Ford Boss 302 Track Attack - School Boss
Miller Motorsports park teaches Boss 302 owners on the track
From the September, 2012 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Steve Turner
Photography by Steve Turner
When you walk out into the...
When you walk out into the MMP garage and see a Boss 302 emblazoned with your name, it makes you feel pretty great. Not as great as it feels to rip around the racetrack in that Boss 302, however.
After sneaking through the esses of Agony and Ecstasy, it’s time to squeeze on the power. The note of the quad exhaust swells from a growl to a buzzsaw as the RoadRunner sows its oats in Third gear. A tap on the brakes at the First Attitude and then the speed builds to triple digits before it’s time to throw out the anchor at the Tooele turn and get back on the power.
Power is plentiful and the grip is surprising for a street car, but what’s even more impressive than romping around Miller Motorsports Park in a ’12 Boss 302 is doing so for free.
That’s right. If you bought a Boss 302, this one’s on Ford. Welcome to the Boss Track attack.
“This is the first program of its kind from Ford. We’re so proud of the new Boss 302 that we wanted to offer owners the opportunity to stretch their legs—and carve corners—on one of the coolest tracks in America,” said Mickey Matus, marketing manager for Ford Racing. “The Boss 302 is a legendary nameplate, and our latest version is such a tremendous fun-to-drive car that we wanted to ensure this exclusive group of owners learn all they could about it, and experience its capabilities in the fun, controlled environment that Miller Motorsports Park can provide.”
That’s the kind of hype you might expect to find in the press release announcing the school. However, in this case, we’d have to say it’s a bit of an understatement. The Track Attack is the kind of opportunity that no Boss owner should turn down, and if you happen to be friends with a Boss owner, you can pay a little and go along for the ride.
For your author, the time to accept the invitation to attend this school was shorter than the time it takes to shift into Second. I don’t own a Boss, but I’ve logged significant seat time in a number of Bosses since first experiencing them at Laguna Seca. I know they were born to boogie on the track.
Of course, that’s the real draw of the Track Attack. Getting some track time with instruction. If you like driving on the road course, you can never get enough track time. That’s because driving rust will build up faster than it will on bare steel at the beach. When you own a Boss, it’s important to hone your skills to make the most of it.
Next to getting this experience as part of your car purchase, the coolest part of this school is honing those skills in a car just like yours. When you sign up, you provide the details on your car. From there, Miller will try to assign you a car as similar as possible to the one you own. You own a Laguna? They’ll put you in a Laguna. You have a Yellow Blaze Boss? You might just get to tear it up in a yellow one.
Of course, that makes the experience cooler, but the idea that you get to drive a car like yours on the track without the worry of any wear or tear is amazing. The latter makes the experience more relaxing, and the former opens up your mind about the true capabilities of the car.
Clearly my classmates had a good idea of what the car was all about. Some were lifelong Mustangers. Others had lots of experience in Euro or Pacific Rim hotness. All were drawn to Utah to expand their capabilities and learn a bit about their Bosses along the way.
Though many in your scribe’s class had on-track experience, there were a handful of rookies, and the program is crafted to succinctly bring up the level of its students in an action-packed day.
The instructors at MMP really...
The instructors at MMP really bring the Track Attack students along briskly with their open and relaxed teaching style. Here instructor James Burke covers some basic driving dynamics concepts before the class hits the track.
A stock RoadRunner 302 is...
A stock RoadRunner 302 is what’s under the hood, and it’s completely up to the task of track-day duty. In fact, it’s elastic powerband allowed for taking the entire track in Third gear. There were a couple spots that allowed for Fourth if you were up to it, but the car’s ample torque and 7,000-rpm redline give it the range to handle the East Course in one gear.
Before putting the pedal to...
Before putting the pedal to the metal, the instructors refreshed us on heel-toe braking. Even if you’ve done it before, a little practice in a new car is handy.
The optional Recaros get you...
The optional Recaros get you off to a solid start for tracking a Boss, but MMP adds a cage and Safecraft harness belts to its school Bosses for increased safety. Otherwise the interior is stock as a rock.
This MMP Ford Taurus became...
