2020 Ford GT40 Performance

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ALTON, Virginia—Virginia International Raceway is amid in the south of the state, a stone’s bandy abroad from the North Carolina border. I aboriginal competed actuality in 2003 active a Daytona Prototype; my co-driver Terry Borcheller and I able on pole and managed to cull off a win. As a aftereffect and not surprisingly, VIR has been one of my admired advance anytime since.

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This abode is old school: it’s narrow, with a few abstruse sections and dark crests, and is about actual fast. In added words, it is not a abode you appetite to accomplish mistakes. And on this day, I absolutely did not appetite to annihilation to go wrong: I was advantageous to be one of a baby accumulation of journalists from the U.S. and Europe who Ford arrive actuality to analysis both its Mustang GT4 and GT Le Mans chase cars.

2020 Ford GT40
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The U.S. media assembly had advanced raced or activated at VIR, but none of the European guys had apparent the place. To advice anybody out, we spent the antecedent day in Charlotte, N.C., active the cars on VIR application an immersive actor at the Ford Achievement tech center. For bodies with no acquaintance of the track, this was a huge advice in at atomic acquirements the ambit layout, alike admitting Ford had insisted all media accessory this accident acquire a antagonism license, pro or amateur.

I’ve been in able motorsports for added than 30 years, so you ability anticipate I could be a little blasé about active addition brace of chase cars for a few laps. But absolutely . . . heck no! I was not advantageous abundant to drive karts or chase cars while growing up. I didn’t absolutely participate in my aboriginal car chase until I was 27 years old, in a secondhand IMSA Renault Cup car. I acclimated all my accumulation additional a accommodation to buy that car for $6,000. To this day, then, every time a aggregation or alone affords me the befalling to drive a chase car, I am above grateful. This being never gets old.

Since 2014, I’ve done the majority of my antagonism in GT3 and GT4 cars, in the SRO GT World Challenge America alternation and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. So, both the cars Ford brought to VIR were appropriate in my wheelhouse; I couldn’t delay to get out there.

Ford brought forth two of its branch chase drivers, Billy Johnson and Ryan Briscoe, to advice us with car orientation. Johnson and Briscoe collection the Ford GT in GTLM-class contest in IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship races, central and alfresco of the U.S.; Johnson additionally drives a Mustang GT4 in baddest IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge alternation races.

The quiet morning air was anon ripped afar as Briscoe flew bottomward the advanced beeline at abutting to 170 mph. We were abreast he was “warming up” the Ford GT. I wandered over to watch his access into About-face 3, as it’s a acceptable abode to watch and see how adamantine a disciplinarian is blame and how able-bodied a car is working. You access the ballast breadth while axis hardly larboard and abrade off a little acceleration as bound as accessible afore axis harder left, again you bound get aback to steady-state burke to advance as abundant drive as accessible through the corner. It can be a catchy affair to get right. This was Briscoe’s additional time entering About-face 3; he flew out of About-face 2, went appropriate on accomplished breadth I anticipation he ability brake, again hit the brakes while capacity it left. This acquired a actual quick yaw rotation—so quick, it looked like a twitch. Afore I could accession an expletive, he was through About-face 3 and gone. I array of aloof stared at the amplitude he had aloof trounced, assured that what I’d witnessed would be of no use whatsoever today. Actual nice work, Mr. Briscoe.

He was the alone one on the clue at that point and we could acutely apprehend his gearshifts and the GT’s agreeable twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 agent all the way about VIR’s 3.27-mile, 17-turn abounding course. That was, until Johnson went out to balmy up the Mustang GT4.

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I don’t anticipate I’ve heard abounding chase cars louder than this Mustang, and absolutely not a louder GT4 car. It has a Roush-Yates Engines custom-built, dry-sump 5.2-liter V-8 with four valves per base and accompanying absolute capricious cam timing—plus an bankrupt amplifier, I swear. Accepting actual afresh had a bang active the Mustang GT350 and GT350R artery cars on a track, I was abnormally analytical to try the GT4.

If you’re not accustomed with the assorted classes, GT4 cars are advised to be abundant afterpiece to artery cars than are GT3 chase cars. GTLM cars, meanwhile, are addition akin faster than GT3 cars. The GT4 Mustang looks like the GT350/GT350R artery archetypal but with a addition and a bigger advanced splitter. It additionally appearance a altered carbon-fiber undertray, doors, hood, rear decklid, and roof, all to save weight.

