If ever there was a day to drive a 700-horsepower, rear-wheel drive, stiffly sprung, heavy car on a sodden track, this wasn’t it.
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In fact, this was a day to stay in bed, covers over your head, while the old bearded bloke next door finishes building his ark. You didn’t even need to wheel out from behind the pit wall to know that this was all going to be a bit academic; just firing up the Coyote was enough.
You know how some cars have exhaust notes that sound like they’ll be fun to play with? Or maybe a note that says ‘rev me, rev me harder’? Yeah, well the Hennessey-Streetfighter Mustang makes a noise through its stainless pipes that is the mechanical equivalent of heavily tattooed nightclub bouncer wagging his finger at you as his first and last warning.
But frankly, being thrown down a couple of flights of stairs and getting a kicking in a back alley would be getting off lightly compared with hedging a customer car. And let me assure you that any stack in the Streetfighter ’Stang is unlikely to be a small one.
The problem here is that I can’t ever really get into the meat of the power curve, because the rear tyres have gone up in steam long before that happens. Hell, just edging out of pit lane and onto the apron that joins the track proper, the Streetfighter car is all over the place like a puppy on wet lino.
So, I’ll draw on my previous experience on the damp, if not completely sodden, dragstrip: This car is seriously fast. You might have guessed that much, but what’s difficult to convey is the sheer amount of top-end rush these modern, blown V8s have. The Herrod car is a bit of the same; a solid beginning that develops into a massive mid-range before it transitions into a truly mind-altering top end.
Forget about the old school of supercharged V8s, the wedge in the Streetfighter car feels like it’s from the distant future, with smoothness right the way through the rev range and a proper feeling of sophistication. If, that is, you can ever call a controlled explosion sophisticated. And then you shift up a gear and it all starts over again.
Back on track and I’m still working out how much throttle I can safely give the supercharged ’Stang. ‘None’ seems to be the answer if you insist on including that bit about ‘safely’. But if you get a bit braver you can tip, oh, maybe 10 per cent throttle into it before it tries to wriggle out of your grip like a greased piglet.
So, having established that we weren’t going to break any lap records, I started to explore how much lateral grip I was working with. And it turns out there’s a fair bit. The Mustang’s fairly responsive steering feel remains in evidence, and because there’s still some compliance in the front-end there’s actually quite a bit of grip across the front axle. The rear end? I couldn’t tell you. D’Alberto ended up with a better idea, though, and his dry laptime of 1.05 dead put the Mustang mid-field and just three-tenths behind the Herrod Stang, the fastest of the rear-drivers.
So, weather aside, what didn’t I like? The interior, mainly. This is not Streetfighter’s fault, but the standard Mustang doesn’t do it for me. It might be acceptable in the US, where a bloke with a possum on his head can run for president, but for us lot, there’s too much plastic and not enough class.
Mind you, the one thing Streetfighter did change, that white gear knob, is a dead-set masterstroke. Where do I get me one?
OVERALL RANKING: 5TH
5th | Lap time: 1:05.0sec
8th | Lap V-Max: 150.66km/h
3rd | Lap V-Max: 102.48km/h
1st | Lap V-Max: 55.24km/h
TONY D RECKONS
“Took me a couple laps to get comfortable, she’s very aggressive. I didn’t feel confident to turn [electronics] off straight away, because when it did put all the power down it just lit the rears up. If there was a bit more grip and you could commit to the throttle it would be a much better thing. Shame it was a little greasy.”