Obsolescence to Obsession – Tales of the Rented Mule (FPRS GT350 Track Attack #14)

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Muligan

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Why do you do that to me?!!?!?!?

That is super tempting, but I think that a set or two of Forgeline or Signature wheels in their lightest 18" configuration with the DH slicks will fit my purposes better.

Most of the pro series have moved away from 19" tires, so getting take-off slicks for the 19" carbon wheels will be problematic. My local tire guy, who has a great pipeline of those take-offs, has an incredible stock of 18" tires to choose from all the time - including many that are new stickers or scrubs. The best part - they're $100 - $150 per tire!!!

 

Tomster

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Why do you do that to me?!!?!?!?

That is super tempting, but I think that a set or two of Forgeline or Signature wheels in their lightest 18" configuration with the DH slicks will fit my purposes better.

Most of the pro series have moved away from 19" tires, so getting take-off slicks for the 19" carbon wheels will be problematic. My local tire guy, who has a great pipeline of those take-offs, has an incredible stock of 18" tires to choose from all the time - including many that are new stickers or scrubs. The best part - they're $100 - $150 per tire!!!
Yes, many of the serious racers I see run 18". I was just throwing that out there. Deduct the price of the tires and you are probably looking like a set of CF R wheels to be about $8K. That's a steal for new condition wheels.
 
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Thanks, @Tomster, that is a great deal for someone and hopefully one of the members here will jump on it based on your stand-alone thread for the listing.
 
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The Road America video sorta got shuffled back a bit on the last page, so for those who may have missed our hooligan activities, here's a repost.

 


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Working through prep for another outing - a day-trip next week to Autobahn Country Club to run the full-course with MVP Tracktime..... four miles and 21 turns. Very different than the last trip, as Autobahn has lots of slower and technical bits, compared with Road America which is just flat out fast and you gotta be willing to throw the car away at least four times per lap if you want to get really good times; which I certainly didn't do!

In the meantime, my local tire connection came through with another set of take-off Pirelli DH slicks and these are the best ones yet.... pretty much just scuffs with full "tread" on them. Not bad for 110 bucks a pop.

6.17.22.jpg
 

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As the saying goes; "a picture is worth a thousand words."

Battle Scars.jpg


As you can tell by the rubber scuffs and dead bugs, the Mule saw it's first track outside of Utah and Charlotte this past weekend when it visited Road America.

Before we jump in, here's a summary of where the car stands now:

From FPRS, it had the following mods -
  • Caliperfexion brake caliper studs
  • Watson Racing bolt-in four-point rollbar
  • Safecraft four-point harnesses
  • Rear seats and belts removed
  • R rear seat delete panel
  • ARP long wheel studs with open lug nuts
  • Maximum Motorsports camber plates
  • Castrol SRF “React” high-temp brake fluid
  • Non-drilled brake rotors with OEM pads
  • '19 Gen2 engine replacement
And to those, I've added -
  • FP "swing" rear spoiler
  • R splitter
  • R grille with extra opening to the left side allowing more air to intake funnel
  • R exhaust (take-off OEM from clamps near cats to tail pipes - valves always open
  • Gutted trunk
  • Enlarged louver openings in the front wheel well liners (1/4" wire mesh at front for coolers)
  • FP tow rings (front and rear)
  • Sparco seats - Pro ADV (dr) and Pro2000 (ps) with sliders and Planted base brackets
  • Anti-sub straps (FPRS harnesses were just four-point)
  • FP air/oil separators (left & right)
  • Vorshlag brake cooling deflectors on lower control arms
  • FP350S-style brake deflectors in lower grille area
  • Motorcraft lightweight AGM battery
  • All fluids replaced
Although the Mule isn't stock, none of the mods so far should have a significant impact on lap times. They do add up to increased safety, reliability, and maybe a bit of mild performance enhancement, but I figured this would be a good time to baseline the car. Therefore, I held-off on installing the FP springs and sway bars and just left the alignment where it was from FPRS. I was even running on the stock MPSS tires that had a bit of wear from FPRS - 28 psi cold / 35 hot.

So, how was it? Well, this was my first real track event in years - aside from one with my '17 and the day out at FPRS in '18 when I first drove this car. I was pretty sure that any skills I may have had dried up long ago. Because of that, my goal was to simply not do anything stupid, ease back into it, and get some baseline impressions and lap times.

