By on May 17, 2010

As I exit Turn Eleven at Summit Point Raceway’s twisty, concrete-lined “Shenandoah” course, I’m confronted with a rare opportunity to put my money where my mouth has been. In a review of the 2011 Mustang GT 5.0, I perhaps foolishly opined that “C5 Z06 pilots will need to find a twisty road lest they be run nose-to-tail down long freeway sprints.” Now I’ve found myself fifty feet behind an enthusiastically-driven C5 Z06, and it’s squatting with full throttle up Shenandoah’s Bridge Straight. This will be a straight drag race, and for extra irony it’s going to occur on a road course. Four tires chirp. Sixteen cylinders sing. Forty to one hundred and ten miles per hour. Up a hill. Was I wrong? Can the mighty five-point-oh hunt for Corvettes?

Yes. It can. At least when said five-point-oh is equipped with the optional 3.73 axle ratio that, along with a pricey set of Brembo front brakes, makes up the entire list of options on our $32,800 test vehicle. No measurable gap appeared between the two cars before both went briefly airborne at the end of the sharply peaked Bridge Straight. Once we landed, the Z06 driver did the sensible thing and signaled for us to pass before the entrance to the Nurburgring-replica Karussell which is Shenandoah’s trademark feature.

The skeptical among you will point out that it’s not perfectly fair for your humble author, a victor of such exalted automotive events as the 2007 24 Hours of LeMons at Flat Rock, to go picking on advanced-group trackday drivers. You may be correct. Still, I think it’s worth noting that I ran a very similar 2010 Mustang GT 4.6 in essentially the same group of drivers last year and found myself Corvette chow every time the track went straight. This five-liter is a different animal: strong from idle to redline and NASCAR-frantic as the needle swings ’round the tach. It’s very nearly the perfect normally-aspirated trackday engine; no surprise, given its close-cousin status to the Ford “Cammer” Daytona Prototype mill.

The rest of the Mustang is, of course, a little less race-ready. The control surfaces in our no-frills model didn’t really please me. Everybody says they want a low-content Mustang GT, the same way that everybody claims to be holding cash in hand for a six-speed biodiesel-powered rear-wheel-drive sport wagon, but the folks who actually buy Mustang GTs buy them with plenty of options. That’s a good idea. Check every box on the form except the fabulous glass roof, since it adds a lot of weight in a very bad place for road-course handling.

The 5.0 was the subject of much trackside discussion this past weekend, most of it focusing on the optional Brembo front brakes. Here’s the best way to think about them: Go look at a Porsche 911 GT3. Evaluate the size of the brakes on that car. Now come back and look at these optional Brembos. Then consider that the Mustang outweighs the GT3 by a few hundred pounds. Get the idea? These aren’t the be-all and end-all of optional brake setups. True racing Mustangs use massive calipers front and rear. These brakes, which are identical to the GT500 stoppers and probably very similar to the items found on the Camaro SS and Challenger SRT-8, aren’t even close to what’s required for heavy-duty track use.

That caveat aside, these aren’t necessarily cosmetic items. Unlike the standard sliding-caliper Mustang front setup, the Brembos will take a genuinely hard lap or two before requiring some rest, and they never cook the brake fluid the way last year’s “Track Pack” pad option did. I added fifty feet of breathing room to my desired braking zones throughout the weekend and never completely ran out of stopping power. That’s good enough for most people, and those of us who want more have many aftermarket options.

The various chassis and aerodynamic improvements Ford touts for 2011 are not easily detected without a back-to-back drive in identical conditions, but the car as I experienced it was more than satisfactory for track rats of all experience levels. The P Zero tires aren’t super-grippy but they communicate honestly. Axle hop under wheelspin is minimal and it’s rare that one is forcibly reminded of the Mustang’s suspension layout. It takes a solid hit to a curb with steering already (mis)dialed-in to really experience the pop-and-slide motion so familiar to CMC racers everywhere.

