Pony Wars Episode 7: 15K Testing Is Too Close To Call At The Track

If you are just tuning in for this season of Horsepower Wars, the Pony Wars competition pits two bitter rivals against one another in a winner-takes-all competition. The two contestants in this battle are a 2017 Camaro SS and a 2017 Mustang GT, which have received two rounds of modifications based on $5,000 and $15,000 worth of upgrades from Summit Racing.

It was a really close battle and both cars were insanely quick. — Chase Christensen, LSXMag.com

When we last left the two cars after $5,000 in mods, they had each competed in four grueling competitions, including braking, dyno testing, drag racing, and road racing. Each car won two competitions, with the Camaro nabbing the dyno and drag strip wins, worth two and three points respectively. While the Mustang took the braking and road course victories, which were worth one and three points each.

Both cars sported ProCharger D-1X superchargers in Stage 2 configurations with upgraded race intercoolers. Along with a host of supporting mods afforded by the remainder of the $15,000 budget, these cars delivered high levels of performance.

So, as we headed into the $15,000 round of modifications, only a one-point difference separated the two vehicles. As such, the slugfest of pony car supremacy was still up for grabs with another nine points on the line.

Each car received a ProCharger D-1X supercharger and a host of complementary mods (see the $5K and $15K Mustang build stories and the $5K and $15K Camaro build story for full details). Then it was time to go to war again in all four categories, to see which car would nab the inaugural Pony Wars victory.

On The Dyno

With all the mods in place, both cars took their first shots on the rollers of the Dynojet chassis dyno inside the Horsepower Wars shop. This phase of the competition is all about peak power, with the top rear-wheel digits earning two points in the second round of competition.

With its bolt-on combination, the ProCharged Mustang was first to hit the rollers. With 100-octane fuel in the tank and a custom DiabloSport calibration in the ECM, this first-generation S550 put down 809 horsepower at the rear wheels, which gave the Camaro team a target.

The 2017 Camaro SS and 2017 Mustang GT squared off on the dyno after $15,000 in mods and only 20 horsepower separated the two cars. The Camaro came away with the win thanks to 829 rear-wheel horsepower, while the Mustang put down 809 to the wheels.

Unlike its rival, the Camaro received upgraded engine internals and an optimized COMP camshaft. With the built engine and the same ProCharger D-1X on board and its own DiabloSport custom calibration, the Camaro put down 829 rear-wheel horsepower to take the dyno win and two points.

“I was really disappointed not to take the win on the dyno,” Steve Turner, Executive Editor at FordNXT.com, confessed. “We doubled the rear-wheel output with the ProCharger just as I predicted, but it wasn’t quite enough to take the win. All things considered, a bolt-on Gen 2 Coyote hanging with a fully built LT is still pretty impressive, but that doesn’t count on the scoreboard. There was a disadvantage to running on the dyno first, and I don’t think the Camaro output is sustainable in the rear world, but we’ll see how both cars fare in the rest of the competition.”

The Camaro team invested a large portion of its $15,000 budget into the power mods, so taking the win on the dyno was obviously a happy occasion.

“We really had to push the fuel system in the Camaro to make the kind of power we wanted. The car has a forged short-block, and with that D-1X ProCharger breathing life into it, we could easily see 1,000 rear-wheel horsepower with our combination. However, I knew going into it that we would be fairly close to maxing out the LT4-based fuel system we installed on the car and we were aware that it would really be our limiting factor when it came to power production,” Chase Christensen, former Executive Editor at LSXMag.com, said. “We saw that on the dyno and pushed the system to the ragged edge in order to beat the Mustang. Had we been allowed water/meth, it may have been a different story, but the fuel systems for direct-injected cars are very expensive at this point, so we pushed it as far as we could while staying in budget and it paid off. With our Texas-Speed heads, COMP Cams bumpstick, forged short-block, and the rest of our bolt-ons, the Camaro is realistically just a fuel system away from producing astronomical power, but I’m satisfied with how it performed. Anytime you double horsepower is a good day.”

At The Drag Strip

With the dyno numbers recorded, it was time to head back to the drag strip for some hits. This is where the competition got tougher. The weather in Southern California was getting warmer–like surface of the sun hot–which did not make for ideal conditions. However, our pony car warriors were bringing boost this time, so they were better equipped to make the most of out of the situation.

The trick, however, was that the cars were running so much better now that their street credentials became a problem. In better conditions, we might have had 9-second machines on our hands, but no roll cages. After clicking off a low-10-second pass in the Mustang, we got a stern talking to and switched the competition to eighth-mile passes.

