Sebring International Raceway was the track of choice for the 2003 SVTOA/Camp Steeda Sebring Sensation. This year’s SVTOA/Camp Steeda was without a doubt one hot on-track event. As temperatures reached into the 90s SVT and Steeda Mustang enthusiasts were undeterred. Held in the heart of Florida, Sebring was the perfect location for this two-day event. The Sebring Sensation was a great driving school, with instruction for beginners to the most advanced drivers. Evident from the great turn out, SVT and Steeda Mustang enthusiasts love going fast and not just in a straight line. Throughout the weekend these enthusiasts pushed their cars to the limits.
Most participants arrived Friday evening to register and settle into their hotel rooms to get ready for an early and exciting day on Saturday. Many relaxed in the lobby trading triumphant stories and boastful jest of superior driving ability in anticipation of the coming days events. Saturday started with an early breakfast at 6:30am, which many skipped to get their car ready for Tech inspection at 7am. Tech inspectors looked for unsecured objects that need to be removed from the car. The inspectors set tire pressures on the participant’s cars and torqued the lug nuts to make sure the wheels were secure. The tech inspectors looked for potentially major problems with a vehicle that would keep it from being a safe vehicle on the courses. After passing inspection everyone headed into the cool of the Hotel for the Driving instruction class held by Jeff Lacina, SVTOA’s chief driving instructor. Jeff Lacina led the ground school with proper car control, vehicle dynamics and course navigation. After class was dismissed, the participants who were separated into groups based on experience, headed to the autocross to sharpen the lessons they just learned in the classroom. An autocross is a miniature version of a track where only one vehicle navigates at a time. Most autocrosses are created in parking lots or large open sections of pavement.
While one group was autocrossing the other groups were free to browse the vendor fair. Gil Cormaci from Vortech Engineering, Dennis Kiyomiya and Konrad Galamgam from Nitto Tires, Kirk Rooney from Tokico Gas Shocks, Bruce Hyland from Tremec Transmission Company, Robert Stone from Hyperco, and Jack Daly from JD Companies. Special guests Mark Wilson from Ford Motor Company Customer Service, and Dean Martin from Special Vehicle Engineering were present and in contact with their customers. Steeda engineer Dan Carlson gave suspension seminars and answered tech question for participants waiting their turn on the autocross. Many participants commented that were it not for Dan Carlson’s Lego models they would still not understand Mustang suspension design. As one participant commented, “It’s funny how his Lego’s made things so clear!”
After some Lego enlightenment, many drivers had their chance on the autocross, sharpening their skills and before long it was time for lunch. On a full stomach and cool from the A/C participants were excited to hit the skidpad for some lessons in car control. A skidpad is another large section of pavement with a large diameter circle marked on the surface. A dry skidpad is normally used to determine the amount of cornering force a vehicle can uphold before losing control. A wet skidpad, which was used at this event, is normally used to teach students car control. As many found out a controlled skid takes a great amount of skill and practice. Charles Espenlaub, Steeda’s pro driver gave an entertaining demonstration of such refined skill. Charles took the Steeda 47 Cobra R onto the skidpad with full slicks and was able to circle the pad three times before breaking his controlled skid. As the sun was setting and the all groups were finishing on the skidpad and autocross. Charles Espenlaub once more was called on to entertain the crowd. First hopping into the Steeda 47 Cobra R he took it for a spin on the autocross course, taking passengers for rides showing them the correct line through the course. Many of the students watched as Charles continued to take Steeda’s arsenal of Q400 and Race Mustangs through the ringer on the autocross. But all withstood the trial of the autocross.
As the sun finally set everyone headed back to the hotel Chateau Élan to cool down and freshen up the nights banquet. Gene Pavliscsak gave a speech to start the Banquet thanking all the sponsors and manufacturers for participating and supporting the event and it’s enthusiasts. Participants were then treated to a five star dinner with a prize raffle to top things off. Prizes such as a full set of Nitto Tires, a set of Steeda Ultra-Lite wheels, Tri-Ax shifter, Hawk brake pads, TTC accessories, and a host of other goodies were given away by the manufacturers attending the event.
Sunday started with an early breakfast at 6am but once again many participants chose to skip it in order to prepare their cars for tech inspection. With the Tech inspection lines full before they officially opened at 7am the excitement to get on track was overwhelming. Before the engines were fired up for the first lapping sessions of the morning Jeff Lacina held a drivers meeting, to once again refresh everyone on the proper conduct and rules when on the open track. Brakes and brake fluid is a very important part of preparing a car for an open track event. Luckily for many enthusiasts, Steeda technicians Steve Chichisola, Chad Coy, and Sam Cory were ready and standing by to help participants get back on track for more fun. Towards the middle of the day Charles Espenlaub along with other Steeda drivers, brought all of Steeda’s vehicles onto the track for some exhibition laps. The 22 Steeda Focus was on track impressing the crowd with it’s refined power and superb handling. Many of the special guest that had an opportunity to ride and drive the 22 Focus could not believe the handling ability of this Ford product and the refinements by Steeda Autosports. The event was nearly without incident as the last session was wrapping up. Steeda Chief Engineer Dan Carlson was completing one of his last few laps, and some of his fastest laps of the day, when disaster almost struck. As he approached 100 miles per hour on the front stretch after the hairpin he blew a tire sending his car into a spin. Skillfully, Dan kept his car off the wall and made it through unharmed, giving the participants quite a show.
SVTOA/Camp Steeda participants were able to ride along with Charles Espenlaub in the Steeda #20 Q400R Mustang for only $20. With shaky hands and their adrenaline pumping many thought it was well worth the ride. Many young kids will appreciate the ride-along participants’ courage, as the money raised will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The thought that was on everyone’s mind as they packed up and prepared to head home was anticipation of next year’s event. Steeda Autosports is excited to have been apart of this event and is looking forward to getting on track with it’s customers at the next Camp Steeda. Special thanks to SVTOA, SVT, Ford Motor Company, Tokico Gas Shock, NittoTires, Vortech Engineering, TTC, Hyperco, JD Companies, and BFGoodrich Tires.