2015 Ford Mustang GT: A Hike, a Bike, and a Track-Day Wedding, Part 4
by Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor on October 25, 2015
For this final installment of our hiking, biking, wedding and track day road trip in the 2015 Ford Mustang GT, I started off the final morning with a photo shoot. Didn't have to drive far; that lead shot was taken from my hotel's balcony.
You might notice I left the numbers, required by Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, on the Ford overnight. No, it's not that I think I'm cool driving around town with numbers on my car. Rather, I'm inherently lazy and didn't want to re-apply them at the track for Day Two.
Plus, Senior Editor Josh Jacquot's wife had done such a nice job applying them on in the first place. Apparently she noticed I was incapable of making a five, kindly shoved me aside and took over. Go ahead and add "taping numbers" to the list of things I stink at.
By the way, anyone know the connection between the number fifteen and an orange Ford Mustang?
Like the first day, Day Two with the Mustang at the track was problem-free. For the second session, Josh and I swapped cars, me into the 2015 Dodge Viper GT, he into the Mustang.
As I was belting in and putting on my helmet, it occurred to me I had never driven our long-term Dodge Viper. Nothing like jumping into an Advanced run group with an unfamiliar car. I told myself I would take it easy the first couple laps, but I instantly went into Viper Goon mode.
I don't know if that's a thing or not, but I stereotypically picture Viper guys driving like goons. Meaning, only so-so quick through the turns, then mashing the throttle the instant the track points remotely straight. Oh and mega late-braking, sometimes taking two cars at a time before turning in.
I can't remember the last time the red mist hit me so hard. Part of it is that, unlike the Mustang I had been driving, the Viper is a real track machine. It's stiff and unforgiving. It keeps you alert at all times. Everything happens so quickly, you never have a moment to breathe. The brakes are fantastic, and of course it's super-stinking fast. The closing rate on other cars was ridiculous. There were times I would pass three-to-four cars on Laguna's main straight, making holes that, well, really weren't there.
Like I said, a goon. The car made me do it.
I had a huge moment when I decided to test the laws of physics by braking crazy late for Turn Two — the "Andretti Hairpin" — after cresting Turn One flat out. Turns out, ABS and worn tires can only overcome so much speed and exuberance. The thing wasn't stopping and the kitty litter was coming fast. Luckily Turn Two is quite wide, and at the last second I came off the brakes and got the thing turned.
Back at the garage, Josh said he heard some squeaking from the Mustang's brakes. We jacked up the car, took off one of the front wheels and inspected the pads. Yep, they were pretty worn. We decided the prudent thing was to park it for the rest of the day.
This car has seen some hard use: A previous track day, Edmunds testing, plus many miles of hard canyon running. We were also under strict orders to bring both cars back in perfectly good working condition (or else), and I'm pretty sure the boss wouldn't include worn-out, squeaky brakes under that definition.
I went for a ride in that thing pictured above, a home-built job with a Yamaha R1 motorcycle engine and a mechanical paddle-shift gearbox. It just about scared the pants off me, only I was wearing shorts. Pants would have been smarter, as the passenger-side exhaust (it's a right-hand-drive car) gets really hot and you feel low enough that you could reach out and touch the ground, although I have no idea why you would try that.
I don't want to think about what would have happened had we hit a wall. Life's short; take chances?
It was a great five days. I came away awed by the Viper's track ability and impressed with the Mustang as a road trip car that can haul a fair amount of stuff, and also some butt on a proper back road. It's not a pure track machine by a long stretch, and it's nowhere near as fast as the Viper. But that's okay. It just means you have to work a little harder to pass cars. And it still provided plenty of thrills.
I wouldn't shy away from taking the Stang to a track again, if given the chance. Or the Viper for that matter, even if it does bring out my inner goon.
Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor