You hold two keys: One has a black Boss logo, the other red: Either will start your 2012 Mustang Boss 302. Slide the all-black key into the lock cylinder, give it a twist and you’re treated to 444 ponies’ worth of smooth, streetable driving joy. Or choose red – the TracKey – and you have a competition-ready track car.
To unleash the competition-ready track car features enabled by the Boss red key, an authorized Ford dealer installs TracKey powertrain control module (PCM) software after the customer takes delivery. The result is an aggressive, race-bred driving experience all the way down to the lopey idle rumbling through the Boss quad exhaust.
A joint project between Mustang engineers and Ford Racing, TracKey adds a second set of PCM software to a customer’s Mustang Boss 302, activated by the specially programmed vehicle key. When invoked by TracKey, the new TracMode software alters more than 400 engine management parameters, increasing low-end torque and turning the potent but well-mannered stock Boss into a competition-ready track car. Remove TracKey and start Boss with the standard key, and all factory engine settings are restored for a comfortable drive home from the course.
“From an engine management standpoint, we’ve done just about everything possible to give TracKey users a full race car experience,” explains Jeff Seaman, Mustang powertrain engineer. “It’s not for use on the street – for example, the deceleration is set up to preserve the brakes, and the throttle response is very aggressive. A skilled driver on a closed course will really appreciate the benefits.”
As part of the TracKey software package, Ford engineers also devised a two-stage launch control feature similar to that used on the Cobra Jet race car. Using a combination of steering wheel buttons, drivers can set the tach needle to a desired launch rpm. Floor the throttle and the engine will rev to the preset rpm until the clutch is released, helping aid acceleration and vehicle control from a standing start.
One key, hundreds of changes
Devised during an all-night garage brainstorming session among core Mustang team members, TracKey introduces the concept known as the dual-path powertrain control module. The industry-first, patent-pending innovation allows two separate sets of engine management software to exist on a single PCM, selected through the existing SecuriLock® Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS) transceiver found in current production keys.
“Anything that could possibly affect all-out performance is deleted from the TracKey calibration,” said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. “Throttle limiting and torque management – any daily driveability enhancements are removed and replaced with a pure Ford Racing competition calibration.”
When the red TracKey is removed and the vehicle is started with the standard key, the PCM settings are automatically drawn from the factory Boss 302 instruction set again without any additional modifications needed – a huge advantage over aftermarket tuning chips and ECU reprogramming. The convenience is useful for enthusiasts who want all-out performance at the racetrack but stock driveability for the journey there and back.