Bosses in Training
Miller Motorsports Park offers options for those wanting to take the lead.
Story Andy Bolig / Images Jeremy Henrie and Andy Bolig - October 18, 2012 10:00 AM
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Miller Motorsports Park
The first night, the class had a reception in the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Auto Museum. The cars in the museum are highly collectible examples of racing history and performance. A perfect setting for the start of the Boss Track Attack.
Students are welcomed to the car they will be driving. Each car is adorned with the driver’s name emblazoned on the windshield. A very nice touch.
The skidpad car uses outriggers to lift the front/rear of the car. This helps teach counter-steering without the dangers of speed.
Classroom sessions are held throughout the day. Each one builds upon the previous track session and helps the student increase their driving skills in steps.
More than just cool looking stickers, these cars are set up to run the course without hindering the driving skills of the students. You might over-drive physics, but you won’t over-drive the cars.
One of the “classroom” sessions included driving our cars around the track and stopping at some of the more technical turns. This allowed us to understand all of the physics that were working during that particular turn. Sometimes, it’s hard to really read a turn at speed.
After some classroom and lead/follow sessions, we were let loose on the track. The cars performed flawlessly and as we tired throughout the day, they kept galloping on.
If you wish to take it to the next level, you can come back the second day and try your hand in one of the FR500S Mustangs. These steeds are race-bred and FAST!
Because we had addressed much of the preliminaries the day before, the second day’s events started out quickly with a short classroom session, then it was on to the driving.
The FR500S’ cockpit is much more spartan than the Boss 302’s but, things happen a lot quicker when you’re in it and you really don’t have much time to nitpick over the lack of carpeting. What it lacks in creature comforts, it returns in performance.
In the performance driving arena, if you want to become a leader, you not only need to know how to drive, but you need to know the car you’re driving.
There are many ways to gain that experience with any particular car, but if you are one of those lucky souls who might find themselves behind the wheel of the new Boss 302 Mustang, you’ve got even more options. There is no doubting the performance potential of these new pony cars that have been escaping out of Ford’s stables. With over 440hp on tap, the issue arises when you want to exercise your steed in a safe manner. Thanks to a partnership between Ford Racing and the Miller Motorsports Park, finding a place to run in a Boss 302-equipped Mustang has gotten a lot easier.
Miller Motorsports Park is renowned for their close ties to racing, the Ford Motor Company and enthusiasts who want to go fast. Founded by the late Larry H. Miller, the 551-acre facilities features a state-of-the-art track that can be specifically configured to instruct and improve an enthusiast’s driving abilities, while providing a safe environment. Students utilize a fleet of cars belonging to the Miller Motorsports Park that have been upgraded for specific track usage with a mind for safety and reliability.
Anyone who purchases a Boss 302 Mustang is treated to the Boss Track Attack, but others are encouraged to participate in the festivities as well. There are options ranging from a Mustang Driving Experience, all the way up to renting one of their race-ready FR500S Mustangs. There is also a licensing school, as well as one-, two- and three-day Ford Racing Driving Schools available for those who want to pursue some seat time in a competitive atmosphere. During the Boss Track Attack, competition is not the focus. Instead, participants are encouraged to learn about the car and their abilities.
Miller Motorsports Park does more than simply try to cram as much information as possible into your helmet. They also make great efforts to keep your stomach from emptying out as well. Starting with the evening of your arrival, you are treated to a reception dinner in the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Auto Museum. You get to know your fellow classmates as you enjoy great food amid some of the most coveted performance autos and racecars. Everything from LeMans-winning GT-40s to pop-culture iconic rides will be on display as you begin your driving adventure.
Doing so on the facilities’ East Course, through turns with names like “Satisfaction”, “Fast”, “Faster” and “Mabey Y’ll Makit”. Each turn is designed to instruct, and improve a driver’s abilities while making the learning experience an enjoyable one. Students are treated to generous track time and also are treated to adequate face-time with their instructors in both classroom and seat-time sessions. The school also has a hydraulic-equipped skidpad car which can be set up for adverse over/under-steer situations. This allows for drivers to get a feel how to handle these situations without introducing any unnecessary speed. Instructors can instantly set up the car for any desired condition with the flick of a switch and even though the car may not be going more than 15 mph, the effect that it has on the handling of the car is quite dramatic and very instructional.
