It was a random drawing, but Editor Turner got lucky by being the first in line. Out of th
By: Steve Turner
Attending the Ford Racing Invitational held within the confines of the Milan, Michigan, NMRA race proved one of the strangest and most fun experiences I've had at an NMRA race. It was unusual: I'm used to covering the race, not participating in it. Fortunately, KJ Jones and Paul Rosner were already on board to cover Milan, so all I had to do was show up and have fun. Of course, I was nervous from the moment Ford Racing's Jesse Kershaw mentioned the event.
You see, the idea with the Ford Invitational was to get the media behind the wheel of some of Ford's cool rides further augmented by Ford Racing's cool parts. Knowing we media types are suckers for an automotive good time and we usually write about something when we have fun, Jesse had the idea to put a bunch of us in these cars and trucks. The twist was having us compete against one another.
I was nervous because my driving is about as erratic as my writing. I've never been big on the bracket thing, but I know it takes a consistent car, a consistent driver, and knowledge of how the weather and track conditions will affect the car's performance. Bracket racers craft combinations and technique based on a lot of testing. Making laps, recording the car's performance and weather conditions, many racers have a playbook for any condition. They know how the car will react. I've spent plenty of time in new Mustangs, but this would be my first time in the FRPP-supercharged GT 500.
The track opened on the afternoon of Friday, June 15. Laid out in a row was a collection of Ford Mustangs, Ford trucks, and Factory Five roadsters, all equipped with FRPP gear. It was quite a sight, as the cars wrapped all around the front of Ford Racing display. When I drew a GT 500 out of the box, the smile on my face must've been huge. I grabbed the keys and psyched myself up. The Ford Racing crew quickly adorned the cars with the drivers' names, so I couldn't really hide. As such, I decided to embrace the scene and outfit the car with 5.0&SF stickers and a license plate.
I knew had minimal chance of winning, so I concentrated on driving the car and letting the cards fall where they may. If nothing else, the Ford Invitational acted as our first drag test of the new FRPP Super Pack. As soon as we were cleared for test runs, I hopped in the GT 500 and put it in the staging lanes. How surreal it was to be right in the lanes with the real NMRA racers. As I approached the burnout box, I knew it would be a struggle to corral 600 hp on the stock radials, but I hammed up a big burnout for the cameras anyway.
Staging the car, I revved it barely above idle, slept at the Tree, and eased the car out. It spun on the 1-2 shift, but it kept moving forward as it clawed at the sticky track. I granny shifted into Second, but once the car settled down, I power-shifted into Third and, just before the finish line, Fourth. Each time I barely tickled the rev limiter before shifting. I was still learning the car, but it was ice cold. To say I was shocked by the result was an understatement-the GT 500 clicked off an 11.89 e.t. at 119.34 mph. I thought that was a great time for a 4,070-pound (with Editor) car on street radials.
I spent the rest of the testing time trying to reclaim or eclipse my former glory to no avail. Either I screwed up a shift, spun the tires, or the car got heat soaked from my hot-lapping it. I managed a 12.43/133.58 pass for my first qualifying pass Friday evening. My sorry 0.319 reaction time put me far down the qualifying sheet, but I had the pleasure of putting three-tenths on my old pal and eventual number-one qualifier, Mustang & Fords editor, Mark Houlahan. I improved to a 0.137 reaction time in the final round of qualifying to put me mid-pack and managed a 12.01/116.63 hit in the second round.
I was having fun, but the good times were about to end. My qualifying reaction time put me up against Car Craft publisher John Gallagher piloting one of the FRPP-supercharged pickups in round one. John was cutting good lights and running consistent. I knew I had to run a great race, but I got too anxious and lit the red bulb (-0.0972 versus John's 0.1000). To add insult to injury, I saw the red bulb out the corner of my eye and the distraction helped me miss second, resulting in a 13.26/113 losing effort.
Of course the real story was that FRPP's warranty-friendly Super Pack takes a stock GT 500 beyond 500 hp at the rear wheels and puts it solidly in the 11s with no other mods. I might not be a winner, but the FRPP blower certainly is.