The sun is barely peeking over Utah's Oquirrh Mountains as nearly a dozen '12 Boss 302 owners--plus one wife, a son, and a lone journalist--file into the Miller Motorsports Park museum to begin their Boss Track Attack adventure. For the next 10 hours, we'll be immersed in track driving instruction, both in the classroom and on the track, all the better to enjoy the capabilities of Ford's new Boss 302 Mustang.
Ford's Boss Track Attack program, a full-day driving school offered free to owners of '12-'13 Boss 302s (with the option of bringing along a family member or friend at a cost), was conceived right along with the car, which was designed from the start as a track-ready machine with a license plate. Over two years ago, before the new Boss 302 was even introduced, Ford car marketing manager Steve Ling tipped me off about the program in an interview for my book, Mustang Boss 302: From Racing Legend to Modern Musclecar: "We're giving everyone a full day of driving instructions, in Bosses, at Miller Motorsports Park to help owners appreciate the full capability of their cars. I want people to enjoy driving them. And for those who aren't to the level of this car, they will have a chance to learn and, for some, that will inspire them to become a better driver and use this car safely at its limits. I don't want these cars in museums!"
Each Track Attack program kicks off the night before with a welcoming dinner at the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum. For Ford fans, especially of the Shelby persuasion, the museum is a must-see, even without the driving school. Larry Miller was a die-hard Shelby fan, and after achieving business success (among them, ownership of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team), he started collecting Shelby American milestone cars, including the first competition Cobra, Ken Miles' Le Mans GT40, and Dan Gurney's Daytona Coupe that won Le Mans in 1964. There's also a nice collection of early Shelby Mustangs and memorabilia to go along with all of it.
The Boss Track Attack experience...
The Boss Track Attack experience begins with 45 minutes of classroom instruction. We also learn that our six instructors, all experienced racers, are a group of really nice guys who not only know how to get around a race track but also how to teach others in a no-pressure, fun style.
It doesn't get much better...
It doesn't get much better than dinner beside a Bud Moore Trans-Am '70 Boss 302, a car that was driven by Parnelli Jones in the 1970 series and later raced in the 1971 Trans-Am.
It's worth a visit to Tooele,...
It's worth a visit to Tooele, Utah, to visit the Miller Motorsports Park museum, which includes this collection of Shelby Mustangs, not to mention historic Shelby Cobras, Daytona Coupes, and GT40s.
Our class was greeted inside the museum by instructor Bill Rhinehart, who gave us a brief history of Miller Motorsports Park and a tour of the museum cars. That was followed by dinner, with tables placed between a Bud Moore '70 Trans-Am Boss 302 and a black/red '12 Laguna Seca. During the student introductions, I learned that Track Attack participants come from around the country with a variety of reasons for buying a Boss 302. We even had a BMW convert. And I was glad to see a familiar face--Mustang collector Monty Seawright, whose '78 King Cobra was featured in our October 2010 issue.
Bright and early the next morning, our group convened in a classroom to begin our Boss 302 track immersion. After a short introduction film, instructor Brian Smith introduced himself and the other five instructors before running through 45 minutes of basic driving instructions, including how to choose the correct cornering line, braking and heel-toe technique, hand signals, and using your eyes to look through a turn, something I would find myself concentrating on later. Smith assures us that we'll be "pushed," while also noting that no one is expected to go beyond their comfort level. He notes that the desert track offers plenty of run-off, but it also throws up plenty of dust to alert the instructors if anyone makes an off-track excursion. We knew the fun was about to begin when we were issued helmets and driving suits (note to self: next time, wear shorts and a t-shirt) before loading into vans for the trip to the garage and our introduction to the school's Boss 302s.
Each student gets to take...
Each student gets to take a turn behind the wheel of the Fusion skid car, which induces oversteer at slow speeds. It's a great tool to help you recognize the onset of oversteer and how to control it.
Before getting up to speed...
Before getting up to speed on Miller Motorsport Park’s East road course, students get plenty of time to learn and study the track, including instructor walk- and talk-throughs of the trickiest turns.
For the first excursions on...
For the first excursions on the track, an instructor in a Ford Mustang GT school car leads while students follow to learn braking points and the best way through the turns.
Awaiting us are a dozen Boss 302s in various colors, which instructors attempt to match to the owner's Boss 302 at home. They're stock '12 Boss 302s, with TracKey, open quad exhaust, roll cage, safety harnesses for the Recaro seats, upgraded brakes (more for durability than performance, I'm told), and a slightly modified grille for cooling. Each car has the driver's name on the windshield; I'm in the red #25 with black stripes.
We're divided into groups of three for our first foray onto the track for follow-the-instructor laps to get us familiar with the course lay-out, which has orange cones in the corners to help with turn-in points and apexes. The Boss Track Attack program uses Miller's 2.2-mile East track, a technically challenging course with 14 turns with appropriate names like "Agony," "Ecstasy," and "Maybe Y'll Make It." Later, our instructor will take us back out and stop at the most challenging turns so he can talk and walk us through.
But before getting up to speed on-track, we're herded off-track for a couple of exercises. I've done heel-toe before, but it didn't hurt to practice in the Boss 302 on a short, triangular course. With instructors standing at each corner and walkie-talkies for communication, we received instant feedback. From there, we headed to the skid car, a Fusion Sport fitted with four hydraulically-controlled wheels that the instructor can control to increase or decrease traction. By navigating an autocross course at slow speed, the skid car helps you to recognize and control oversteer, which is great to know before attacking the road course at speed.