This MMP Ford Taurus became a skid car thanks to the addition of four hydraulically controlled extra wheels, which the instructor controls to increase or decrease traction. Attempting to navigate a short autocross course that felt like a ice rink was a great lesson in car control.
This is the complete MMP road...
This is the complete MMP road course. It is typically run in four configurations: the full 4.6-mile course, the 3.06-mile outer course, the 2.2-mile West Track, and the 2.2-mile East Track. The East Track is host to the Boss Track Attack, and it is the more technical of the two smaller courses. This keeps speeds down a bit and helps you work on your skills. If you stay for Day Two in the FR500s, you move to the faster West Track.
“We didn’t want to sacrifice any of the learnings of a traditional school, but wanted to make sure to highlight the features of the Boss,” said Dan McKeever, director of the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School. “(The) main focus is still on the driving. The better each student gets behind the wheel, the more Boss potential they get to see.”
Of course, the night before your school days begin, you get to ease into things with a welcome dinner inside the amazing museum at the track. The late Larry Miller was a true-blue Ford enthusiast who amassed an amazing collection of Blue Oval iron, from classic Mustangs and Shelby Cobras to GT40s and Daytona coupes.
After learning about Boss history amidst the historic iron, the next morning you hit the ground running. The class begins with a brief overview of performance-driving techniques and track rules. You’re sized up for a driving suit and helmet, and before you know it, you’re into the action.
It begins by learning about vehicle dynamics in a skid car. This vehicle can mechanically limit traction, and it helps you fine-tune your car control. Next we jumped in the Bosses to brush up on heel-toe downshifting. Each car has a different feel, so it was nice to get used to the Boss before hitting the track for real.
With the basics covered and a tasty lunch consumed, it’s time to strap into the Boss and hit the East Course at MMP.
Aside from the cage and Safecraft harnessbelts, it is a stock Boss 302. There are no extra suspension tricks or other upgrades. Sure it gets a Laguna splitter and some upgraded Performance Friction pads, and the Pirelli PZeros are supplanted by Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 rubber, but it’s still a street Boss—which is quite a capable machine. Of course, these Bosses have the quad exhaust uncorked and are engaged with the famed Track Key. In practice, this gives the car sharper throttle response in trade for tossing some low-speed manners out the window net.
Once strapped into the Boss, we hit the track for a few lead-and-follow laps behind an instructor. During these laps, half the class snakes along the track trying to mirror the instructors line. After a couple laps, the driver right behind the instructor falls to the back of the line and lets the next student get a front-row seat. This continues until everyone has learned at the bumper of the instructor.
After a debrief in the classroom, we hit the track again with an instructor in the passenger seat. My co-pilot during the heel-toe training and the first on-track session was John Capps, who has raced everything from USAC open-wheelers to NHRA funny cars. It was a bit intimidating for sure, but I got more comfortable as the laps piled up. He kept encouraging me to use less brake, which helped me come out of my shell sooner once I was driving solo.
In the following sessions, it was solo open-tracking with passing on the front straight. I got more and more comfortable with my modest skills and the impressive capabilities of the Boss. By the third session, I was hitting my stride and pushing harder. The session flew by, so you know I was really having a great time.
Of course, the big closer for the on-track portion of the school is a few hot laps with the instructor. Well, just as you were feeling like a hot shot, they let you know there’s more to learn than you can cram into one day. Not only was the experience humbling, but it further opened your eyes as to just how capable the modern Boss is on a road course.
With the on-track fun in the rear-view mirror, it was time to graduate. Each class member earns a certificate and a bag of swag. Boss owners score a special trophy built from a real Boss connecting rod and piston assembly.
And, special is just how you feel after completing the Boss Track Attack. Not only is the school a blast, but it makes you realize how special the Boss 302 Mustang is. It also reiterates the great things Ford is doing with and for our beloved cars these days.
The only question I have is, if I buy my own Boss 302, do I get to go back? 5.0
Horse Sense: If you’re a fan of all high-performance Fords, you’ll be excited to learn that Miller Motorsports Park is planning an off-road driving school for owners of SVT’s Raptor pickup.
Part of the Track Attack experience...
Part of the Track Attack experience includes a USB flash drive containing photos of your day at the track, shot by track photog Jeremie Henry. I might look a bit pensive here, but once the track action started, I was grinning on the inside.
