Some victories come easy, and others are hard-fought. On December 6, 2019, The Ford Performance Racing School (FPRS) fired up the engine of one of their Coyote powered S550 Mustangs with one goal in mind: winning the National Auto Sport Association’s (NASA) 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
It’s an annual test of strength, endurance, and skill. A lot of factors go into competing at the NASA 25 Hour event. Aside from keeping the car alive for 25 hours of continuous racing, you have every other external factor to worry about including weather, track conditions, consumables, driver changes, and other cars racing wheel to wheel with you. In a racing situation where everything matters, maybe the most important factor is having a strong team.
In order to thank the school’s staff for their hard work all year long, they bring them together at the NASA 25-hour event each year.
The Ford Performance Racing School is a group of world-class drivers and car enthusiasts led by Dan McKeever. They spend their entire year managing ownership programs like the Raptor Assault, ST Octane Academy, GT350 Track Attack, GT350 Track Tour, GT500 Track Tour, and ST SUV experience. Traveling to tracks around the country with a home now split between the Utah Motor Sports Campus and Charlotte Motor Speedway can be quite the task. Opportunities to team build with a group of car enthusiasts can come in no better way than actual competition. In order to thank the school’s staff for their hard work all year long, they bring them together at the NASA 25-hour event each year. This year the team was supplemented by Rob Birkhead and his crew from MPACT Racing.
The 2019 race campaign started with one of their FPRS Mustang GT’s, which normally spends time parked inside the training classroom at the Utah Motorsports Campus, being brought and modified for racing competition.
These cars are used so often that engine durability was never a concern, so instead, they focused on making the car more competitive.
A Tremec Magnum gearbox was substituted over the factory Getrag MT-82 transmission to ensure optimum durability. The suspension was outfitted with the same Multimatic components you will find on the GT4 Mustang, and the brakes were upgraded, front and rear, courtesy of Brembo.
The engine was fine-tuned by AED to ensure that the vehicle met the class rules for power to weight ratio, and a class appropriate fuel cell was installed. 18×11.5 square wheels from Signature Wheel were bolted on, and the school car was ready for 25 hours of battle.
One hiccup was the aerodynamics. The school had planned to install a complete aerodynamics package, but the day before the race, it had to be removed because of a technicality.
Weather conditions at Thunderhill were nothing less than grueling. Rain and cold temperatures persisted throughout the day and night. Frequent caution flags allowed multiple trips from the tow vehicles to bring broken cars in as well as pull cars that had become stuck in the mud back out. As the cars were dislodged they littered the track with mud ad other road debris. Unfortunately, the high humidity prevented the mud and portions of the track from drying out, so despite five hours without rain, the areas off of the racing line continued to be a slimy mess.
As the final tick of the clock passed, the FPRS’s school Mustang took first place in their class
Of course in racing, nothing ever goes as planned, and the missing aero enhancements meant that the FRPS found themselves fighting an uphill battle as they didn’t have the same downforce of their competitors. A late penalty assessment for spilled fuel during a pit stop dealt them another hurdle to overcome. Regardless, FRPS pushed on. As the final tick of the clock passed, the FPRS’s school Mustang took first place in their class—they had done it, winning their class of NASA’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Thanks to the efforts of a persistent team, distinguished partners, and strong coffee, FRPS strengthened the bonds between its staff through the battle of competition.