Rear mechanical limited-slip differential
        Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) stability control
        Independent front strut suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs, independent rear multi-link suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs

        Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/cars/2013/bmw/m3/specifications/handling_brakes_suspension.html#ixzz28voisI1G
        http://www.motortrend.com/new_cars/04/bmw/m3/
        http://autos.yahoo.com/bmw/m3/2012/coupe/specifications.html

        —————

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        @tresmonos:

        From what I’ve seen the next Mustang will just be the current Mustang with an interior and exterior refresh (similar in scope to the 2010 updates), different engine choices, and independent rear suspension. Is that different from what you’ve seen?

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        @ DeadWeight – agreed on the value proposition, I think Ford has tried to squeeze a little to much blood from that rock. Had the GT500 been comparably equipped to the the ZL1 at a few pennies more I wouldn’t complain but your talking nearly 5k in equipment to get on an even keel ( base car + track pack + performance pack). The S-197 Mustang sold exceptionally well when it was the only game in town which certainly helped amortized costs and only recieved modest improvements along the way so it strikes me as ood that Ford cannot offer the same level of equipment as the ZL1 for a similar price (perhaps the ZL1 is a loss leader??? Or are Ford’s fixed costs so high that they cannot compete price wise with a nearly decade old chassis??)

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        tres- What do you know about the future Mustang that’s credible? I’ve read some things here and there but am uncertain as to what’s rumor and what’s reliable information.

        NMG- BMW is sort of dead to me. I realize it’s all subjective, but they’re now a brand with a badge for cocksters, and they let a prodigious use of marginal technology, at best, and useless/damaging technology (reliability and otherwise), help alienate me and those who think like I do. I’m not saying the M3 is a bad car, but it doesn’t represent real progress. Maybe BMW should try to get back to their core (then again, why would they when they are selling their new vehicles in cockster volume).

        Ralph- I wonder how much it would realistically cost to modify a GT in the aftermarket to whip the GT500′s ass (anyone)?

        Re-reading my comments, I was perhaps a little too harsh on the exterior looks. This thing isn’t exactly ugly in the right color, but it’s no work of art by a long stretch, either.

        As for the interior, Ford could’ve done a whole lot more given the double+ price increase over the GT to distinguish it more from its volume Mustang. I’ve long criticized the auto industry as a whole for using way too much silver brightwork (especially when it’s not made of real metal/alloys) in their cabins- it does nothing but cheapen the look of the car in nearly every case.

        I’m not a big fan of the exterior or interior styling of the Camaro, either.

        Sports cars- even modern muscle cars- shouldn’t be packaged so inefficiently, with unnecessary overhangs, girth, height and other exaggerated features, serving no functional purpose. Ford, GM & Chrysler don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water, as they can keep the core distinctive exterior elements, just in a reduced package (while probably increasing interior room if done intelligently).

        The Camaro, Challenger & Mustang are just too big for their intended purpose. It’s fine to channel the past, but do it with a nod towards refining the design and introducing purpose-driven efficiencies (one could argue that Jack had such a poor experience with the brakes, in large part, because this car is so large & heavy).

        I still maintain that close to 70k is too much for this vehicle, as do some of my B&B brethren, given the pricing of the Boss 302 which nips at the heels of this vehicle for about 35% less money.

        I will give Ford this, however: Unlike many European manufacturers, at least they’re sticking with proven (but modernized) motors, that hit the right notes (without having to resort to gimmickry like re-directed exhaust notes into the cabin via tubes), and develop gobs of torque and horsepower, while being dead nuts reliable (it will be a sad chapter if the Chevy/Ford V8s powering the Vettes and Stangs ever get chopped on the altar of regulatory insanity).

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        @racer-esq:
        Totally new platform. Not a refresh.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Whats wrong with big hair??

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Larry P2 It could be worse I got ripped for being sarcastic when I wasn’t. However, there are some on here who would be serious with a comment like yours. One of these would be my DD after I hit the lottery.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      Found another silvy alias!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @Larry P2,

    Soooo, that means you’re definitely buying one? What color?

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Make mine red. And don’t bother with the interior, since I will gut it out immediately upon receipt, in order to install a full-cage.

  • avatar
    bwright1991

    I don’t know why Ford decided not to add brake cooling ducts, like on the Boss 302, to the GT500. I wonder if you could buy some from Ford Racing and have them installed.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    That disclosure you mentioned is due to Farago’s constant harping.

    Now, this is definitely a sweet Mustang but I hope it’s the end of the era when the EvoStang comes out and we have a Shelby Mustang GHLS with Ecoboost.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    Eliot’s Prufrock, stream of consciousness (I would say Joycean if there were a few combined stuttersyllabled squealandboomzoom words), ee cummings, a lot of Mustang and a bit of Ferris Bueller? I think this is my new favorite TTAC article. Did you tell Ford they have built a muse?

