Project Mustang 5.0: Part 1 - Establishing a Performance Baseline

by Clint Boisdeau

Mustangs in general are misunderstood when they show up to a road course.  It seems like a significant amount of prejudice starts to manifest itself from owners of more popular platforms for road course duty, especially here in SoCal where the scene is dominated by S2000s, turbo AWDs, FWD Hondas, and Miatas.  The notion that the big horse should stay on the drag strip because it is "slow in the corners, and fast in the straights" give this thoroughbred a bad rap.  In recent years Ford has put forth the effort to change this stigma, as the current 5.0 liter powered ponies are no longer something to be scoffed at.

The retro look of the mustang that started with the 2005 S197 chassis model introduction has evolved over the years getting better every time.  The body oozes first gen mustang shapes while still being extremely modern.  The styling seems to be "love it or hate it", I myself fall in the "love it" crowd.


MotoIQ now has a hold of a 2013 Mustang GT with all the Sport package goodies and 6 speed manual gear box.  But first thing's first.  It was time to get out to the track to establish a performance baseline allowing us to sort out the strengths and weaknesses of the car's stock setup.  The venue was "Streets of Willow" at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond CA where our good friends at K.R.O.P.S, "Keep Racing Off Public Streets", were hosting a Friday event which made for less traffic and several clean laps.

I was given the privilege to drive the pony car for the road course laps to get a feel for the many different behaviors at and over the limits to truly decipher where the GT can be improved.  I could not turn down track time in such a fun car either.
Owner of Project 5.0 Mustang Christina Lee helps me get situated before taking her new Mustang out for its maiden voyage on track.  Seating position even for someone as small as myself was easy to adjust to an acceptable position for performance driving.  Here you can also see me setting up the Qstarz LT-Q6000 GPS lap timer before the session which we reviewed a couple of weeks ago.
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Thursday, October 10, 2013 7:14 AM
I'm one of those people who still has serious doubt about the suspension of this car. Hopefully I can be proven wrong. Is there a comparable "popular" track car that you can test against for comparison? The Z has lower HP, but seems to be approximately the same weight and is RWD.
b drecksage
b drecksagelink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 7:28 AM
I had a 2012 5.0...I liked the car alot besides this vagueness that I would get from the rear while cornering hard. I couldnt tell if it was going to snap into over steer or under steer. The handling was impressive, but the communication from the rear was a slight issue. I got rid of it for a 07 mini cooper s.
Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:06 AM
What happened to the last S197? Also, besides the GTR is this the most powerful car on MotoIQs fleet? Although project LSR might edge it out project 5.0 365ish to the wheels is nothing to scoff at.
Wes Dumalski
Wes Dumalskilink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:29 AM
Great article Clint! I need to hit the gallery so that I can see the data #'s better!
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:39 AM
The last S197 is still here. The two projects are going in different directions.
Clint Boisdeau
Clint Boisdeaulink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:49 AM
Jeffball610, Project 370 is about 300lbs lighter then Project 5.0 Mustang
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 12:30 PM
Clint - I keep waiting for you to pull out a Focus St and between Mike and Eric, turn it into an RS equivalent. I'm interested to see which direction both of these 5.0s
Thursday, October 10, 2013 2:24 PM
The overwhelming majority of people I track with are fully aware of the Mustang's potential. It seems the only ones who really doubt the car are Honduh boyz who never actually go to the track. The Boss is not to be taken lightly, even at the strip these cars run the numbers despite their heft. That said, I've never been outrun by one in the ol' C5Z. :D
Thursday, October 10, 2013 3:48 PM
Really happy to see this project being done since I'm doing the same with mine. It is very much a sleeper at the track. It needs significant suspension upgrades to beat the time attack old guard, but no one ever sees it coming when it runs well.
Thursday, October 10, 2013 6:15 PM
The Boss 302 Laguna Seca is a beast on the road course. The weakness in the suspension seems to really only be when the surface gets rough. Yeah, 255 wide rubber doesn't cut it. S2000s often run 255 and weigh almost 700lbs less.
Clint Boisdeau
Clint Boisdeaulink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 6:47 PM
i wanna see 18x10.5 and 295/35/18 all around on this project :D both the NT05 and the BFG rival come in that size
Thursday, October 10, 2013 7:12 PM
R888 as well if you can find any. Another point I forgot earlier. Those who doubt the Mustang's ability to turn remind me of those who think an S chassis can't handle a road course without being sideways.
Clint Boisdeau
Clint Boisdeaulink
Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:01 PM
the R888 only comes in 295/30/18 which is a very small diameter for the huge wheel wells of the mustang, also the plan for the car is street/track day fun, so max performance street tirs are prolly going to be the rubber of choice for the car hence why i recommended the NT05s and the Rivals in the 295/35/18 size
Friday, October 11, 2013 6:45 AM
@Clint. Yes a 370Z is 300lbs lighter, and down about 60+hp to you. The 350Z is only about 200lbs lighter and down over 100hp to you. I was just hoping to make a comparison to a more "popular" track car that somewhat matches the Mustang to compare lap numbers so that you could see if the Mustang is a viable track car in the turns.
Friday, October 11, 2013 10:05 AM
I had autocrossed one of these a while back. I was actually pretty pleased with it. Everyone I knew who had autocrossed one (including the owner of the one I drove) said it understeered too much, but I didn't notice that and got plenty of power on oversteer coming out of the corners and felt like it was easy to control. Different driving style and line I guess, I can get oversteer out of just about anything (including my Outback). With some more practice and better tires I feel like I could have put up competitive times in it.
Clint Boisdeau
Clint Boisdeaulink
Friday, October 11, 2013 10:45 AM

