Since then, the program has gained an extremely popular following. So popular in fact, that Ford Performance invited a limited audience of fifty journalists to drive the duo of Shelby Mustangs around the track. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to be one of the aforementioned fifty invited guests.
When the guys at Ford Performance hit us up with an invitation to the GT350 Track Attack Program, we think it’s safe to say, strong-arming us into attending this awesome event wasn’t necessary.
We had the opportunity to attend the Southern California event located at Buttonwillow Raceway out of Buttonwillow, California — where professional driving instructors from the Ford Performance Racing School let us beat the everliving snot out of a couple of preproduction Shelby Mustangs around the track.
Shelby GT350 Track Attack Program
The GT350 Track Attack Program provides all of the necessary racing safety equipment for all attendees.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Shelby GT350 Track Attack program, grab yourself a cold drink and we’ll take care of the rest. In a nutshell, for every ’15+ Shelby GT350 or GT350R purchase, the new owner receives a complimentary one-day track-and-classroom experience included at no cost.
Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why does Ford include a track driving experience at no cost to the end-user?” Well, it’s rather simple. Ford Motor Company has invested a lot of time, effort, and money into the Shelby GT350 Mustangs, and those investments transfer directly to the end-user through the track-and-classroom experience.
Longtime Shelby fans will distinctly remember Carroll Shelby’s famous words, “These cars are meant to be driven, so enjoy the hell out of all of it – not just the look of it when it is all clean.” In essence, the purpose of the Track Attack Program is to learn how to drive your Shelby Mustang; both on the track, and the street.
The entire fleet of Ford Performance cars were on display at the GT350 Track Attack Program.
The program teaches enthusiasts the dynamics of their Shelby Mustang and how to build high-performance driving skills, such as braking and cornering techniques. And because the program is comprised of Ford Performance Racing School instructors who have won multiple championships in the past, enthusiasts also receive the added benefits of proper driving posture and seating positions; something that’s hard to put a price on if you ask us.
A few of the preproduction models on display included the all-new 2017 Ford GT and the 2016 Ford Focus RS. An incredible experience to see them both in person!
Multiple generations of Mustangs filled the parking lot upon our arrival for the event.
The program lasted a little over four hours, with registration beginning at 8 AM sharp. After completing our registration, all of the attendees broke into groups of three to begin the event. The event consisted of three courses.
The first was a brief history on the transition from Ford’s Special Vehicle Team division (SVT) to the most recently named Ford Performance division, followed by a breakdown of the Shelby GT350 and GT350R. Lastly, the good stuff. The on-track experience everyone had been waiting for. The chance to drive the most track-capable Mustang available today.
Our test mule for the day was a preproduction 2016 Shelby GT350 with an optional Tech Package.
The question that’s on everyone’s mind, “How does the Shelby GT350 drive on the track?” isn’t any easy one to answer by any means. It’s hard for us to put this amazing experience into words, as it takes a ton of composure for us not to sound like a bunch of fanboys, to say the least.
In a nut shell, the Shelby GT350 is an amazingly competitive track/street car. During our driving experience on the track, our initial driving lap was spent getting to know the car, pushing it out of every corner as hard as we could while testing the limits of the car’s grip.
Our initial thoughts were that the factory Michelin tires contributed immensely to the intense amount of grip which goes without saying. When combined with the linear power-band of the 526 horsepower 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 engine in the Shelby utilizing it’s unique flat-plane crank, both aspects played a huge role in keeping the car in the perfect power-range while entering and exiting the corners flawlessly. Factoring in the phenomenal suspension setup along with the above, and we had a Mustang on our hands which we couldn’t even get to oversteer once on the track.
No matter how hard we pushed the GT350, it just kept its composure throughout every lap, never losing an ounce of performance or reliability.
The Tremec TR-3160 6-speed manual transmission found in the pair of Shelby Mustangs also helped keep the GT350’s engine in a rev-happy range. We found ourselves always in 2nd or 3rd gear and rarely ever downshifting during our lap time in the GT350, which says a lot about the power from a low RPM advantage.
A mixture of both GT350 and GT350R Shelby Mustangs were available at the track.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest experiences we had during our time at the GT350 Track Attack Program was winding out the Shelby’s Voodoo engine to the full 8,250 RPM range on Buttonwillow’s long straight-aways at more than 100 MPH. In our opinion, there’s really nothing that compares to that experience. Knowing that you’re only in third gear and reaching more than 100 MPH, yet there’s still more than half of the power available which has yet to be unlocked, is something that’s very hard to describe.
The guys at Ford brought plenty of GT350 and GT350Rs for us to view on display.
But of all the incredible features that the Shelby GT350 has to offer, we think one of the most extraordinary hallmarks are the brakes. In our opinion, it’s something that’s easily overlooked on the GT350/GT350R, yet it plays one of the most important roles on the car, along with the tires and suspension respectively.
The braking system is comprised of a GT350-specific package which includes 15 1/2-inch by 1.4-inch directional vane rotors and a pair of Brembo six piston calipers crafted from a single piece of solid aluminum with an integrated bridge, making them extremely stiff and providing reliable pedal feel no matter how hard they are pushed. They are, without a doubt, the most capable brakes ever fitted to a production Mustang.
All in all, our day at the track in the truly spectacular GT350 isn’t something we will soon forget. Clearly it, and its harder-edged sibling the GT350R, are the best handling track-ready Mustangs of all time, and we can’t think of any other Ford vehicle in the five-figure price range that can top it. If you get the chance to drive one at speed in an open-track environment, such as we did, we think you will certainly agree.
Check out our on-the-street review of the Shelby GT350R here.