First impressions:
  • This thing is fast and way more capable than me;
  • Everybody else is faster..... and seems to be driving a McLaren, GT3RS, or something similarly expensive and rare (see above; "don't do anything stupid");
  • It leans... so much so that the Bill Withers song kept going through my head;
  • And it's floaty.... probably in large part due to the fact that I kept it in "sport" mode to ensure that some of the nannies were around to save me if I forgot the rule about not doing something stupid;
  • That exhaust..... oh my giddy aunt, that exhaust note at full chat; and
  • It can make a duff of a driver like me look like a hero;
I didn't record any times on Saturday - no reason to do so as I was very, very slow. In fact, I declared it to be "national celebrate your rear view mirror day," as that's pretty much all I looked at the whole time. I gave so many point-bys it would have been nice to have a mannequin arm to just hold out the window to avoid cramps. I gave serious thought to asking if I could move down to the intermediate group (they were running two advanced groups, so lots of fast cars), but the weekend was a complete sellout and there wouldn't have been room. Oh, and passing was allowed anywhere - and I mean anywhere - with a point-by. Yep - two wide through the Carousel and even going into the Kink on a couple of occasions!

Sessions were 1/2 hour, so plenty of time to work on things. The first session was spent getting to know the car and reacquaint myself with the track. I did some decent pulls on the straights, so as to avoid being a complete speed-bump, too. The second session I slowed a bit on the straights - back to what I was used to in the "old days," and worked on higher cornering speeds. In the third session, I put it all together, but still at reduced overall speeds.

On Sunday I uncorked it a bit and had an absolute blast. I spent each session running with my friends and trying to keep up, one of whom captured much of our exploits on video and will be posting them on YouTube sometime soon - link to come. The Mule performed really well and I finally connected an Aim Solo for the last session. My three fastest times for that session were 2:40.64, 2:41.10, and 2:41.19 - separated by just over 1/2 second. Given that I was on street tires and still running in "sport" mode (nannies cutting power every so often), I'll take those as very respectable times. More importantly, they're fairly consistent; a sign of good things to come.

As for issues, two things cropped up. First, I have the expected stumble or surge which feels almost like a very momentary application of traction control. I noticed this mostly during steady state throttle around 120 mph - 140 mph. I'm guessing this is the "loose tone ring nut" issue that involves the transmission output shaft flange nut. There was no DTC associated with this, and I haven't tried the cruise control yet (it appears that inoperable cruise is another symptom according to the TSB). The other issue was a DTC related to the evaporative emissions purge valve, which I recall another school car owner encountered. I cleared that code and it didn't return, but I'll look into what this means from a repair perspective. Neither of those issues threw a wet blank on the weekend, though, so I'm calling it a very successful first outing.

EDIT to add temps -

During the harder running on the second day, max temps were as follows. My oil temp seemed lower than a friend who was there with his R, so I'm thinking that the larger louver slots were a good idea (thanks @Tractor Junk).
  • Oil - low 250s
  • Transmission - upper 170s
  • Differential - mid 220s
Next up will be installation of the the FP springs and sway bars, as well as the Apex SM-10 wheels with scrub Pirelli DH slicks, then a really good alignment. Not sure I'll get those done before the next event, which is a full-course bash at Autobahn Country Club (21 turns and just over 4 miles), or if they'll have to wait a bit. In the mean time, here are some pictures from this past weekend.

Loaded up and ready to head to the track - yes.... I still have the wimpy 4Runner tow vehicle.

20220513_124405.jpg


Morning at Road America.
20220514_064116.jpg


Proof is in the pudding - the Mule has potential.
Baseline Lap Times.jpg


The Mule is most satisfied.......

Satisfied Mule.jpeg
Even race mode keeps nannies intact. I for one will never use Sport mode on track. I forgot to switch one day at Gingerman and I seriously thought something had gone wrong on the engine. Ran Blackhawk on another day in race mode. Got pointed by in a dubious area and you know me, I took it. Marbles all over the place. Car started to spin but nannies kicked in and saved my ass. I would never use sport mode on track but that's me
 

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The 18 inch conversion is something I considered but when I did the math per event it didnt work out. That and I run carbon fiber wheels. I will be tryin the new Hankook Slicks soon
 
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The Mule’s second event went exceedingly well – a challenging track, great weather (sunny and mid-90s), good friends, and lots of track time.

