This is a continuation of Attack Of The Killer Mustangs, Part One.
So when we last saw our hero, er, me, I was finishing up my lead/follow session and heading back to the garage. I was incredibly eager to get back out on track, but next up was another classroom session. Turned out that this was really more Q&A than anything else-we had already covered most of the basics of track driving and the instructors wisely decided not to fill our novice heads with anything else at that point.
Next up was a track driving session with an instructor in the passenger seat. In the words of our classroom instructor, “Don’t try to impress us; you probably won’t. Don’t try to scare us; we already are!” Jack put his GoPro camera on the side of my Boss before I headed out, which I wasn’t super thrilled about…I didn’t really want my rookie track driving documented!
We had been asked to fill out a questionnaire in advance of our arrival via e-mail that queried us about our track experience, what we hoped to accomplish, etc. Here’s what mine looked like:
1) What is your driving experience? Any High Performance training?
I have 6 years of experience in Autocross, including several national tour and ProSolo trophies. I have attended Evolution Phase 1. I have done some open lapping days with an instructor.
2) What motivated you, personally, to attend the Boss Track Attack?
I am excited to have the opportunity to learn more about driving my Boss on track and to meet other Boss owners from around the nation.
3) What goals would you like to accomplish by attending Boss Track Attack?
I would like to gain confidence and competence in driving my Boss on track.
4) Have you been to the Ford Racing School before? If so, who was your instructor?
I didn’t think of the questionnaire again after I submitted it. Imagine my surprise when my instructor, a pleasant, encouraging gentleman in his forties, hopped into the passenger seat and started talking to me about the differences in track driving and autocross without my prompting. It was quite impressive to see that they had done their homework on us.
I had never been much of a physical specimen as an athlete growing up, but my coaches always complemented me on my ability to take coaching. Likewise, I tried to do my best to do exactly what my instructor told me to do, even when it seemed in total contradiction to my autocross instincts. On my second lap, I was stunned when my steering wheel seemed to dial in more input on its own as I braked heading into Turn one-I instinctively jerked the wheel back only to have it move again. I looked down and saw my instructor reaching over and turning the wheel for me. THAT was a bit trippy.
On my second lap, I came up on the car in front of me pretty quickly, so there wasn’t much we could do except have the instructor talk through what I should have been doing if we were at high speed. To my surprise, he directed me back into the pits after the second lap. As we got to the Start/Finish line, he told me to stop the car. He looked at me and said, “You know what you’re doing. Go get ‘em.” He patted me on the shoulder and exited Stage Right.
As I went to re-enter the track, I saw a black Boss with #70 on the side charging hard down the straight. I knew who that was; our honorable EIC pro-tem. I waited for him to pass by and entered as fast as I could, chasing him down through the remainder of our laps. Unfortunately, my lack of experience showed as he put more distance between us on each lap until we were waved back in.
Finally, it was the moment of truth-those of us who had been granted permission to drive solo, which I believe was nearly everybody, were allowed to go back out on track without an instructor. And, even more importantly, we were allowed to pass on the straightaways. They gave us very clear instruction as to what the flags meant and what we were supposed to do if a faster car was behind us. I was pretty nervous about this, as I knew who the car entering the track behind thirty seconds behind me was going to be-the #70. There would be a total of six cars on track for our twenty-minute session, including me, Jack, Mr. Hernandez, and Tony, and my goal was to catch four of them.
Mr. Hernandez entered the track about thirty seconds ahead of me in Turn 1, and I made it my mission to catch him by the end of the first lap, which I did. The flagger showed him the blue flag with the yellow stripe, indicating that there was faster traffic behind him, and he stayed on line as I moved left to go around him. As the session went on, I repeated this with every other driver on track except for Tony, who had an unfortunate off-track excursion in Turn 13 that allowed me to pass him, and the dreaded #70, who was coming up fast behind me-I could briefly see him in my mirror coming out of Turn 15 as I entered Turn 16.