The AdvanceTrac system has an “intermediate” mode where wheelspin is allowed and some degree of lateral motion can occur before intervention. It’s a pretty good compromise for trackdays. Disabling the whole system, as I did on the second day I drove Shenandoah, reveals a stable yet tossable big car that can be thrown around without fear.

I provided Mustang rides to a wide variety of people over the course of the weekend — attorneys, racers, even a TTAC reader. I believe that all of them stepped out of the car with a healthy respect for what Ford’s accomplished here. Even if you haven’t tracked a Camaro or Challenger and been unimpressed by those cars’ lumbering on-track demeanor, this 5.0 is likely to make a believer out of you. Just don’t brag too much ahead of time to your ‘Vette pals; it’s better to show than it is to tell.

Ford provided the vehicle and insurance for this test. TrackDAZE provided the space on the track and a rather decent lunch for two days. The author is a TrackDAZE instructor and can be requested by novice and intermediate-level drivers at any 2010-season TrackDAZE event.

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34 Comments on “Track Test: 2011 Mustang V8 w/Brembo Brakes...”

  • avatar

    Thanks for providing these impressions, Jack. I’m starting to get the idea that very few stock brakes are suitable for track use.

    • 0 avatar

      Kinda makes sense; it’d be hugely expensive with essentially zero benefit for street driving unless you’re going to be hurtling down mountainsides touge-style.

      My (former-SCCA-GT1-driving) dad took his bone-stock 350Z to a track day at Watkins Glen and completely destroyed the brakes in about 40 minutes of track time. He didn’t mention terrible fade or boiling fluid, though; mostly just the pads getting eaten alive. Of course, he was also playing around with seeing what the stability control did under various circumstances, so it was busy applying the brakes under throttle while he was doing that, too…

      Still. Yeah. Street brakes plus race tracks… not so much. Compare the 911 GT3’s brakes to these Brembos – and then the 911 GT3s to our GT1 race car. Coming from my perspective growing up with a purebred race car, the 911’s binders look like bicycle brakes.

      People get all excited about performance street cars, but they forget that even a run-of-the-mill amateur GT-class race car will utterly destroy almost any street car. The newer Corvettes are damned fast, and I suspect that Enzos with good shoes are quick, but aside from that, it’s just pointless. 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and 500hp in a street car is hair-raising; our utterly normal GT1 car was 2800lbs wet, 675hp, and hit 60mph in first gear within 2.2 seconds if you got it hooked up right. And a Formula A car will make it look like it’s tied to the ground in terms of overall lap times.

      If you really want to drive, there isn’t any substitute for doing it in a real car. Porsches, Mustangs, Ferraris… they’re fun toys. But they’re not fast, no matter how fast they are.

    • 0 avatar

      @Michael Karesh:

      I’m thinking it is equally true to say that there are probably very few track-worthy brakes that would make good street brakes.

      Brakes that work well under extreme temperatures don’t work worth a crap when they’re cold. And when brakes are too cold to work properly they chew up pads and rotors. Street cars’ brakes live generally “cold” lives.

    • 0 avatar

      Autoweek had an article about stock brakes in the 370z last week, they were designed for low dust, not stopping power. Ultimately, the conclusion was to upgrade to the racing brakes.

  • avatar

    “everybody claims to be holding cash in hand for a six-speed biodiesel-powered rear-wheel-drive sport wagon”

    Hey, Hey, HEY! DAMMIT. What’s your point?

  • avatar

    Good write-up. Thanks.

  • avatar

    “a stable yet tossable big car… can be thrown around without fear.”


  • avatar

    More races were lost because of brakes than were won with power or handling.


  • avatar

    Looks like it’ll be a fun car when I can afford it after it’s 3 years old and is 18-20k

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts exactly.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d love to say I’m saving money for this thing 3 yrs old, but in truth it’s too much car for me. In fact I’d venture to say it’s too much car for anyone not planning to track it. Otherwise, what’s the point? Stoplight races and speeding tickets?