Certainly there are some brisk...
Certainly there are some brisk sections on the East Track, but there are also plenty of corner variations to help you work on your skills and test the abilities of the Boss. Better yet, you can see there’s plenty of runoff around the track should you get in over your head.
If Morpheus asks you if you...
If Morpheus asks you if you want the black key or the red key, we know you’ll say “red key.” When it has been activated by a Ford Racing dealer, the red Track Key engages a completely different calibration for your Boss 302. It’s a call that changes more than 600 different parameters to extract the most performance legally possible from the Boss. Part of the Track Attack includes letting you experiment with Track Key features like the Launch Control and Pit Speed Limiter.
If the idea of flogging a...
If the idea of flogging a Boss on the MMP East Course for free is not a compelling enough reason to attend the Track Attack, you should go for the swag. Along with the usual stickers and coupons, you score a pair of driving gloves. Boss owners also get an exclusive trophy constructed from a real Boss 302 rod and piston!
Featuring the same Bullitt-level...
Featuring the same Bullitt-level Three-Valve as the base school car, the FR500 adds a data-acquisition system, a race seat a removable steering wheel, a window net, a fire system, a six-speed gearbox, 3:73 gears, long-tube headers, and BFGoodrich g-Force R1 rubber.
If I have one regret about...
If I have one regret about the Boss Track Attack, it’s that I wasn’t a Boss owner like most of my classmates. When I left #25 behind, I didn’t go home to another Boss. Maybe soon I can add one to the stable...
Where the East Track is a...
Where the East Track is a bit more technical, the West Track offers more opportunities to put your foot to the floor. Its fast sections and the shorter rev window mean you go to Fourth about three times on each lap.
Being on the track with a...
Being on the track with a pack of other Bosses and MMP school cars was a blast. If you’re a Boss owner, you get a Boss. These folks can bring a driving guest, and they will drive one of the school cars, which are powered by a Bullitt-spec Three-Valve 4.6. Boss owners can also opt for a ride-along guest.
The modern Boss 302 was born...
The modern Boss 302 was born to bridge the gap between the street and the road course. It does a brilliant job of performing as a race car with license plates. If you own one, you owe it to your car to turn corners on a track.
Approximately half of the Boss Track Attack students opt to pay the extra tariff to stick around and continue their on-track education in the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School FR500s. Longtime 5.0&SF readers know that this wasn’t my first rodeo at MMP. Offered another chance in the FR500, I jumped at it.
I had previously run through the school’s cars back in the October 2007 issue (“Dream Park,” p. 44). Back then I drove the school car, the Challenge car, and the FR500. The school car and FR500 are the same now, and the Challenge car was betwixt the two and built for a track racing series. At that time, moving up the ladder to the FR500 felt like a big deal.
Fast-forward to 2012, and moving up from the powerful Boss 302 street car to the FR500 is a much easier transition. With less power, less torque, and tons more grip, the race car felt far easier to drive and safer to boot. Even standing on the throttle, there wasn’t enough torque to truly upset the car, but it still got around the track in big hurry.
After one day of track duty behind me, I was more comfortable in a hurry on the second day. Sure we were learning a new car and a new track, but it came along pretty quickly. And, the class is set up that way. After a lead and follow, it’s out on the track. There’s only one seat in the FR500s, so the instructors watch from the tricky corners and give you tips back in the garage. Midway through the program, you do ride with an instructor in the school car, which affords you the chance to ask questions about troublesome corners.
For me, the tough spots were Demon, Devil, and Diablo, but I was having blast ripping through Dreamboat, Workout, and Scream. I was really starting to feel good out on the track.
In the final session, I embarked with high expectations for even quicker laps, however a couple of my fellow students decided to venture off track right in front of me. One did so rather spectacularly. One of the great things about Miller is abundant run-off, so everyone was unharmed. However, it did encourage me to dial it back a bit for the rest of the session.
In the end, the second day kept the learning and the fun going. If you attend the Boss Track Attack, I can’t recommend the second day highly enough.
Part of the fun of attending the Boss Track Attack was getting to know my fellow classmates. It was interesting to learn why they bought their Bosses and what other cars they had before moving to the Boss. Like your scribe, all seemed to have a great time at the school.
Jerry Albertus was primarily...
