2015 Ford Mustang GT: JDRF Track Day Fundraiser
April 10, 2015
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to participate in a fundraiser for the JDRF, the largest charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and finding a cure. The event was held at Willow Springs International Raceway, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, and I was asked to bring our 2015 Ford Mustang GT to give rides around the main track, “Big Willow."
How could I say no? I mean, really. It’s an excellent cause and a great way to spend a day.
When they weren’t pounding around the circuit, Porsches, Ferraris, Jags and Z06 Corvettes filled the paddock. I spotted at least one Nissan GT-R, along with lone examples of the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. And our Ford Mustang wasn’t the only one. Someone brought a 2014 Boss 302 and I spotted an original Shelby GT-350, too.
For some, this was a first-time track experience. About half the cars wore temporary front end masks fashioned from blue painters tape. The local Home Depot probably didn’t know what hit them.
A few didn’t bring a track-worthy car at all, and just about everyone brought a guest that wasn’t planning to drive. But everyone was up for going for rides. That’s where the Mustang and I came in.
In the morning, organizers assigned me to an autocross course designed to give ride-along donors a different kind of thrill. There’s nothing quite like the intense washing machine experience of a mad dash through an incomprehensible forest of orange cones. And it’s a small-dose thrill that’s all over in about a minute.
This was a tight course that featured a figure-8 section to maximize a supremely compact and uneven section of the paddock. I had never driven our Mustang GT in anger before, and I half expected the bumpy layout to buck me off.
I needn’t have worried. The Mustang was brilliant.
It was a second-gear course, with lots of abrupt corners, sharp braking and left-right combinations. But there were also places to hang the tail out, if only for a few seconds. The torquey and responsive 5.0-liter V8 was in its element and the Torsen differential that came with the GT Performance Pack option didn’t flinch when putting the power down.
Through it all, the chassis proved surprisingly nimble and unflappable in the tight quarters. The GT remained firmly planted despite a heaving surface that saved some of its nastiest bumps for the more crucial corners.
The new independent rear suspension deserves a ton of credit. I can’t imagine the last-generation straight-axle Mustang displaying near as much composure - let alone speed - in the same circumstances.
After lunch I was moved to the main track, a real racing circuit that couldn’t be more different. Some 2.5 miles long, the slowest of its nine corners was substantially quicker than I’d ever managed on the autocross course.
The Mustang GT didn’t miss a beat here either. I expected a pronounced tendency toward understeer, but it exhibited just the right balance and felt firmly glued at both ends. The body didn’t roll over much, and I was surprised how well the Recaro leather seats held me and my rotating assortment of shotgun companions in position through the achingly long Turn 2 sweeper. The seatbacks even have shoulder harness pass-through holes in case someone wants to get serious with a roll-bar and 5-point track belts.
Along the way, the GT ran down more than a few 911s. Well, not the 911 GT3 RS with the full roll cage. That sucker was quick.
Near the end of the day, the Mustang coughed in Turn 5 as the fuel level dropped, prompting me to motor back to the pits. The distance-to-empty gauge said I had 11 miles to get to the nearest gas station on the way home.
The tires looked beat, but I’d been given the green light to use them up before I left the office. Big Willow is a clockwise circuit with high-speed right handers, so it was no surprise the left front looked the worst. Still, I was surprised to find it more or less evenly worn across the face of the tread.
And the new rear suspension did an excellent job of spreading the wear evenly across the broad rear tires. The shoulders came through in good shape and there’s still plenty of tread life.
It was a great day. Everyone who rode along had a great time and the Mustang GT turned more than a few heads. The event was sold out, so the local JDRF chapter is trying to figure out how to accommodate even more people and cars next year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Mustang GTs in the paddock next time.
After I got home I was struck by this picture, which to me shows an eerie similarity between the roofline and greenhouse of the 911 and the 2015 Mustang. Am I seeing things? Imagine a strategic dab of black vinyl that alters the shape of the rear corner of the side window.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,492 miles