This past Monday we ran the full course at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL, which packs 19 turns into a little under four miles. As a private club, the facilities are top-notch and the only stumble occurred when a participant oiled down a bunch of the racing line, including a great flourish in one corner where he spun and continued. As a result, we lost an hour – which was actually a pretty short interval for cleaning such a mess – and all three groups lost a session. But, we still had five 20 minute sessions for the day, so I’ll call this one a win!

Track Map.JPG


Before we get to the nitty-gritty of our most recent escapades, let’s talk trailers and winches. After the terror of driving the Mule up onto my tiny Featherlite open trailer when bringing it home from FPRS and to the first event last month, I decided a winch was in order. My trailer is an 8’6” version with a 14’ long load bed surrounded by a 4” wall. The Mule overhangs both the front and rear and there’s only about an inch on either side between the wheels and the bed wall. Etrailer.com to the rescue with a compact Bulldog winch (4400 lb capacity with nylon rope) that mounted very low in front of the bed. This winch has a separate control box that is supposed to mount on top of the motor cylinder with a band clamp, but by adding longer leads, I was able to mount the control box directly to the trailer tongue underneath the motor cylinder, ensuring plenty of clearance for the front overhang of the car. The winch mounting plate and fairlead are attached directly to the bed wall and then to a 6x6x3 piece of extruded aluminum rectangle tube beneath it that is attached to the trailer with a pair of ½” stainless U-bolts. For power, I installed a marine battery box to the tongue using low profile bolts and fender washers. Rather than power it through the trailer harness, I wired in a battery tender and will just keep the battery at a full charge – more than enough for a few on/off procedures. To connect it to the car, I use a “V” shaped strap that has “J” hooks attached at the ends, which hook into the oval slots on the underside of the front subframe rails that are made just for this purpose. For tie-downs, I'm using Vulcan silver series straps. These have a direct clip connection at the end of the ratchet (no webbing on that end) and a 12' single strap with a "D" ring. The strap wraps around the tire / wheel and then back through the "D" ring, then is goes into the ratchet - very compact and secure.

Final Installation.jpg


All loaded up and ready for a 5 am departure......

20220620_051217 (3).jpg


Now on to the track-day fun. Prep for this event was limited to a detailed inspection and cleaning after last month’s adventure at Road America. I decided to base my oil change interval on time, changing both oil and filter every 4 – 5 hours of track use. This translates to every other event, so oil and filter were left alone for this one. I checked the level – no appreciable reduction after a few hundred miles at high rpm – and the air/oil separators, finding only a small amount (less than 1/8th inch) in the bottom of the passenger side. I will change the oil and filter before the next event and send a sample to Blackstone for analysis. As for tires and brakes, there seemed to be enough left after Road America for a one-day event, so they stayed as-is.

After two events, a couple of things really stood out. First, the OEM MPSS tires… they had a session or two on them from FPRS when I picked the car up last December and I ran them relatively hard at Road America –pushing the poor front left tire way too much through the Carousel, balancing understeer with small throttle inputs all the way. After that event, I was happy to see that the wear across the face of all four tires was very even, perfect amount of roll at the shoulders, plenty of tread remained, and there were no signs of overheating, discoloration, delamination, or chunking, so I decided to run them at Autobahn. Because they are stock sizes on OEM wheels, they had to remain in their current position – no rotation. My expectations for grip and longevity were low given all I’ve read about these tires and my plan was (and is) to use these up while getting to know the Mule better before switching to lighter wheels with take-off Pirelli slicks.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand these are street tires – and not the best ones, at that – but they have performed incredibly well, doing all I asked and holding up to everything I’ve thrown at them. They’re extremely communicative, letting me know both by feel and audible protest before they break loose. For both events, I set pressures at 28 psi cold and then regularly checked them when hot and found them to be consistently 35 psi all-around.

Here’s what they look like after all the abuse they’ve received while at FPRS and under me for three days on-track.

This is the front left, which has taken a real beating......

Front After 3 days.jpg


And here is the rear right.......

