Ford employs more than 10,000 specially rated test drive engineers, but of them, only about 20 have attained the top tier-four status. These talented drivers have completed additional rigorous training and certification that enable them to take Ford Performance vehicles to their limits of traction, power and speed in order to ultimately apply their learnings to developing the company’s mainstream vehicles.
So how do these top drivers stay competitive and agile at the track? Ben Maher, technical specialist, global driver safety and leader of Ford’s internal driver qualification program has teamed up with Andy Vrenko, vehicle dynamics engineer for the Ford Performance Parts division, to make a limited-edition Mustang FP350S track car a little more special and tailored to tier-four training needs.
Aside from a full roll cage and second seat, the FP350S has a 50-channel data acquisition system that allows drivers to gauge their performance down to minute details – such as steering wheel angle, brake pressure and even the transition time between throttle and brake pedal. All of this is extremely helpful in providing individualized instruction as well as ensuring the driver meets the objective requirements to be a tier-four driver.
“The performance limits of the FP350S are so high that to master it, vehicle control needs to become automatic,” says Maher. “High-limit driving becomes intuitive to the point that when one of these drivers gets in another vehicle, they are freed up to observe more of what’s happening at the vehicle level.”