Track time begins with a lead/follow session where the student learns the track and the quickest route around it. After the foundations are laid down and the student shows they’ve grasped the concepts of both speed and safety, they are directed out onto the course for some hot-lapping, as fast as their driving skill levels permit. Students are encouraged to improve their times, but not to look for the quickest time, the first time out on the track. Speed is best poured into at a slow pace, and it is much easier to learn the right way how to navigate the course than to try and figure out what went wrong.
During your driving experience, your catered, lunchtime meal helps serve as a cool-down session from the morning’s driving, as well as an opportunity to discuss technique and share your experiences with others. After the meal, the class hits the track, using what they’ve learned in previous class and driving sessions. The world-class driving instruction team at Miller Motorsports Park is there to help you. They will instruct and encourage you to broaden your performance driving horizons while also helping you to find your limitations in a safe manner. Their expertise, and the personal way by which they convey it, will have you driving better by the end of your driving session, if you’ll listen to them.
There is sufficient classroom and track time to ensure that you can improve your driving, whether through in-class theory or hands-on driving. As we have mentioned, the instructor list is literally a who’s who of performance driving. The depth of experience afforded the student is exceptional and the cars that are central to the on-the-job training aspect of the experience are equally advantageous to the student. Safety is stressed while performance driving is a close second.
The Boss 302 Mustang is an exceedingly capable car as delivered from Ford, but under the constant extreme conditions that these cars are beholden, there are a few changes that serve both the students and their equipment well. A fresh dose of synthetic fluids act as the lifeblood for the cars and items like brake pads and rotors have been updated to withstand the constant thrashing they observe.
More than simply a Boss 302 equipped car, the Mustangs are treated to many Ford Racing options that are found on more race-specific rides like the Laguna Seca version of the Boss 302. Roll bars and strengthening braces add performance and safety, while the adjustable shocks and lower-restriction exhausts help keep thrill levels high. For even added performance, the Boss 302 cars were treated to the “Red Key” upgrade, and while it doesn’t increase horsepower significantly, it does alter the car’s persona into a highly capable track star. The red TracKey adjusts variable cam timing, spark maps, engine braking, fuel control and over 200 other parameters that allow the car’s engine to be better utilized for on-track driving.
There is a noticeable “rump-rump-rump!” to the car’s idle when utilizing the TracKey option. Being electronically controlled, the Boss 302’s engine can change from a Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde simply by swapping out keys. The red key option is available only to Boss 302 owners once they’ve taken delivery of their car.
The day serves as an excellent introduction to all that this car is capable of producing but if that isn’t enough, you can also opt for the additional second day, where you’ll find yourself roaring around the track in one of Miller Motorsports Park’s FR500S Mustangs. These race-equipped Mustangs are track-only equipment and while the comfort levels drop off excessively, so do the lap times. These cars are FAST!
We had the opportunity to stay the extra day and make use of some seat time in one of these cars. Driving one will take your experience to the next level. Being race-prepared, they are well capable of driving beyond the Boss 302 cars, and also serve well as a platform to allow you to safely go beyond what you could the day before. You can feel your experience level building as you get acquainted with the FR500S and when handled with respect, the car will treat you to a driving experience that is second to none.
The second day’s driving starts out bright and early after a short classroom session. Throughout the day, both experience and confidence levels build and by day’s end, there’s a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment, along with being tired. Truth is, race car drivers are very athletic and for the typical enthusiast, too much track time is in fact, too much. By day’s end, you’ll have had enough classroom and track time to improve your driving even more, without over-exerting your mind or driving skills.
If you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of your Boss 302 Mustang or you simply want to hone your on-track driving skills, be sure to check out all that Miller Motorsports Park has to offer. If you’re a Boss 302 owner, the answer is simple, but if you’re searching for a means to shorter track times and a driving line to the front of the pack, chances are that Miller Motorsports Park has course to get you there.