“Come on, Bark, go FASTER,” I said to myself, as I buckled down and barreled through the kinks of 16, 17, and 18. Sure enough, the #70 car was getting a little closer every turn. I imagine that this is exactly the sort of thing that the Ford Racing School instructors are hoping to avoid; that is, highly competitive friends and family on the track together at the same time.
And then, all of a sudden, the black menace in my rear view disappeared as I went through Turn 23 into the main straight. “Ha,” I thought. “Must have lost him.” And I focused all of my attention on Tony, who was coming up again as I entered turn one.
Coming out of Turn 15 again, I was approaching Tony’s bumper. “I have you now,” I said to myself in my most Vader-like voice. The flagger gave Tony the blue flag heading up into Turn 16 and I backed off a little going through the kink…and then I lost power steering. And then I lost throttle. And then the dash lit up like a Christmas tree. The Boss, finally yielding to the hundred plus degrees of the Utah desert, had overheated and died. I managed to get the car off the track and let it sit between Turns 18 and 19 for a few minutes. I started it up and it limped a few hundred feet through Turn 19 and died again. It occurred to me that I might just have to sit there until the end of the session, which was infuriating. I was losing precious track time every second I sat there waiting for the car to cool down. Finally, after about two minutes, I started it up again, and I managed to limp it home to the pits where I was met by none other than our relatively short-tempered instructor from the morning classroom session.
“What happened?” he asked me, poking his head into the driver’s side window.
“The car overheated and died. I didn’t get all my track time,” I huffed.
“I know where this is going,” he interrupted. “You probably missed about three laps. That’s what happens when you push these cars so hard. Your brother’s car died, too.” Ah. So that’s why he disappeared from my mirrors. So much for my superior driving skills.
I unbuckled from the harness and got out of my steaming hot 302. Turned out that Mr. Hernandez’ car had overheated, too. Three dead Bosses out of six. Apparently even the larger radiators couldn’t overcome the scorching heat. No matter-the three of us laughed and recounted our experiences on track together as the second wave of drivers went out on track. The second group either had better luck or didn’t push the cars quite as hard, because all six of them survived the entire session
The instructor Hot Laps closed out the day, but neither Jack nor I opted to participate. However, the other students each got out of the car smiling widely, having been shown by the FRS instructors how much time they had really left out there.
Lastly, we had a wrap-up session and a trophy presentation back in the classroom. Each participant got a certificate, a trophy with his name on it, a t-shirt, and G-Force racing gloves (which I later used in my first 24 Hours of Lemons race!). I also went to the gift shop and got a hat and a polo shirt to commemorate the event.
Jack and I caught up with Tony and Jenna and headed to dinner together in Downtown Salt Lake City. Tony and Jenna had plans to head to some national parks out west and continue their vacation, and Jack and I had been invited to revisit MMP the next day to see a SuperCar Invitational day (which was really just an open-lapping day for the one percent). It was obvious that Tony and Jenna had a wonderful experience, and I told Tony that he was a lucky man, indeed, to have such a cool, Mustang driving life partner.
One note: I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Roger Miller, the track owner and Grand Am driver, at the event the following day. Roger was a great guy and a fine driver, and he was gracious enough to give Jack a ride around the full course in his LF-A. Sadly, he passed away not long after this event. The world needs more men like Roger and his father, Larry; men who lived life with passion and excitement and without limits. I’m glad I got to meet him.
Ford has finally announced what I was sworn to secrecy about that day by MMP’s media relations director: The ST Experience for Focus ST and Fiesta ST owners. It promises to have all the excitement of the Boss Track Attack as well as some additional “hooning” opportunities. Based on my experience at this event, I am currently jonesing for a Fiesta ST, if for no other reason than I want to go back. It was that good. If you have an opportunity to go to any events at the Ford Racing School, do it. You’ll be glad you did.