    (Edit – After thinking about it, the St. Louis, Hocking Hills and Memphis articles have stuck with me the most, but this may be close).

    • 0 avatar
      skitter

      That wasn’t just Joycean stream of conscious.
      That was Gonzo.

      It’s going on the shelf with all the other great reviews neck deep in the experience, not just the specifications.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Damn, I enjoyed that piece!

  • avatar
    dude500

    Just curious Jack – between the Z06 and GT500, which would you prefer (excluding price difference)?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      It depends on the situation.

      I have four other cars to drive on a daily basis, so my money might go on the Z06. But if I didn’t have my 911 and Town Car to drag the kid around, it would have to be the GT500.

      I remain kind of an emotionally-conflicted fan of the C6 Z06 and ZR1. Every time I go to buy one I remember that I could go racing for that money.

      • 0 avatar
        Larry P2

        Isn’t the Z06, with a mere 500 horsepower, woefully under powered by comparison?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        3850 lbs / 662 hp = 5.8 lb/hp
        3150 lbs / 505 hp = 6.2 lb/hp

        The Vette will handle the Shelby everywhere the road isn’t straight, to some degree. At any track without the long straights of VIR, I think it would be faster. It just isn’t as charming as the Mustang in the way it goes about its business. Just my opinion.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Nice lap time. You would have been safely within the Top 25 at Grassroots Motorsports 2012 UTCC, an event where most cars are caged, running on sticky Hoosiers and aren’t street driven.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The lap was also verified by the TrackDaze data tag system, with a 2:11 on the lap before it.

      Now that I have this Trackmaster thing I’m going to try to publish those results, since they come from a third party. Too much fibbing in this business.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Excellent article. No joke.

    The only thing better is the car itself…. oh how I dream of seeing the tach and speedometer needles sweeping up in tune with that wonderful supercharger whine as I demolish another straight away….

    Someday… I’ll be back in a Mustang… this time with a ‘Snake’ on the fender….

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Kerouac-style paragraphs with no punctuation. Nice.

  • avatar
    NorthwestT

    So what happens to all of those 2012 Shelbys still sitting the lots?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Hopefully they get into the hands of people not quite able to spring for the 2013 – Any year GT500 is no slouch when you spend a little money on them. The 2010-2012 cars have the benefit of knock sensors and can tolerate more aggressive tuning so big power upgrades aren’t particulalry hard to come by, there are lots of suspension and brake options to boot. The only thing a 2012 owners miss out on are the aero tweaks, six-pot brakes (not a bolt in operation due to ABS issues), and engine upgrades.

      http://www.fordracingparts.com/

      The FRPP catalog has a few items available for retrofit right now that would benefit the earlier cars.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Loved the article.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      +1

      I am forwarding to one of my coworkers who love these things.

      At $62K is a steal. That thing is easily $200K here, after conversion to WrongHandSide/compliance.

      I would like to see a similar one done on the ZL1

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    How hard is it to pop off the gloss black unibrown panel between the taillights? The back would look much better without it. I bet the stripes continue underneath it.

  • avatar
    SKT

    Jack,

    That was a REVIEW worth reading! Thank you for putting me right into the drivers seat, thanks for not thrashing my mind with a puff piece, and thanks for taking the time to DRIVE 662HP of Shelby madness into a truly majestic and mighty read!

    P.S.
    Thanks for not pulling a Jalopnik too!

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    That uphill braking zone at the end of the straight after Oak Tree definitely takes time to build up to when your above 150 mph plus. But by the time you do warm up to it the brakes pads/fluid are done.

    Most of the Mustang reviews say the brakes are it’s biggest weakness for track days unlike GM’ Corvette and Camaro.

  • avatar
    kkt

    I’ve been looking forward to part 2. It was worth the wait.

  • avatar
    Les

    Something I’ve been meaning to ask but didn’t want to necro pt.1

    Any issues with the infotainment system? That’s the one constant killer-complaint I hear about contemporary Fords across all their product-lines.

    Also, does this mustang finally put a loop to thread the shoulder-strap of the seat-belt through? I test-drove a V-6 mustang last year and the one thing that drove me out of that car and off the dealer’s lot was the fact that with everything adjusted into a comfortable driving position for me I was left with the shoulder-strap comming across my throat.

  • avatar
    SourceError

    From what I’ve read from other GT500 owners who track their cars the stock brake fluid is a liability. Switching to a high temperature Brembo fluid corrected track experienced braking issues.

    For street applications the stock brake fluid has no issues.


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