The highly anticipated Sports Car Club of America® Club Spec concept has moved from theoretical to tangible with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s Race Division jumping in to assist in the build and initial test run of an SCCA Club Spec Mustang.
In bright and eye-catching yellow, the Club Spec Mustang was unveiled in Indianapolis during December’s Performance Racing Industry trade show. Then the 2005 Ford S197 Mustang GT was put through its inaugural paces a few days later in Akron, OH, at the Goodyear Proving Grounds.
It was June 2023 when SCCA announced its exploration of Club Spec. The philosophy behind the concept is that anyone should be able to build a single car along common rulesets that supplies both performance and competitiveness at SCCA Solo® and Tire Rack SCCA Time Trials National Tour Powered by Hagerty events, as well as offer the reliability needed for Track Night in America® Driven by Tire Rack outings.
Two different vehicle types were announced for use in 2024 as Club Spec cars, which will compete as separate classes at some events in the coming year. Those platforms are 2006-’15 Mazda MX-5s and 2005-’09 Ford Mustang GTs. It just so happened that Goodyear had a bone stock Mustang sitting at its Proving Grounds in Texas that fit the Club Spec bill.
Jay Chapman, Goodyear Race Division Sales Account Manager, said the car in Texas had been used for several years in development and testing of Goodyear products before being shipped north to Akron. It then headed up the road to Atomic Autosports in Wickliffe, OH, where specific parts allowed under Club Spec Mustang rules were added, including the Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3 spec tires.
“We worked with SCCA and its partners to source all the parts and get them off to Atomic Autosports for installation,” Chapman said. “It’s a big deal to get the first one of these built, be first to display it, first to show proof of concept, and then actually go out and drive the car,” Chapman added. “Goodyear was first, first, first … which is great and a lot of fun.”
The Club Spec Mustang Build
At Atomic Autosports, shop owner and SCCA member Bill Snow placed the Club Spec Mustang project in the capable hands of Senior Technician Matt Harbert, who is also an SCCA competitor. Lending a hand was Dan Dennehy-Rodriguez, an active participant at SCCA events and SCCA’s Manager of Partner Relationships. Together, they upgraded Goodyear’s stock car to Club Spec Mustang status in less than 10 hours from start to finish.
In no particular order, the punch list of items installed consisted of:
- Strano Performance Parts/UMI Club Spec Mustang S197 Sway Bar Kit
- Front Sway Bar Reinforcement Kit (sandwich plate)
- Billet Sway Bar Bracket and Bushing Set
- Strano Performance Parts/UMI Ford Mustang GT S197 Adjustable Front Strut Tower Brace
- Strano Performance Parts/UMI On-Car Single Adjustable Panhard Bar
- Goodridge G-Stop Brake Line Kit
- Eibach Pro-Kit Lowering Springs
- KONI Sport Strut (yellow) Sealed Front and Rear
- K&N Intake
- Hawk DTC-60 Front Brake Pads
- Hawk DTC-30 Rear Brake Pads
- Hawk DOT 4 Brake Fluid
- Enkei PF-01 18x9.5 Wheels.
- Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3 Tires.
“It was pretty cut-and-dry,” Harbert said of the build. “The kits were amazing. The parts were good quality … and it was fun, for sure. I really enjoy doing projects like this.”
Harbert, who has previous experience working on Mustangs, said instructions that came with the kits were clear and easy to understand. No special tools were required beyond what most gearheads have in their garage. One caveat is access to a spring compressor, and a car lift makes things easier, too. But Harbert said the Club Spec Mustang conversion process can be done with a jack and jack stands.
Changes to the car progressed front to back. Front strut and sway bar work came first, then attention shifted to the back of the car for focus on rear shocks, springs, sway bar, and panhard bar. Front brake work was next, then rear brakes. Lastly, the air intake system was installed, and Goodyear’s tires mounted.