Jerry Albertus was primarily a Mopar guy, but his son, Richard, talked him into buying an Ingot Silver ’12 Boss Laguna Seca for a father/son run at One Lap of America. “The second day was my first chance to drive a real race-prep’d Mustang,” Jerry explained. “I thought the Boss compared favorably to the FR500 in terms of power but the handling of the FR500 was impressive. I was going faster and faster with each session yet still not at the cars limit ... only mine.
Pete Dahlgren is a true-blue...
Pete Dahlgren is a true-blue Ford fan. He previously owned a ’71 Boss 351, a ’69 Boss 429, a ’67 Mustang, a ’67 Fairlane drag car, and an ’06 Screaming Yellow Roush. He added a Yellow Blaze ’12 Boss to that list. “There is way more to getting a car around a track than I ever knew,” Pete said.
When the Boss outperformed...
When the Boss outperformed the M3 and R8 on Laguna, Wally Abdallah knew he had found the replacement for his S2000. “(It’s) absolutely the best thing I’ve ever done to gain an appreciation for racing. The school was well-balanced and designed to accommodate different levels of experience without sacrificing content delivery,” Wally said. “The instructors were professional and you sensed that they had a love for the sport. I’ve been telling everybody about it at work...
John Gillett added a Competition...
John Gillett added a Competition Orange ’12 Boss to his impressive collection of a ’70 428 SCJ Mach 1, a ’99 GT, an ’03 Mach 1, and a ’10 GT. “The best thing I learned is that there are multiple components to being a good driver. You have to integrate all of them into a smooth approach to racing on a road course. I learned when to brake, how to brake, when to accelerate, how to accelerate, how to steer in different places, how to study a track, how to find my marks, how to find the apex of a corner, and make a plan on how to drive on a course, “ Jon explained. “The things I learned are sticking with me. It seems like every corner I come to on the highway I am analyzing how to approach it, where the apex is located, and how to exit it even though I’m not driving on a track. I find myself positioning my hands properly on the steering wheel. If I find myself not positioning them properly, I quickly correct myself. When all the components come together, it brings on a calm, relaxed feeling of confidence.”
Hermes Fernadez was replacing...
Hermes Fernadez was replacing a vintage Corvette with something more family-friendly. He considered all the modern muscle cars before choosing a Yellow Blaze ’12 Boss. “As a former Navy flight instructor who worked on defining the primary flight training syllabus, I was skeptical about how much we could learn in one day,” Hermes said. “I know this class was only meant as an exposure to race car driving, but it felt complete and fulfilling. I was impressed with all the instructors and the syllabus they put together for us.”
Fred Burgos wasn’t replacing...
Fred Burgos wasn’t replacing a car with his Competition Orange ’12 Boss, but rather adding to his eclectic personal stable. “I hadn’t owned a Mustang for a few years and was looking at getting a new GT when Ford announced the Boss, so I decided to wait and get a Boss as the description of the car at the announcement was too good to pass up,” Fred explained. “I attended Track Attack so I could get familiar with driving a street car on a racetrack. I have quite a bit of track experience driving a purpose-built race car, but up until Track Attack, none with a street car. It was a real eye-opener—not at all what I was used to, but at least now I know what to expect when I take my Boss out on track.”
Brad Sarkauskas owned some...
Brad Sarkauskas owned some vintage Mustangs—a ’66 and a ’67. He stepped up to a Yellow Blaze ’12 Boss. “Yes, I was absolutely amazed at the capabilities of the Boss. I had no idea it could perform at that level (especially during the ride with the instructor),” Brad said. “The FR500 was a completely different vehicle. Although the Boss is a race car, it still has many items that make the vehicle comfortable. The FR500 is not the most comfortable vehicle.”
Kevin Cook moved out of a...
Kevin Cook moved out of a BMW M3 into his Performance White ’12 Boss, but not as directly as you might suspect. “I like low- or no-option muscle cars and had been looking to buy a ’93 Mustang LX 5.0 coupe for a few years, but I was never satisfied with the quality of what I found,” Kevin said. “Once Ford released details on the Boss, I knew I had found what I was looking for to replicate the Fox cars I owned in college—a car focused on performance, with no navigation or other goodies to weigh it down.”