With the Camaro’s blown combination, the challenge was traction. With modest suspension upgrades and a throbbing torque output, the Camaro struggled with traction at the One-Two shift on the hot and greasy drag strip surface. By the time its final runs were made, the ambient temperature was in the 90s and the track surface was even hotter.

Heading to a hot and sticky drag strip to settle the score, these two ProCharged pony cars fought the weather and each other. In the end, the lack of roll cages meant we had to test them in the eighth-mile where the Mustang edged the Camaro 6.61 versus 6.67.

All told, it was a close race, but that minor slip on the shifts could only yield a best pass of 6.77 at 107 mph in the eighth-mile, which left the door open.

“I’m bummed about the drag results honestly. It was a really close battle and both cars were insanely quick. Losing by .02 seconds is a tough pill to swallow, but we were having a hard time getting the Camaro to stay planted on the 1-2 upshift. Since we were limited to running just an eighth-mile, that is basically everything. You can’t spin that shift against a boosted S550 and realistically still expect to walk away with the win,” Chase confessed. “I think with a few tweaks to our alignment specs at the rear, we could have seen the Camaro put up similar times to the Mustang. I would be interested to see what they would run out the back door through the quarter-mile, but it’s hard to tell. Basically what we saw was the Mustang get off the line .02 seconds faster and then hold that lead all the way through the eighth-mile. My hat’s off to the Mustang though, that car is quick.”

Over the course of a few passes our driver honed his launch technique and DiabloSport dialed in the shifting strategy. The 2017 Mustang GT hovered in the mid-6-second range, and after a few passes the car responded well to 14 pounds of air in the rear Mickey Thompson tires and delivered a best pass of 6.61 at 111 mph in the eighth-mile.

“After narrowly missing out on the dyno, this round of the competition was crucial. The Mustang came out of the $5K round behind by one and the Camaro tacked on two more right of the gate,” Steve explained. “I was a bit worried about the switch to eighth-mile as the full quarter-mile should have favored the high-revving Coyote. However, the combination of the Steeda suspension mods and the usable torque output of the D-1X-blown 5.0 helped it put the power to the pavement to take the win.”

The Next Round

Three-fourths of the way through the competition, our pony cars are yet again deadlocked in a tie with seven points each. There are only two more categories left to decide the winner of the first-ever Pony Wars competition — braking and road racing. That said, braking is only worth one point, while the road racing is worth three. This means that the road course will become a winner-takes-all battleground.

“For the final two tests, I’m hoping the Camaro will surprise us and perform better than it did in the $5K testing. With that said, I think the Camaro would really have to pull something out of its butt to win this competition at this point. Our strategy going into the $15K builds were to make the most power possible, which we did, and then take the drag racing and thus the overall win,” Chase said. “We succeeded at one of those things, but with the loss at the drag strip we are very vulnerable. Steve put a lot more into the brakes and suspension on the Mustang and I think it’s going to do well at the road course. We have some minor upgrades with the Camaro suspension wise so I’m hoping maybe we’ll be surprised and walk away with the win on this one but I’m not holding my breath. One thing is for sure though, we won’t say die until it’s over.”

It looks like the road course competition will decide the winner of the first Pony Wars. Stay tuned to see how it plays out.

“This competition has been a real roller coaster, but anything is possible. The Mustang came as an underdog with less power and a less advanced suspension, but held its own,” Steve added. “Given that the Mustang won both the braking and road course categories in the $5K and it received upgrades in both areas for the $15K, I am feeling pretty confident that the rightful competitor can come away with the Pony Wars win.”

Will the Camaro’s digitally adjustable magnetic suspension cut the quickest lap or will the Mustang’s fully upgraded but analog suspension deliver the goods? You’ll have to stay tuned to the next episode to see how it all turns out. However, that will have to wait for a bit.

As it turned out in our first attempt heading to the road course, the car’s didn’t deal with the heat well. It was a blistering 108 degrees at the track, and both cars heat-soaked quickly. The Mustang went into limp-home mode to protect itself, while the Camaro may just have melted its catalytic converters and smoked its water pump on one lap. As such, both are getting off-road exhausts and some cooling upgrades in anticipation of the the next test, so stay tuned.

Backed by some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket — including ARPBMR Suspension, COMP, CovercraftDiabloSportDyna-BattE3 Spark PlugsHolley Performance PartsMahleMickey ThompsonProCharger, QA1, Royal PurpleSummit RacingTCIWeld Racing, and others — this competition has gotten crazy as it comes to a close. Stay tuned for the final episode!

About the author

Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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