Written by Steve Baur
Photography by Kevin DiOssi
As the Internet goes, there are all sorts of records that people claim for this and that, but the hardest ones to earn carry the fewest notations about the record. In the case of Yandro Ulloa’s Minion Mustang, it’s simply the quickest H-pattern, stick-shift car, anywhere. Going as quick as he has with what is essentially a stock-style transmission is a sizeable accomplishment when you consider all of the manual-transmission-equipped street cars out roaming around the streets and dragstrips all over the world.
Ulloa hasn’t been at the stick-shift game for very long, or racing cars in general for that matter. But he and his team have made big strides in a short amount of time and found themselves close to, and eventually quicker than, all the rest.
What does it take to achieve such a pinnacle in performance? Well, Ulloa, as well as the other stick-shift warriors that have claimed the record before him, have all relied on turbocharging to produce the huge power needed. But harnessing that horsepower comes down to careful power management strategies that work in conjunction with specific suspension setups and tire combinations.
For years, Ray Bulach laid claim to having the quickest stick car, as his LS-powered, Fourth-Gen Camaro whittled the elapsed time record away until he was deep in the 8s. In 2018, Garrett Mitchell, better known to the world as the star of his YouTube channel, Cleetus McFarland, drove his twin-turbocharged, open chassis Corvette into the 7s with a 7.82-second elapsed time at 176 mph to eclipse Bulach’s efforts.
The action continued to ramp up as Bulach looked to reclaim the record and drove to a 7.96 at 185 mph in September of ’18. Just a couple of months later, it was time for a Ford-powered entry to jump into the melee as Ulloa and his 1998 Cobra dubbed “Minion” clicked off a 7.99 and then a 7.92 at the Mod Motor Nationals to solidify his place in the 7s. He collected the Stick-Shift Shootout win and a runner-up in True Street at that event for good measure.
Ulloa kept fine-tuning his Mustang’s performance and during the That Racing Channel Street Kings event in South Florida in February of 2019, he put his SN95 Mustang at the top after clocking a staggering 7.67 elapsed time at 186 mph. While he was at it, he collected the win for the stick-shift class the event hosted, kicking off what would be quite the winning racing season.
As records go, having the stick-shift record is a pretty stout achievement, but Ulloa setting records is not his only goal on track. Just a couple of weeks after his record-setting run, he was at the Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout to compete in the QA1 True Street class, as well as the Mickey Thompson GT500 vs Cobra/Terminator Shootout. His placement in the True Street results also qualified him for the JLT Performance Spring Break Shootout, as well as the Tremec Stick-Shift Shootout, and come Sunday, the Minion was putting in a ton of work, going rounds in three different, heads-up categories!
Ulloa had doubled down on the same classes the previous year, but the Cobra wasn’t as quick, and the new and improved performance delivered him to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle not once, but twice, to celebrate his wins in the Stick-Shift Shootout and the GT500 vs Cobra/Terminator class.
Essentially hot-lapping a 1,500-horsepower, heads-up machine is just about unheard of, and while having that capability speaks volumes about the twin-turbocharged Modular Ford powerplant, the effort did take its toll on the Minion’s clutch. But Ulloa and his team quickly pulled the trans post event, made the repairs, and it was just five days later that he entered the Gear Vendors True Street competition at the NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem season opener. There, he drove smartly, clicking off a series of mid-8-second hits to take home the class win.
Continuing the Minion’s evil plot towards stick-shift supremacy, Ulloa loaded up and hauled the Mustang Cobra from his home in Tampa, Florida, around the gulf coast to Texas, where he entered into the stick-shift class at the Texas 2K event in Houston. A 7.73 pass at 186 mph put him number one on the qualifying sheet, and Ulloa went on to win the class against several high-seven-second rides.
It hasn’t been all 7-second time slips for Ulloa, however; in fact that sort of performance is a fairly new thing for the Tampa native.
“I had a little Mazda MX-6 when I was 16 up until I was 26, and then got a van and started working,” Ulloa told us of his transition into adulthood. “I always loved Mustangs, and my buddy had a convertible and was swaying me to buy it. I was actually going to buy a new 2015 GT, but then the yellow car came up on craigslist.”