Just to be clear, Project 370z is my car, i dont own Project 5.0 Mustang.

Once Project Mustang gets some of the MotoIQ chassis tune treatment, it will go back out for a track event, most likely same track to get comparision numbers. At that time as well, ill make sure Project 370 is setup for that day's tracking as well. The event we were at in this article, i literally just drove Project Z there in its daily driver setup, biggest factor being i was on my 340 treadware, year old daily driver tires.
Friday, October 11, 2013 12:31 PM
clint, great article, I do have some minor disagreements with how you interpreted some things about the car, but overall I like it. I'm glad to see the Mustang in a positive light in this crowd ;) If you guys need any help or advice on this project as it moves forward, I would be happy to help. Khiem knows me and what my background is, so I'm not just some random schmuck, lol.

Fwiw, to clarify for anyone not familiar with the current mustangs, the car in the article is equipped with the optional track pack that includes a larger radiator, oil to water cooler circuit, and a rear axle with a 3.73 ratio and a torsen LSD, all sourced from the Boss Mustang. The Brembo brake package is also included in the track pack, but is available seperately as well. Some very nice recaro seats are also a standalone option.
Friday, October 11, 2013 12:52 PM
Any consideration of using 285 tires in order to make in enthusiast or street class time attack legal? Or will this strictly be a HPDE car?
Clint Boisdeau
Clint Boisdeaulink
Friday, October 11, 2013 4:08 PM
@Rara, what disagreements did you have? im more then happy to discuss.

@ViperGTSRGT1, 285/35/18 is more then doable if the owner does wanna enter some enthusiast class time attack events. Hankook RS3 in that size would be my recommendation since it runs on the wide side, over 290mm from my last measurement.
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Saturday, October 12, 2013 6:23 AM
The "other" Project Mustang 5.0 runs 285/35ZR18s for SCCA Solo use.
Clint Boisdeau
Clint Boisdeaulink
Saturday, October 12, 2013 3:01 PM
if it was my stang it would be on 315 all around :P
Monday, October 14, 2013 7:01 AM
@ clint, reading back through the article very carefully this morning in order to respond, and I'm realizing my minor disagreements had more to do with the way I read through it quickly than what you actually wrote, lol. I keep trying to write a few comments here to expand a bit on things you've talked about, but I end up writing a book instead. Let's just say I 100% agree that a few specific, but relatively minor upgrades to the Mustang GT will make it a very fast, safe, and predictable track car that can still be daily driven. And if you go a few steps beyond that, it has the capability of being a dominant race and championship winning race car. Unfortunately politics and rules packages have just as much to do with who wins races too.
Monday, October 14, 2013 7:52 AM
oh, I also wanted to add, that I am thrilled to see devices like the Qstarz LT-Q6000 and the comparable AIM device getting so much better. It used to require a lot more effort and several thousands of dollars to get anywhere near that level of data. For people that truly want to go faster, and not just circulate, proper data gathering and interpretation is the only way to get there.
Monday, October 21, 2013 8:37 AM
I hate reading all of this 'poor handling over bumpy surfaces' comments on the Mustang's solid axle suspension. While the comment might deserve some credibility in the relatively soft and high ride height of a stock suspension (except for the BOSS), with a decent aftermarket suspension, the Mustang is very tight, composed, and predictable over any surface.

If you look at the Grand-Am CTSCC series which basically is showroom stock racing, the Mustang handles competitively with Aston Martins, 911s, M3s, etc... with its solid axle and actually has an advantage over bumpy surfaces due to its lack of camber/toe change in the rear and it's ability to thus run a much softer rear spring than the competition.

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