According to Harbert, the Club Spec Mustang build wasn’t too difficult and could be accomplished by most enthusiasts. There are lots of videos online that can offer guidance, and experience gained during the installation process can only add to a person’s cadre of skills moving forward.
“My favorite thing about building cars like this is seeing how they look at the end,” Harbert added. “Once we got the stickers on and put the car back on the ground, the Goodyear Club Spec Mustang looked really good, and it was non-stop smiles for me and Dan.”
The Test Drive
If you take time to build a new toy, you’ve got to play with it, right? That’s exactly what happened Dec. 12, 2023, during a sunny day in Akron at the Goodyear Proving Grounds – and there was no one better to run the new steed through its initial analysis than Goodyear Performance Test Driver and Development Engineer Dave Ogburn, who is also an SCCA Road Racing and Autocross frontrunner.
Ogburn has twice won at the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships, once in A Stock and the other in C Street. He currently competes wheel-to-wheel in SCCA’s Spec Racer Ford Gen3 class, where he was runner-up by just 0.359sec last October at the 60th SCCA National Championship Runoffs®. Adding to his resume is that he’d spent hours behind the wheel of the stock Mustang GT that was turned into the Goodyear Club Spec Mustang, making him perfect for a before-to-after comparison.
The coned test course at the Goodyear Proving Grounds in Texas, where both Ogburn and the car came from, is laid out with GPS mapping. Goodyear has used that data to create an exact replica of the layout at the Proving Grounds in Akron, meaning Ogburn could evaluate with better certainty the true impact of Club Spec performance upgrades, albeit December temperatures in Ohio were in the upper 30-degree range when the day began.
“In the Club Spec trim, the Mustang is much more engaging and fun to drive,” Ogburn said. “The Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3 tires add a lot of grip to the overall platform, and the suspension package seems to keep the car flatter and reduces understeer. I could really attack a slalom much more than I ever felt in that car before.”
As a sidenote, the Goodyear Club Spec Mustang was not fitted with the allowed Maximum Motorsports Caster Camber Plates. It was Ogburn’s opinion those camber plates would add even more front grip and make the car more neutral in corners.
An ability to push more comfortably to the car’s limits was an added benefit Ogburn attributed to the Club Spec upgrade. The improved vehicle dynamics will encourage drivers to attack a course with a lot more precision and confidence, Ogburn explained.
“The Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3 tire, your first lap in cool weather may be a warmup lap,” Ogburn advised. “When it’s cool outside, you have to let the temperature build in the tire. For something like Track Night in America or SCCA Time Trials, by the second lap you will have worked up some temp in the tire and should be ready to go.”
Goodyear Club Spec Mustang’s Future
Automotive manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota, and General Motors have employee-driven SCCA competition efforts, but a tire company with an in-house SCCA competition squad is something quite new – and it’s an employee perk Goodyear is exploring now that it has an SCCA Club Spec Mustang.
Chapman said Goodyear’s marketing staff were at December’s Club Spec Mustang test, and they had some ride-alongs with performance driving co-workers. The exercise revealed an opportunity to involve more Goodyear employees in motorsports experiences offered through SCCA’s innovative initiatives that open #funwithcars to everyone.
“Everything is being looked at,” Chapman said regarding future use of Goodyear’s Club Spec Mustang. “The Tire Rack One Lap of America Presented by Grassroots Motorsports, SCCA Time Trials, SCCA Solo, SCCA Track Night in America … it’s all being looked at as ways to play with Goodyear’s new Club Spec Mustang.”
Ogburn supports Goodyear’s initiative on this effort as it involves more than just the company’s test drivers.
“This is great for Goodyear tire designers, marketing personnel, sales staff … because we’ve got a car now that helps the business overall and is also fun,” Ogburn added. “It’s a cool way to get Goodyear employees across the board more involved.”
Keep an eye out for the bright, eye-catching yellow Goodyear-badged Club Spec Mustang at SCCA Solo, Time Trials National Tour, and Track Night in America gatherings in the coming year.
Photo by Brian Bielanski