      Rather, I’d jump on the new V6 after a year or so, one with leather interior and a decent sound system. i’m still trying to wrap my head around having a RWD coupe with 300 hp when i want it and 27-28 mpg when i don’t. [though rated at 31 mpg highway, i think high twenties is realistic if moderately driven]

      That said, If I ever get that V6, I’ll stare long and hard at the 5.0s I see on the road and wonder what could have been.

  • avatar

    An excellent review.

    The more I see this car and the more I read about it, the more I want one.

  • avatar

    Six-speed biodiesel powered rear-wheel drive sportswagon?

    You mean a 330d?

  • avatar

    Thanks for the lift on sunday, Jack (and showing me the fun line around turn 17). Now I see why the new mustangs are always holding off my M3’s in the continental sports car challenge. Also, If anyone is thinking about going this route, don’t forget to save some money for better seats.

  • avatar

    I’m waiting for the rear drive bio-diesel wagon with 6speed, well said.

  • avatar

    Although all the contributors and editors are skilled and gifted writers with a panache for great humor, insight and cleverness – its the articles from the road racer Jack that I enjoy the most (or equally as well). Another great read Jack…

  • avatar

    Jack – you have just introduced me to an alternative event at Summit Point to FATT (as much as I love FATT, sometimes it is hard to get away on a Friday). Hope I can swing an event soon.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Yeah, but it has a shitty interior and a live rear axle. And it’s not from Europe.

  • avatar

    What you left out was that Bob Lutz was at the helm of that 05 Corvette Z06. He has grandkids he would like to see grow up, so no wonder he waived you past. Still remembers what you did with the Caddy.

  • avatar

    Larry P2,
    How exactly does the interior suck? The rear axle doesn’t seem to be limiting this car’s handling. Except for perhaps the most battered roads at track-like speeds. It’s not from Europe you say. I say good. It won’t break my bank to own after the warranty expires.
    I hope you were being facetious!!

  • avatar

    well i don’t plan on taking one to the track, so i’ll take mine WITH the “fabulous glass roof”.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Make sure it comes with one of those reflective silver sunshades for the roof. It comes in real handy beginning about this time of year. No, that thin black fabric stuff isn’t nearly good enough.

      Voice of Experience, VA

  • avatar

    The brakes are certainly improved, but not the best of what is available out there right now. Most owners will enjoy the better setup, but the more serious guys will want and need more thermal capacity front and rear on this car. Higher spec options, led by AP Racing, put up with heavy track use and can be driven daily without issues. Pad selection becomes the key, with racing pads installed for track days.

  • avatar

    Remember the old road racer saying: You are only as fast as your brakes.

    Oh, and more track car / track junkie reviews like this. You can’t get the most out of cars like this (or see their true weaknesses) unless you take them to the track.

  • avatar
    Larry P2


    Of course I was being facetious. I would die to be able to have one of those Mustangs. I have three cars that have in excess of 450 horsepower: A C-4 Vette with a ZZ-383, a 2004 GTO with 620 bhp, and a blown, nitrous-fed Pro Street 1981 El Camino with about 1,200 horses with a full shot of sniff.

    The El Camino has NO interior – completely stripped with bare metal. The GTO has the stock wonderful interior (I guess …. since I have never noticed it), and the Vette has the stock awful interior.

    When you are doing everything humanly possible to accurately aim anywhere from 450 bhp to 1,200 angry horses down the street with the deafening howling shriek of a blown big block giving you a jaw-dropping concert of sound, or getting a violent whiplash from a “built” Gen. 1V smallblock, or starting out an “old-school” smallblock in fourth gear hoping to keep the thing from going sideways for a city block …..

    I’m sorry, were we talking about interiors?

  • avatar

    Sorry Jack, not buying the “too small brakes” thing here, and dammit you should know better!!

