It's difficult to express...
It's difficult to express how cool it was to see 21 FR500S Mustangs ripping around the track at Road Atlanta. By mid-season 27 different racers had competed in at least one Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup race. Next season we expect to see even more teams join the fray.
Late last year, I was one of the first media types to visit and experience the exquisite facilities of Miller Motorsports Park in Toele, Utah, and drive several super-cool Mustangs, including a little red Mustang they liked to call the Challenge car ("Dream Park," Oct. '07, p. 44). Of course, I'd driven the school's Mustang for students, as well as the famed Boy Racer, the FR500C. However, it was the Challenge Mustang that stood out in my mind. The basic Ford Racing Performance Parts bolt-on approach was taken, as the car was put on a 340-pound diet and sticky BFGoodrich RI rubber added some grip.
I had great fun lapping around the MMP road course in the Challenge Mustang; it was pretty much the ideal car for me. While taking a lunch break with former Ford Racing director Dan Davis, Ford Racing manager Jamie Allison, and MMP CEO and general manager Alan Wilson, I witnessed the group discussing the feasibility of a new racing series that would take Ford Racing-prepped Mustangs on a cross-country racing series. It was off-the-record stuff at the time, but I thought it was just a "what-if" type of conversation and went blissfully back to driving Mustangs and taking pictures.
Mere months later, Ford Racing announced the development of the FR500S, a new turnkey race car constructed there at the Auto Alliance International plant. It's not a surprise that the FR500S bears more than a passing resemblance to the Challenge car I drove, but it takes things a bit further. These cars are built without all the heavy extras and upgraded with a litany of high-performance gear, sourced primarily from the the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog. From safety and handling upgrades to exhaust and intake improvements, the result is a well-balanced Mustang ready to roll off the trailer and take on the track.
Pratt Cole and team Dex have...
Pratt Cole and team Dex have been a consistent threat in the Mustang Challenge series from the get-go. After qualifying and finishing Third in the first race, Pratt put himself on the podium again in Second Place at Mosport and nearly missed at Mid-Ohio with a Fourth Place finish. At press time, Pratt was still in the thick of the first Mustang Challenge points chase.
Better yet, the Mustang Challenge series is a spec series, so you can't keep adding parts to make your Mustang faster; you have to get out there and drive the same car as your competitors-may the best man win. Such was the case when I attended the inaugural Mustang Challenge race at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, May 1-3, 2008, where 22 FR500S Mustangs qualified and 20 took the starting grid for Saturday's race. It was an amazing sight to see all those Mustangs round the corner and barrel down the front straight at Road Atlanta.
I was embedded with the Dex Racing team to get a feel for just how things work at a Mustang Challenge race. The team, led by driver Pratt Cole, had plenty of experience running in several SCCA classes, including the Escort Endurance series, which predated World Challenge. Most recently Pratt and teammate Brad Adams had run in the similar MX-5 Cup series racing Mazdas. In fact, Brad had the grueling duty of running in both classes at Road Atlanta. The Dex team has a passion not only for racing, but also for helping others. Their racing efforts are geared in part toward raising money for the U-SA Cares For Life (www.sa caresforlife.com) charity, which helps support sick and needy kids in South Africa.
Once he's on the track, Pratt is anything but charitable. His experience and skill showed as he qualified in the third spot, just ticks behind 50mustangandsuperfords.com celebrity blogger Jamie Slone, who was just behind wunderkind Andrew Caddell. That's pretty much how it played out in the race, with that trio finishing 3, 2,1, respectively. As I write this, those three are near the top in the points chase.
By the time you read this, the season will have just wrapped up at Miller Motorsports Park where it all began, but here we cover the cars and top teams from this season. This series is destined to grow in popularity, so now's the time to learn all about it.
Looking much like the engine...
Looking much like the engine compartment of an '08 Bullitt, the FR500S is not that far removed from a street Mustang. The improvements are highlighted by an FRPP CAI/tune, FRPP T-6060 six-speed, FRPP exhaust, FRPP radiator, FRPP Torsen diff, FRPP shifter, FRPP adjustable suspension, full safety equipment, and much more. For racers this is good news, as the parts are durable and easy to acquire. Everyone else has to run the same gear, so the room for shenanigans is limited.
From the first race, the man...
From the first race, the man to beat in Mustang Challenge was Andrew Caddell, but he didn't even score a full-time ride until StableOne inked him just before the Barber race. "It is tough for me to leave TC Motorsports because they really stuck their neck out to run me at the start of the season, but this opportunity with StableOne was just too good to pass up," Andrew said. "I want to thank Carlo Sparacio for his faith in me. I'm really looking forward to being a part of StableOne Racing and helping any way I can. I've spent some time with the guys on the team, and I think we are going to have some fun this season." Andrew won the first race at Road Atlanta, won again at Mosport, and was runner-up at Mid-Ohio. In short, Andrew hasn't seen a podium yet that he didn't like.
If Andrew has a nemesis this...
If Andrew has a nemesis this season, it would have to be Jamie Slone, who snapped his win streak by taking the victory at Mid-Ohio. Jamie has been in the mix all season, with podium appearances and the aforementioned where he jumped out to a big lead, then held off his challengers after a caution. Jamie was really looking forward to the challenge presented by the newly signed StableOne drivers Andrew Caddell and Terry Borcheller as the season headed toward the finish line. Jamie had previously competed in the Koni Challenge, but seems to have really found his groove in the Mustang Challenge.