Ulloa bought the Cobra on July 4th of 2015.
“The body and drivetrain were in good shape. When I took it for a test drive, it shook like crazy—the salesman said it was all of the power coming through the firewall,” Ulloa joked of the sales pitch. He bought the 50,000-mile Cobra anyway and upon further inspection, found that the flywheel bolts were loose, which could have turned into quote the catastrophic fiasco. Luckily it was an easy fix.
The Mustang already had a few bolt-ons like lower control arms and an aftermarket clutch, and Ulloa didn’t wait to bolster the horsepower with BBK headers and exhaust, and a 75-horsepower shot of nitrous oxide courtesy of a ZEX kit.
“It lasted about two weeks and then I started looking for a blower,” Ulloa recalled. “I bought a used Vortech V-1 S-trim and lived on that with the 75 shot for a little while, making like 600 at the wheels. The first pass down Showtime Dragstrip in St. Pete was a 10-something in the eighth. It felt fast to me, but I got beat by a Hyundai. I raced him again and ran an 8.50.” And yes, he did beat the Hyundai with that!
Ulloa eventually whittle his elapsed times down to a 7.20 in the eighth-mile and the supercharger kept boosting the 4-valve, DOHC engine for 8-9 months. He was also pro-active in selling the Cobra’s five-speed transmission at this point, while it was still in good working order, and installed a used, but upgraded, T56 out of a Terminator Cobra.
“We started talking about building a motor and I changed my mind [about the power adder] and went with the On3 turbo kit. My tuner was back and forth about the power adder, but you could make more power more efficiently with the turbo kit,” Ulloa explained.
Having some bad luck with a previous tuner, Ulloa simply made a post through the Mustang Club of Tampa, where he was eventually connected with Josh Levin of Levin Motorsports.
“We’ve become good friends and the car has brought a lot of recognition to his shop.”
Levin Motorsports pulled the 281ci mill apart and as Ulloa told us, “It looked beautiful in side.” Still, the engine was fortified and the On3 twin-turbo kit went on.
“We started off at 750 rwhp and made as much as 1,210, but the On3 turbos didn’t like 32psi.” Something else that didn’t like the 32 psi of boost was the T56 transmission.
“After we bought the used T56, we took it straight to NMRA Bowling Green and ran out first 8-second pass. We got cut short on our second pass—it ate the bearings in the gearbox. The next day, we went straight to the Tremec trailer, but they didn’t carry anything on the trailer so we ended up ordering a Level 7 T56 Magnum through RPM Transmission,” Ulloa told us.
The Magnum would have happened sooner or later, as Ulloa wasn’t nearly finished with his horsepower upgrades. The turbos that came with the On3 kit were swapped out for a pair of Borg Warner turbochargers that took the Cobra to around 1,350 rwhp. After one of the stock heads spit out a freeze plug, Ulloa had to drop of the engine at Levin Motorsports once more and took the opportunity to make a few more upgrades.
These changes included a set of later-model C-spec cylinder heads, a pair or Precision Turbo 68mm turbochargers, and a new intake manifold with an integrated air-to-water intercooler.
“It was all about improving airflow,” Ulloa said of the Cobra’s latest round of updates.
And airflow it is indeed moving as the new combination has been good for over 1,500 hp and no doubt helped him achieve the records and race wins in 2019 that he continues to rack up.
“This year is more about being consistent and winning than breaking records,” Ulloa explained. “We have a surprise that hopefully happens for NMRA Bowling Green and we’re going to make some changes to the engine before the World Cup race.” Between now and then, however, Ulloa plans to hit several other local races as well as another stick shift shootout in North Carolina, for a total of around 15 events this year.
As there has no doubt been some attrition in parts breakage throughout Ulloa’s relatively short time racing is Cobra, it’s largely the work he’s put in with Josh Levin to get the car to run like it does.