    Any track day hack knows that 14″ rotors on a 3500#(correct me if I am wrong!) are going to be pretty good, given 400-somethingHP and even without knowing the weight and width of the rotors, but I am guessing probably at least 1″ wide. That is a decent amount of heat capacity.

    For better or for worse every maker except Porsche puts pure street pads on their cars. I assume you didn’t change the pads from whatever Ford gave you. I don’t care if it is some “track pack” crap on there, Ford is not putting a proper race pad on a street car. And to call this brake system out for not performing on the track with the stock pads is silly.

    Again, you should know better Jack, but maybe you are not as good at physics and math as you are at driving. Race teams have run much harder and much longer with just as much mass and power as this Mustang with far smaller brakes. You simply need to choose the right pad and the right fluid. The drive to upgrade is not just because the braking can’t be done as there is almost always a pad in the temp range you need. The need to upgrade is because the brake system can’t dissipate heat into the air fast enough to keep from cooking ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings etc.

    You shouldn’t call the Mustang Brembos out for lackluster performance because they weren’t sized so ridiculously that they worked great in shi**y stock street pads. You’d need 22″ wheels for that ha! Fact is you can’t have good braking on the track without the proper pad, and no stock pad is the proper pad for the track. I am sure with the right pads, and fluid for good measure, there brakes would be fine on the track and not take out any greasy parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Hi Power6,

      I’ve raced in NASA’s Camaro-Mustang-Challenge using brakes with less thermal capacity than this, so I understand where you’re coming from.

      What that said… bigger is better, and biggest is best. The same size rotor could be, and in other cars is, clamped by a six-piston caliper. This allows more pad surface, which as you know is a big factor in thermal capacity.

      The rear calipers in this car are also rather small sliding-caliper affairs, which is *never* the best way to go racing.

      Racers will work around anything. An example is the Compass360 Civic I raced in the Koni series last year. We were forced to use the stock brakes by Grand-Am, so the team worked extensively with a pad manufacturer on compound. We even had a company rep AT THE TRACK to help out. But the car was so underbraked that we often had to change pads during the middle of four-hour races. When I came out for my stint at VIR, the pedal went to the floor and stayed there at Turn One. C360 still won the Team and Driver titles that year.

      I’ll stand by my statement. There are manufacturers putting bigger brakes on lighter cars than this. This car is fast enough to cook these brakes regardless of pad compound. If I bought a GT, I would take the stock brake package and swap out for the Brembo race set used on various American Iron NASA racers.

      I *do* want to repeat one of your comments because everybody should read it twice:

      “Fact is you can’t have good braking on the track without the proper pad, and no stock pad is the proper pad for the track. ”


    • 0 avatar

      Hey Jack,

      Thanks for getting back about this! I think I am picking up what you are putting down.

      The big thing for me was to see they are putting some decent brakes on the menu now, which was not always on offer with the “pony” cars over the years, other than CobraRs and 1LE specials. The fact that they are Brembo branded seems to mean less and less these days(like a “Bose” stereo), but at least they are decent size.

      These are probably good track day brakes with Motul fluid and some race pads.

      I learned my lesson hard with street pads, melted a set of R4S pads in the rain at a Thunderbolt track day, and peppered my fairly new WRX with rusty pad flakes all over. Took me untold hours with “detailing clay” to clean up the mess. I got Legacy 12.3″ brakes with proper race pads now.

      So funny since those pads worked everywhere for me with my SRT-4 but I live and learn.

  • avatar

    I drive this 204K mile CR-V. At ~165 miles the OEM rotors began to warp when they got hot. They were worn thin. So i shopped around for replacement rotors and bought Brembo replacement rotors. At 204K miles the rotors are warped again. Never turned. Never overheated. We don’t get them hot on off ramps and then sit at the bottom with very hot pads squeezing the rotors while the rest of the rotor cools.

    I’ll be buying OEM Honda rotors next time assuming they are a reasonable cost. Not impressed with rotors that only last 50K when the previous set lasted ~165K.

    And yes I checked, no stuck calipers.

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