Most car manufacturers don’t even give you free floor mats anymore, let alone a free driving school. Ford Racing and Miller Motorsports Park have partnered up to offer a unique experience that allows all new BOSS 302 owners to participate in a full day driving school – all you need to do is get yourself there. And if the BOSS Track Attack wasn’t enough for you, Miller offers several additional days of paid schools, including the FR500s experience that we couldn’t pass up.
About Miller Motorsports Park
A hardcore Ford race enthusiast himself, Larry H. Miller, owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and many automobile dealerships, originally built Miller Motorsports Park on a five million dollar budget as a place for him and his friends to play. As the word got out about the track project, enthusiasts around the globe wanted to race there as well – thus the budget for the track was substantially grown to the tune of $85 million. The race track held its first race in 2006.
The full course is a 23-turn, 4.486 mile circuit run counterclockwise. The front stretch, which is not used during racing schools, is long enough for vehicles to reach over 200 mph. Smaller configurations of the track can be used for racing at the same time, which is exactly what Miller does for their racing schools. Two 2.2 miles layouts (east and west) that each use half of the full course. Instead of using boring, numerical corner names, Miller uses names like Scream, Knock Out, Agony, and Ecstasy.
A School Designed for Everyone
BOSS 302 owners skill levels on the track vary from beginner to advanced. Miller starts the BOSS Track Attack at the basic level and works from there throughout the day as students advance their skills. The course begins with classroom instruction that overviews braking force, apexing, and vehicle dynamics. The classroom instruction is the most important part of the whole experience. Some of the key points include:
- Always look ahead – By the time you get to a corner, one should be thinking about the next 2-3 turns coming. Tackling one turn at a time will lead to tunnel vision and erratic driving as there’s no time to prepare for what’s coming.
- Brake before the turns and accelerate out – While this might seem like common sense, it’s important to remember vehicle dynamics. As you begin to brake and prepare to turn, the weight is transferred to the front wheels. Get the majority of your turning done before going back onto the gas. At that point, your hands should be unwinding and the Mustang will begin to transfer weight to the rear tires.
- Your right foot is attached to the steering wheel by an imaginary string – No we aren’t delusional. This one is a simple idea to grasp. As steering input increases, throttle input (in most circumstances) should decrease. Staying wide open while entering a tight turn is going to induce understeer or oversteer.
- Go slower to go faster – The number one issue with drivers that begin to become confident in their driving is over-driving the corners. Missing the apex and going off the driving line is more detrimental than entering the corner slightly under speed.
- Point the car at the center apex cone – Center apex cones aren’t typically used in racing situations but are during racing schools. Aiming the car at them is going to get you headed in the right direction around the turn.
Getting our Sea Legs
With the classroom instruction over, the class was broken into three groups – heel-toe downshifting, skid pad, and learning the course turn-by-turn. Starting at heae-toe downshifting, students accelerate up to third gear and learn to experiment with the amount of throttle that’s needed to match the transmission’s speed when rowing aft through the gears. Too much throttle will shock the drivetrain and the tires will chirp. The best method is go for less throttle than too much. Matching the engine-to-transmission speed when downshifting allows for smoother and quicker braking response as the Mustang is using both the decelerating engine speed and brakes to slow down.
From there our group went out to learn the course. This is one of the most important parts of the learning experience as our instructors have clocked hundreds of laps on the various Miller track configurations. They know the quickest way through every corner and learning all of the turns is key. Braking and center apex cones are staggered throughout the course and are valuable visual aids when it comes to learning the line.
The final session before heading out on track was the skid pad. There a Ford Fusion is strapped to a large contraption that lifts weight off the rear tires in induce low speed oversteer. Slowly rotating the wheel counterclockwise while easing off the throttle slightly was what the instructors were looking for. Quick and abrupt turns or braking would send the Fusion into a spin. Loosing it while going over 100 mph through a turn on course is less than desirable and something the instructors were looking to avoid.
Lead-Follow and Solo Runs
Graduating to the next level, we move to the track for a lead-follow with the instructor. With instructor out front and three student BOSS 302s following, everyone gets a chance to watch the instructor’s line through each turn. Lap after lap, we begin to pick up speed through the corners, while the instructor keeps a close eye on the pack to make sure no one is falling back. Every time we performed a lead-follow, we would come back to the class and talk about what we learned.
As the instructors become comfortable with the student’s progression, the real fun begins – hot lap sessions! We were only allowed to pass on two sections of the track, the front and back straights, and only when given a point-by out the window. The first solo session the instructors sat shotgun for two laps a student to give pointers as we drove through the course. The remaining two sessions ended with a self esteem crushing (and exhilarating) ride with an instructor that showed you how much more there is still to learn. All the students from our Freshman class, while tired from a full day of racing, left with smiles on their faces and plenty of sweat on their brow. Everyone would return for the second (paid) day in a FR500s.
Day 2: The FR500s
- Roll cage built to SCCA, NASA and Grand-Am Spec Factory-built and painted body shell with all sound deadening and seam sealer deleted
- Complete safety system including integral side head restraint, a six-point harness, quick-release hub, fire suppression system and window net.
- 3:73-ratio axle with Ford Racing/Torsen differential
- Sealed 325 hp 4.6L 3-valve
- Front Suspension: Two-way adjustable front dampers with coil springs, adjustable anti-roll bar
- Rear Suspension: Live-axle; Panhard rod, two-way adjustable rear dampers with coil-over springs, anti-roll bar
- Ford Racing/Brembo 4-piston 14″ Front brakes with race pads front & rear; Race ABS calibration
Learning the West Course
The FR500s classroom discussion is much more to the point then when we started the BOSS Track Attack. There’s no need to rehash conversations about braking force, what an apex was, and how to battle oversteer. It was now how to drive a race car safe and fast. The goal of today was track time and instructors kept the classroom talk to a minimum to accommodate this.
Next we braced ourselves inside the Ford 12 passenger vans as instructors took us on quasi-hot laps, introducing us to the West course, which is faster and less technical than the east course. We then jumped into a standard Mustang with an instructor for more course discussion at speed. It was back to the classroom for one more brief discussion before the moment we have all been waiting for – strapping into the FR500s.
Lead-Follow and Solo Runs
As with any race car with a full cage, it takes a bit of learning on how to even get in and out of the car. Once we were strapped in we headed to the track for a lead-follow session similar to the BOSS Track Attack. Each instructor headed up three to four students staggered on course. Each student would shuffle back in line after a lap so that we could get an opportunity to see the instructor’s line up close. Sitting in a line of FR500s race cars while driving one is a pretty breathtaking experience.
With our bellies full from lunch, we were ready for our open track sessions. There were three, 30 minute sessions with 30 minute classroom sessions in between. The idea is to improve your driving after each session, turn by turn. With the lighter weight FR500s on racing slicks and race brakes, this pony car truly handled like it was on rails. As you can see in the video above, the side G-loads are so great, that it’s hard to even keep your head straight!
Amazing Time at an Amazing Facility
Everything from the instructors to the race track at Miller Motorsports Park are top notch. The BOSS Track Attack is a program that shows that an auto manufacturer like Ford still cares about the enthusiast and their ability to harness the true potential of their car. The FR500s experience on day two was again, breathtaking. Being able to strap into a race proven Mustang for nearly two hours of nonstop driving is well worth the investment. We have to say that this was one of our top racing experiences ever and guarantee you will not be disappointed if you give Miller Motorsports Park a chance.