Rear After 3 Days.jpg


Another surprise is just how well the OEM brake pads work, including initial cold bite, hot performance, and wear. I’m still running the brakes that were on it from FPRS, which looked to be new pads & rotors on the rear and nearly new pads & rotors on the front – like the tires, the front brakes probably had a couple sessions on them at FPRS before I picked up the car. I continued using Castrol SRF React brake fluid, just as FPRS does, but dang is that stuff spendy – the best price I found was around sixty bucks per liter on Amazon. After Road America, the pads still looked great. The rears appeared new and the fronts were at about the half-way point, with no signs of crazing or warping on the non-drilled rotors – just some pad material transfer. So, I left everything alone for this outing and, lo and behold, the rears still look new and the fronts have around 3 mm left – time to replace, but amazing longevity from a set of OEM pads on such a fast and heavy car. Nothing solid to base this on, but I’m thinking that the Vorshlag cooling deflectors and front duct extenders I installed have something to do with this remarkable brake performance.

With the Mule successfully transported to Autobahn, it was time to focus on the real fun. At Road America, my first event with the Mule, day one was slow and methodical as I became reacquainted with the car and track driving – remember, I’ve been away for a while – and day two saw me picking up the pace a bit as I gained confidence in my rusty skills and the car….. although I kept it in “sport” mode for that entire first weekend. At this event, I ventured into “track” mode territory and started exploring the limits a bit more, just to see how the car reacted to different inputs, such as early throttle on, trail braking, and higher cornering speeds. Thanks to those communicative tires, there were absolutely no surprises. Yeah, we slid around a bit as the day and the tires heated up, but it wasn’t about being fastest. Rather, my goal was to explore the car and how it reacts to various inputs. I came away even more impressed with the GT350 as a solid foundation for further track exploits….. it’s definitely a “hero car” that makes me look way better than I am.

Hanging with an old friend.....

20220620_092223.jpg


With this being the “Back in the Saddle” season (been there, done that, got the t-shirt), I’m still in learning mode, but really enjoying this car. I always thought of my former Bondurant car as a sledge hammer sort of tool and I’m beginning to think I’ve found a worthy successor…. albeit one with a bit more weight to swing!

2022 Back in the Saddle Tour.jpg
 
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barstowpo

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I agree with your perceptions about the tires nd brake pads. I recently bolted on a set of used up Cup2's and found they are another step above. I expected to get a couple of sessions out of them but got 5 days instead. I could have used them a little longer but I blistered the fronts at Fontana and felt it was time to change them. I finally spun it on my last corner of my last lap at Hallett on the SS. They were running the same lap times I had with the Cup 2's but were noticeably slippier.
 

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Enjoying the thread/adventure so far!

Man that 4Runner is getting its workout. Was looking at one to replace my 3rd gen 4Runner but 5k towing wouldn’t cut it so I ended up in a tundra. Do you plan to install helper springs or air bag?
 
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Man that 4Runner is getting its workout. Was looking at one to replace my 3rd gen 4Runner but 5k towing wouldn’t cut it so I ended up in a tundra. Do you plan to install helper springs or air bag?
Poor thing has nearly 190k miles on it and still going strong. It'll be hauling the Mule around all this year for sure, without airbags or helper springs. Gonna be real fun later this summer when it does the 1,400 mile round-trip to Barber Motorsports Park!
 

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Loving the progress you’re making. I’m curious as to your impressions with the “slicks” because I’ve heard the tremendous grip can overwhelm the brake pads. I do not have personal experience, just what I’ve heard.
 
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The Mule's been waiting it's turn to get on my lift and go under the knife again before the next event, so more updates on the mechanical development to come.

In the meantime, it got a night off recently and attended a local cruise. Geneva, Illinois is the county seat around here and has a really cool old courthouse. Every summer, the town's chamber of commerce puts on a weekly cruise night behind the courthouse, complete with a band or DJ and local restaurants that set-up grills and sell food. It's a real old-fashioned good time and brings out lots of local families.

The Mule enjoyed a prominent spot and once word got out among the kids (and dads) that they could climb in and take pics, there was a long line waiting to hop in.

If they gave an award for the most "thanks, you made my kid's day," the Mule surely would have been the the running.

Geneva 7.14.22.jpg
 
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Chris,

You are a class act.

On a side note, the dealership called and the person who bought your car did not return their phone calls. So dont worry about the extras you have.
 

 
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