Historic Sebring Raceway was again the place for Ford Enthusiasts to gather this past weekend for the annual Camp Steeda / SVTOA Sebring Sensation. While no official track records were broken, this year’s attendance set a record as over 120 Mustangs, Truck and Foci ran the entire 3.7 mile Sebring circuit – a first in the history of the event. A Ford-Only car show, vendor midway, classroom instruction and a brace of social events rounded out the agenda.
The big social gathering of the weekend was the sold out Saturday Night Banquet, sponsored this year by Trader Publication’s Mustang and Ford Trader magazine, the first book savvy Ford buyers reach for when shopping for older, collectable or specialty vehicles and parts. After dinner, Ford SVT Chief Engineer Jay O’Connell made a presentation that left no doubt that he’s the right man for the job at SVT. Jay shared his personal history of automotive design and competition with all in attendance – a series of rather impressive accomplishments. Following Jay was the raffle and auction, and here another record was set, with roughly three times the number of prizes seen in recent years being raffled off, all donated by Steeda and its marketing partners. Other items were auctioned off, including rides in the Ford GT40 Supercar, with all proceeds going to benefit the Big Brothers / Big Sisters charity. On Friday, Hau Tai Tang spoke at the Vendor Meet & Greet, and shared his insider’s view of what lies ahead for Ford performance enthusiasts, including the Sport Trac Adrenalin.
But cars were the stars of this event, both in the show and on the track. David Siegel of Total Mustang Supply rode herd on the car show crowd, where a handsome collection of cars and trucks were on display, and the judges were astute enough to differentiate between a little tire smut on the fenders, fresh from an on-track excursion and a vehicle that was just dirty. The showcase opportunity was also put to good use by Ford – they had a yellow GT on hand for the event, and when the red Shelby GT 500 arrived on Saturday, the SVT display was SRO as folks young and old got to look at, in and under the prototype, scheduled for delivery in the ‘07 model year.
Classroom instruction was held for drivers on all levels, with in-car instruction on the track for novices as well, all coordinated by the SVTOA. For the hardcore performance enthusiast, it doesn’t get any better than this – you, and your Ford, running at speed on the open road course. Our attempts to calculate the smilage at the event proved futile, as the enjoyment was multiplied, lap after lap.
Professional race drivers Lance Stewart and Charles Espenlaub were also on hand, giving enthusiasts, SVTOA members and Steeda employees rides in the #20 Steeda Q400R, ‘95 Steeda Cobra R (the first production Mustang to win a professional road race in 20 years), and the ‘93 Steeda Cobra R (the Cobra used by Ford Engineering and Steeda to develop brakes for the 1993 Cobra R Program).
In addition to the race cars, enthusiasts got to ride with Steeda President, Dario Orlando in the ‘01 Steeda Q 400 development Mustang, equipped with the famed Steeda 5 Link rear suspension and a power plant producing over 500 rear wheel horsepower, the Q 400 turned lap times comparable to purpose built race cars. All this in a Mustang with air and a stereo!
Steeda’s extremely talented technical staff was on hand under the direction of Chief Racing Engineer Steve Chichisola, and provided SVTOA members other participants with replacement parts and services. And when the call came out for replacement brake pads on Saturday, new Steeda Rep Pat Kinder hightailed it back to the Steeda Campus for replacements, where he also picked up a Nitto tire to replace one that had been blown while he was driving back to Pompano Beach. Pat returned swiftly with pads, which got Rehagen Racing’s Scott Whitehead back on the track, and the tire, which was mounted with the gracious loan of the tire changer at the Panoz Driving School, located adjacent to the track. Parkway Ford’s Joe Charles was dually impressed by the service.
This was the open track debut of the ‘05 Steeda Screamin’ Yellow Q, and it was quite successful, if one could use the reactions of the media in attendance as a gauge. Jim Campisano, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords Editor enjoyed turning impressive lap times around the challenging Sebring circuit. Campy also enjoyed a couple of turns at the wheel of the #21 American Iron Car fielded by John Moore & Robin Burnett. Moore pulled double-duty at the event, the result of Robin’s recent high-speed incident with.. a soccer ball, which reduced the driver to piloting a golf cart all weekend. Here’s to your speedy recovery, Robin!
The Steeda ‘05 Torch Red Q, fresh from some drag strip testing where it turned a 12.72 @ 108mph in it’s naturally aspirated form, showed spectators and participants alike that it is, like all Steeda vehicles, very much at home on a road race course. And while we’ve closed the book on our record setting event, it’s simply the first of many the SVTOA has scheduled throughout the season and across the nation. Visit their website for a complete listing.