It’s an uncommonly windy morning at Westworld in Scottsdale. Those of us that reside in the Valley of the Sun are used to heat but not wind and I don’t think I have enough pomade in my hair to keep it properly styled. But issues with my hair aside, I need to gather my focus for my turn to drive the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1.
My current ride is a 2015 Mini Cooper with a factory-rated 134 horsepower turbo 1.25-liter 3-cylinder engine. It’s a zippy, peppy fun car to drive but with an engine the size of a Singer sewing machine, well, it’s a bit underpowered. The lack of horsepower is readily apparent when I must go up a steep hill, specifically when I drove to Colorado a couple of years ago and spent a lot of time in second gear trying to climb the Rockies.
For two laps this Friday morning I found myself behind the steering wheel of the new Mach 1. It’s stout, aggressive and a bit mean looking. Definitely a far cry from my Mini, especially the rumble while idling from its 480 horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine. Simple math and its more than three-time the horsepower than my eco-friendly coupe and a bit intimidating.
I’m given the only automatic in the fleet. I haven’t driven a manual transmission since college and in the ensuing 16-years I probably don’t have the muscle memory for proper heel toe motoring. Also, I don’t want to stall it in front of my fellow automotive press. I have confidence in many of my skills, but I don’t like to be embarrassed in front of a group of strangers that I may never cross paths with again.
My turn and I have a Ford representative riding shotgun to make sure I can make my way around the cones in the parking lot track. I need him. I have no sense of direction and the sun glares at me for most of the lap. Half blind without my sunglasses, I lower the sun visor and hope for the best.
Put it in drive and ease of the brake. Simple acts but I am nervous, and I slowly amble on from a dead stop. A little gas on the initial straightaway and we’re off. It has more low-end torque than I am used to and the barrier at the end of the straightaway gets closer in less time than I expected. A soft left and then I am back to 35 mph on the next straightaway.
Slow and steady, I make my way around the cones with trepidation. Oscar Wilde let us know that “Talent borrows, genius steals” and I use this notion as I steal James May’s ideology as Capt. Slow. No top speed records were set this morning, I was the tortoise and happy to cruise in second gear for my two laps.
The Mach 1 is a capable sports car in many capacities. I learned this when a substantially more talented driver took me on a thrill ride in the same car on the same track. Without racing seats, I have minimal body support and I’m thrown around like a rag doll through the turns. I have no idea where I am going due to the velocity and his ability to whip the steering at the last moment to negotiate a turn.
And yet it was all over in 30-seconds.