“We’ve been researching and developing all kinds of things for the last two years,” he explained. “Anyone can have a 2,000hp car, but if you don’t have the car dialed in, it’s not going to work. We’ve gone through eight different clutches in the past two years and have worked on how we bring the boost in through the run. If the track is not there, you have to take all of the power out of the car because the radial does not recover quickly.”
And that’s about all of the secret details Ulloa is willing to reveal—you’ll have to figure things out on your own—as he plans to keep collecting race wins for the foreseeable future. He just received a new set of turbochargers from Bullseye Power, and a better-flowing intercooler is in the works as well. The changes can’t soon enough, however, as the stick-shift record is on the line.
Joel Grannas of Grannas Racing recently clicked off a 7.687 in his Mark IV Toyota Supra, and if the 200mph trap speed he clocked is any indication, he’s got plenty left to work with.
Every bit as big as the records and wins that Ulloa’s Mustang has garnered is the car’s persona and nickname, Minion.
“We called the car Mufasa before, but later we were talking to my buddy, Josh Flynt of the Pony Up Mustang club and he said to call it ‘Minion.’ They can be serious, but playful too,” Ulloa revealed. With its searing Chrome Yellow paint and Tic-Tac shape, the Cobra’s similarities to the animated yellow henchmen are all too evident. And with Ulloa’s continued string of event victories, we’re pretty sure Stuart, Kevin, and Bob would be proud of his domination.
Just as Gru relies on his many foot soldiers to help him execute his plans, Ulloa has his own foot soldiers and would like to recognize his partners that help out with everything “from a simple share of our posts to some parts when we break something.” Those include Levin Motorsports, UPR Products, Certified Transmission, Truline Collision, Juggernaut Power, Optic Armor, Hard Target Images, Tremec, RPM Transmissions, Aerospace Components, and Mod Motor Mustangs.
1998 Mustang Cobra
Owner/Driver: Yandro Ulloa
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Occupation: HVAC Tech
Class: True Street, Stick Shift Shootout, GT500 vs Cobra/Terminator Shootout, Turbo Battle (near future)
Crew: Alex Martinez, Joshua Levin
Engine: 4.6L DOHC Mod Motor
Engine builder: Levin Motorsports – Josh Levin
Displacement: 281 ci
Block: Teksid (Ford OEM)
Bore: .20 over stock
Crank: Kellogg (Ford OEM)
Rods: Manley I Beam
Pistons: JE – Custom by Levin Motorsports
Cylinder heads: C Head (Ford OEM Castings) (’03-’04 heads)
Camshaft—Brand: Comp Cams Type: custom grind by Levin Motorsports
EFI system: AEM Infinity EFI tuned by Josh Levin, AEM CD-7 dash
Power-adder: Twin turbochargers, Precision Turbo 68 mm
Fuel brand and type: Ignite Red
Spark plug brand: NGK
Headers and exhaust: On3 turbo manifolds, custom work by Levin Motorsports
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed manual, modified with Liberty parts
Transmission Builder: RPM Transmission
Clutch: Not on your life!
Rearend: 8.8, narrowed 1-inch, 35-spline Strange Engineering axles
Differential: Strange Spool
Body and/or chassis builder: Dustin Cox NXS – Clearwater FL
Suspension (Front): UPR Products
Suspension (Rear): UPR Products
Brakes (Front) Brand: Aerospace Components Disc/Drum: Disc
Brakes (Rear) Brand: Aerospace Components Disc/Drum: Disc
Wheels (front) Brand: Weld Alumastar Size: 17 x 4.5
Wheels (Rear) Brand: Holeshot Size: 15 x 11
Tires (Front) Brand: Mickey Thompson Size: 26 x 6
Tires (Rear) Brand: Mickey Thompson Size: 275 ET Pro
Body modifications: Hood modified for intake manifold
Fiberglass/Carbon body components: Carbon Doors (Outlaw Trim Only)
Safety equipment: RJS // RaceQuip
Estimated or Verified Engine Horsepower and Torque: 1,5xx WHP // 12xxTQ
Vehicle weight: 3,300 lbs True Street trim // 3,100 lbs outlaw trim
Quickest et: 7.67
Best 60-foot: 1.19
Fastest mph: 186