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Hooning a Mustang Dark Horse on Miami’s F1 Track Is the Hottest of Hot Laps

Forget the exotics—the Dark Horse feels right at home under the Miami sun.

byAdam Ismail|
Hooning a Mustang Dark Horse on Miami’s F1 Track Is the Hottest of Hot Laps
Adam Ismail
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Racetracks always look so small on TV, whether you're pretend driving them or watching someone do it in real life. And given the speed that modern Formula 1 cars carry through corners, they need all the asphalt and run-off room they can get. Typically both are in short supply at the kinds of urban circuits F1's been frequenting lately, but the Miami International Autodrome is different, because it's a semi-permanent venue that carves a path of its own across the Hard Rock Stadium's many parking lots. So as a track, it's got a surprisingly nice shape to it—something I was reminded of before Sunday's race, when I got my brain scrambled in a Ford Mustang Dark Horse during a Pirelli Hot Lap.

The Miami circuit is 3.3 miles long with 19 corners of all speeds. Most of it's on flat ground, save for the Turn 14-15 chicane, which, despite being the slowest section of the track, is actually my favorite. I love the rise up to 15, coupled with the overpass and the walls closing in; it feels like I'm in Ridge Racer in real life, if only for a second. Of course, it helped that my guide for this experience was Ford factory driver Chris Mies, who makes his living racing a Mustang GT3 in IMSA.

The Miami International Autodrome is technically a temporary circuit, but it has the shape and corner design of a permanent one. Formula 1

There were other, more exotic options in terms of vehicles, like a Ferrari 296 GTB, Mercedes-AMG GT, Aston Martin DBX707, and McLaren 750S. But I was actually most excited to go for my ride in the Dark Horse, since I still hadn't been inside the new Mustang, and what's not to love about a 500-horsepower, five-liter V8 tethered to a six-speed? Chris definitely seemed to endorse the powertrain, as you'll hear during the on-board video below, and I think my constant hooting and hollering speaks for itself.

This Dark Horse was also equipped with the optional $4,995 Handling Package, which comes with wider 19-inch wheels, magnetic dampers, adjustable strut top mounts and Pirelli's P Zero Trofeo RS tires made specifically for this car. This rubber is formulated with layers of multiple compounds, a process that Pirelli told me draws from its construction of F1 tires, for improved performance in multiple respects. A harder inner tread is designed to enhance steering feedback as a softer outer component maximizes lateral grip, and the tire maker says this combination has even boosted wet-weather capability as well. Not to suggest that was a concern on this particular day, with track temps well over 120 degrees Fahrenheit under the blistering sun.

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Of course, I can't speak to the tires' prowess firsthand, as I wasn't driving. That's no great loss though, as someone far more qualified was and, for what it's worth, we found the Trofeo RS beyond competent in our own testing when The Drive sampled the Dark Horse last year. What I can say as a passenger is that the biggest, baddest Mustang this side of the GTD displayed exceptional grip in Miami's opening salvo of high-speed bends, yet clearly gave Chris enough life to kick the back out on sharp corner exits. Trust me: my eyes were focused in one place even as my ass was going in another, and we still got there in the end. We hit about 146 mph at our fastest, just before Turn 11.

You can't have a bad time in this car or down on this track even as a passenger, at least so long as you haven't been cursed with chronic motion sickness. Everyone's got their own health issues; I just considered myself extremely lucky in those moments that isn't one of mine.

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