Last weekend, the #20 Steeda Q500R Mustang competed in the 2018 SARRC Championship at Roebling Road Raceway of Savannah, GA.
Being victorious in the Series Championship would take a combination of vehicle preparedness, driver skill, and race strategy to beat the best-of-the-best that were picked for this event.
The following is a ‘behind the scenes’ recap of the race strategy, trials, and tribulations that led to a victorious weekend for our V.P. of Operations – Glen Vitale who piloted the Steeda Q500R to the championship win.
Chapter 1 – Should of, Would of, Could of…
After our race win in Sebring, we acquired enough points in the South Atlantic Road Racing Championship (SARRC) to have a solid chance of winning the 2018 Championship. After Sebring we were 3rd in overall points – 49 points behind the then points leader. We were in this position because we purposely missed a race earlier in the season due to a scheduling conflict with Steeda’s 30th Anniversary celebration events.
The last and deciding race of the season was going to be held at Roebling Road Raceway just outside of Savannah, GA. This particular championship race pays out double points for entrants and mathematically, if we were to win the race, we would get 50 points with second place getting 44 points – we could potentially win the championship by 1 point. This, the last race of the season, is invitation only and the invites are only handed out to the race teams that finish 6 races or more in the SARRC Series. Being that this race was held in Savannah and the #20 Steeda Q500R was going to be on display the very next weekend after the Sebring race in Myrtle Beach, SC for Mustang Week, we decided to keep the car at our Valdosta facility. This was a decision that we would regret later on because the Valdosta facility does not have the same dyno that we have at the Pompano facility.
Chapter 2 – Uh Oh…
Two weeks before the race we placed the #20 car on the dyno to verify HP and Torque for the next race (standard procedure before every race). Based on the performance of the last race at Sebring we had no inclination that it would be down on power. Unfortunately, down on power was exactly what it was showing. So, the Valdosta team went into full action to find the problem of why the dyno results were showing it was down on power. A considerable amount of time was spent checking and verifying the power output of the car – as we were trying various engine management calibrations in an effort to bring power output back up to our expectations. We thought we found the problem with a faulty air meter sensor that was replaced however … the dyno was still telling us we were down.
Chapter 3 – Panic Time
The plan was to depart Valdosta at 5:00 am Friday morning before the race weekend at Roebling Road, this would get us to the race track a little after 8:00 am and give us a full day of testing before qualifying started on Saturday. Unfortunately Thursday night the Steeda team was still scratching their heads on why the car was not making sufficient power. By Friday morning, we were still trying different calibration combos on the #20 car to get it right. Finally, at 2:00 pm Friday afternoon the decision was made to go to the track with what we had as the dyno we were using was now being suspected of giving us erroneous numbers, meaning nothing was actually wrong with the race car as far as horsepower to begin with. Due to the extended dyno research time, we missed out on valuable track time which we would have to make up for now in the two 20 minute qualifying sessions we have on Saturday before Sunday’s race.
- Steeda Gtrac Suspension Upgrades
- Steeda S550 Mustang MT-82 Tri-Ax Race Short Throw Shifter (2015-2017 GT)
- Steeda NEW ProFlow Mustang Cold Air Intake Tune Required (15-19 GT)
- Steeda S550 Front Splitter Street (2015-2017 GT w/ PP chin)
- SCT X4 Power Flash Programmer – (97-17)
- Steeda S550 Functional Race Wing (2015-2019 All)
- Wilwood Brakes
- Exedy Clutch
- Stainless works long tube headers
Chapter 4 – Adversity Is Nothing New To Us
We unloaded Saturday morning and went out to first round qualifying on a set of old scuffed-up tires. We did this because we were aware that the morning qualifying session would be the faster qualifying session due to air quality and track conditions, and we knew that we would not be able to get everything out of the car being that this was Glen’s first time back at this track in 16 years.
Our thinking was correct as we were 4 seconds off the lead T1s pace which was a new edge cobra with a coyote power plant on a fresh set of sticker tires (e.g. new tires). We were a little worried because 4 seconds is not easy to make up but Glen felt confident that the new set of sticker tires we were putting on the car for 2nd round qualifying would give us a big boost and he was just going to have to jump on the wheel and use the throttle a lot more and the brake a lot less.
We rolled out on the 2nd round qualifying and sure enough our first lap was 2.5 seconds faster than our best lap in the first round qualifying. By the end of the 2nd round qualifying Glen managed to get our car within a half second of the lead T1 mustang for that session and he was 1 second off his morning time. We were starting to get in the other teams head and we knew it at the end of that session. We figured this out because during that qualifying session, the lead T1 car did not initially come out to qualify probably because he thought his 4-second lead was in no danger of being beat. Well after that first lap our team noticed his team scrambling to get their driver in the car and out on the track.
When he got on the track he came out behind and Glen purposely slowed up to let him by, Glen knew he was fast and also knew this was his home track, so he knew it well and Glen wanted to see what his line was through the corners. No dice he had none of that and refused to accelerate. After a lap of just driving around the course at a snails pace Glen sped back up to take advantage of the valuable track time that we needed. We completed the session and prepped the car for the next day’s championship race which included going over every detail making sure she was bullet proof for the 20 lap sprint race.
Chapter 5 – Time To Show Them What Steeda Is All About
Qualifying is one thing … racing door handle to door handle is a completely different thing. Putting together one bonsai quick lap takes a particular skill but racing with other cars in tight quarters takes a whole different set of skills. This was our sentiment over dinner as we strategized how the race would go down tomorrow. Due to our qualifying efforts we would be starting 2nd in class alongside the other Mustang and about 3 or 4 rows back in the group of other classed cars.
Plan A, was if Glen could stay on his outside through the first 2 turns then going into the 3rd turn the competition would be forced to slow down and file in behind Glen because there was no grip on the outside of turn 3 which is where the other Mustang would end up. Plan B, if he got out in front of Glen on the start then Glen would fall in behind him and just apply pressure in hopes of wearing him out over the 20 lap race where eventually he would slow down and Glen could pass him before the race was over. We were comfortable with both plans and both plans were developed based on the research of the other driver’s past experience, which was a lot less than Glen’s past experiences.
The race started and the #20 Steeda Q500R did her job and pulled like a freight train down the front stretch to take the green we pulled him a little bit and he came back under braking for turn 1 to pull back along side us. Again, the #20 Steeda Q500R did its job and stayed planted on the outside of turn 1 where Glen was on the dirtier non-preferred line. Because of the great traction we were getting, Glen was able to hold the other Mustang down low in the corner only giving him the minimum amount of space needed to get around the corner without going off the course. We exited turn 1 and immediately entered turn 2 which was similar to turn 1 and Glen was still on the outside of him in the dirtier part of the track. As we exited turn 2 and started transition across track to carry as much speed down the straightway to the next corner, he hit Glen on the door… by this point Glen was pulling ahead and had a full fender on him. The hit had minimal effect on our car and we later found out even though his door hit our rear tire the Steeda G-Trac Suspension stayed true and never went out of alignment.
We drag raced down to turn 3 where, just like we said in Plan A the night before, the #20 Steeda Q500R would finally have the advantage it was looking for all weekend. However, what we did not figure on was that the competition would actually try to race us on the outside of this very fast sweeping turn. Well, it did not work for him and he lost control of his car and went spinning off the track to our outside. This gave us a healthy 30-second lead, which is all we needed to take home the win and the championship. At the end of the race the competition expressed his displeasure to us in the technical inspection area but we were all confidant that we did nothing wrong and the race video proves that.