Banging Gears: Racing A Manual Transmission With Tiana Weber

Tiana Weber, Owner of Accelerated Racing Solutions, is no stranger to building and driving fast cars. She grew up in the garage, helping her dad restore classic muscle cars and trucks. In fact, her first car was a 1969 Camaro, which was purchased when Tiana was 13 for $200. It took the duo 10-years to complete the 9-second big block street car, which she still drives today. 

Tiana’s current ride is an LS-swapped 2001 Mustang powered by an LS9. This car has been showcased on the second season of Netflix’s Fastest Car and season two of Build Biology. The LS-swapped ‘Stang puts down 860 horsepower at the wheels without the Nitrous Outlet nitrous system’s aid. But what’s interesting about this build, up until recently, the car housed a manual transmission. An RPM Level 5 T56 Transmission with a Monster Clutch Co. triple-disc clutch to be exact.

Tiana is right at home behind the wheel of the mid-nine second LS9-power,ed Mustang.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to drive and maintain an LS9-powered Mustang with a manual transmission, we were too. We reached out to Tiana to get the details on this killer combination. 

LSX: How did you get into racing?

Tiana: Cars have always been a part of my life. My dad took me to the race track to watch all the funny cars race at Pomona Raceway since I was born to current days. I have been around drag racing and car shows as long as I can remember. We would go to the Route 66 show in Temecula each year. 

LSX: What’s your best 60-foot time and E.T. with the manual?

Tiana: When we first got the Mustang together, we had issues with the throttle, and it didn’t have a two-step. My husband, Brandon, got in the car because he wanted to see what the problem was. He was the first one to no-lift shift and went 10.1s. I said I could do it better, and I did. My best pass with the stick was a 1.34 60-foot and 9.558 at 148 mph in the 1/4-mile. 

Tiana’s Mustang is a wheelie machine at the track.

LSX: What’s the best method for getting a consistent launch with a clutch car?

Tiana: The best method for getting a consistent launch would be to set up a two-step. You set it up for the RPM you want and then floor it, and drop the clutch. When I race, I base my RPM launch on the track surface and who I ‘m running. You have to get it into an RPM range that won’t bog during the launch. This will vary on cam selection, gear ratio, and the power range of your setup. 

Each clutch is different as well, some like an aggressive approach by dumping the clutch while others work better with a softer launch. The Monster triple-disc clutch liked to be feathered off the line, but it grabs fast. 

LSX: What modifications were made for the T56?

Tiana: I switched the cable clutch from the factory Mustang transmission style to a hydraulic clutch for a lighter clutch pedal and faster shifts. I also added the McLeod Adjustable Master Cylinder for better clutch engagement and adjustability if we had issues. When setting up the clutch, you would want a minimum air gap between the slave cylinder and the clutch fingers. The clearance is adjusted with shims per Monsters recommendations. 

The triple-disc clutch from Monster Clutch Co. gives the LS9-powered Mustang good driveability on the street and provides plenty of grip at the track.

LSX: What clutch do you use and recommend for racecars that see some street action? 

Tiana: Monster Clutch Co. is the only clutch that we recommend for daily use or race use. They built a triple-disk clutch for me based on the car’s horsepower and vehicle use. I’ve used other clutches previously and they didn’t hold up and the drivability was horrible. With the triple-disk, you don’t need to worry about drivability, and the design made it easier for me to slip the clutch and launch off the line, unlike a puck style.

LSX: Walk us through your process of driving a manual from the time you hit the burnout box through the finish line. 

Tiana: When I line up to the burnout box, I hit my line lock button, and I press the brakes firmly to set the line lock. I get the go-ahead to start my burnout. While in second gear, I rev the car to about 6000-6500 RPM till I hit a high enough MPH to get the tires hot. I then roll out, put the car in first, and drive up to the line. I would then light up the first bulb, watch when my competitor is about to light up their light, then I stage to the second bulb and bring up the RPM to approximately 3800-4000 with a steady pedal. Once the tree drops, I simultaneously floor the gas and remove my foot from the clutch pedal. Into that first shift, I keep my throttle floored and hit the clutch like I was kicking it while shifting it into second at about 7,400 RPM as fast as my arm can move, and then repeat for third and fourth gear. Once I pass the finish line, I put the car in neutral and listen to the motor and check the vitals of the Mustang, such as oil pressure and intake air temp.

The interior of the 2001 Mustang is all business.

LSX: Is there a lot of maintenance involved in a manual car? 

Tiana: There’s more maintenance with a manual car than an automatic. Fluid changes and clutch repairs often occur with a manual in drag racing. More money and time are also involved. I strongly recommended learning how to remove your transmission and fix it yourself because the labor cost is extensive. I picked one of the best T56 transmissions produced in my price range and a clutch that would handle the abuse so we wouldn’t have to replace or fix it as often. 

LSX: Typically, what needs to be checked or adjusted on these cars?

Tiana: Everything should be checked before you race, lug nuts, rear end, and even the welds. But the key is to pick quality parts when drag racing with high horsepower manual setup. I don’t have an open pocketbook, but I also don’t want to purchase things many times over because they are cheap. Pick parts that are known for their quality even if you have to save up for them. 

LSX: What advice would you give a driver that is new to stick shift racing?

Tiana: Patience is key and you will want to take it slow and easy at first. Your timeslips are only going to get better with time. Find out where the car likes to be launched, what RPM range it is happy with, then shift where it’s making power. Every time out is a different experience with stick shift racing. Get into a class where you can compete and where you also can afford the parts if they break. Parts will fail, clutches will need to be replaced as well as transmissions and axles. But that’s part of it.

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About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
Read My Articles

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