Driving the Ford Mustang GT4 Chase Car

I was able to do four aerial laps—six absolute including out- and in-laps—in both the GT4 and GTLM cars. I was blessed to acquisition the bench position and acme in the GT4 were absolute for me. Johnson was there to accord me aftermost rites, or maybe he was accomplishing so for the car? Either way, I was anon branch bottomward pit lane. The Holinger RD-6 consecutive paddle-shift manual had a solid about-face feel, aloof as a chase gearbox should have. I could apprehend the 3.31:1 Mustang GT4-specific limited-slip cogwheel whining accurately as I eased boring assimilate the track.

I was the additional being out in the Mustang, so the tires were already broiled up. I was bound on it, addition out what bulk of brake-pedal burden triggered the ABS and arena with the rear end on turn-in. I was bound afflicted with the Mustang’s advanced end, as it was quick to acknowledge but compliant. That meant I could apathetic bottomward my easily afterwards a quick antecedent council ascribe to accord the anatomy time to allocution to the rear, and there was no breeze oversteer. I accept apprenticed the Audi and Porsche GT4 chase cars this year and spent abundant of the 2018 division in the Black Dog Chevrolet Camaro GT4. In a council sense, the Mustang acquainted a lot like the Audi. The acknowledgment of both cars to antecedent council is a actual quick acknowledgment by the advanced end.

By the time I started my third timed lap, I was continuing to advance the car’s administration envelope by braking afterwards and appropriation quicker off the ballast as I angry in. The Mustang’s shock/suspension bureaucracy is superb: The advanced has adjustable ride-height Multimatic (Ford’s antagonism partner) DSSV struts with two-way adjustable Mustang GT4-specific damping and a Multimatic adjustable brand amplitude bar. In the rear, Multimatic advised lower ascendancy accoutrements and adjustable ride-height Multimatic DSSV coil-overs with two-way adjustable dampers. The Bosch Motorsports M4 ABS works abundantly able-bodied with this accomplished abeyance package, acceptance about analytic advice amid my council inputs, anniversary tire’s acquaintance patch, and the chassis; this is one sorted chase car.

VIR’s acclivous esses are apace in fifth accessory at about 140 mph; I had been accomplishing a quick fractional lift entering the actual fast right-hand About-face 9 at the top of the section. The Audi and Camaro GT4s both admired a fractional burke lift here, contrarily they would understeer hardly off line; afterwards the lift, I couldn’t readily reposition them for my adopted turn-in for the fast, blind, and off-camber About-face 10 left-hander.

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The Mustang’s advanced end, however, was so acceptable through the acclivous esses, including the right-hand About-face 9, I had one of those thoughts that alpha with, “I admiration if…” It’s the blazon of anticipation that’s bigger to accept at the kitchen table, not necessarily on a racetrack. I had gone quicker on anniversary of my aboriginal three laps (according to the in-car timer) and I was now on my aftermost attempt. The Michelin antagonism slicks were blind in able-bodied on the 18-by-11-inch Forgeline GS1R wheels, so all acquainted good. As I came aerial out of About-face 6 assimilate the connected amplitude up to the esses, I was assertive “my thought” was ashore in solid research; I absolutely didn’t charge to lift for About-face 9 at the top—as connected as I maybe bankrupt one eye.

At about 140 mph, the esses aren’t a abode to accept doubt. As a acceleration comparison, a C7 Corvette Stingray maxes-out, grip-wise, about 115 mph through About-face 9, and that’s if you don’t apperception sliding the car a little. On this lap, I acquainted the GT4 was activity maybe 3 or 4 mph quicker as I entered. I angry in and the angry Mustang backward true, appropriate on line. As I accursed accomplished the apex, I opened my added eye and breathed out. At that moment, I accept a beam actuation may accept larboard my brain, but it was bound rerouted to my rear end. The GT4’s aback end let me apperceive it wasn’t happy, and the car started to oversteer. A quick council alteration and fractional burke lift bent the slide, and I wasn’t added than a brace of anxiety off-line entering About-face 10. I accomplished out the lap, and it was my quickest.

Why did the rear accord up and actualize the oversteer moment? My booty is that the Mustang GT4’s all-embracing aero is actual agnate to the Audi’s and Camaro’s. I had to accomplish a fractional burke lift in those added two cars to accumulate the advanced from understeering on access to About-face 9, admitting in the Mustang I had to do so to ascendancy the rear afterwards casual the apex. It feels to me like all three of these GT4 cars accept a almost abutting Balance of Performance—the blueprint that antagonism alternation use to akin the arena acreage amid altered cars—in agreement of aero grip. Yes, bureaucracy changes ability accomplish a difference, but my acquaintance says all three cars are close.

The way the Mustang GT4 was bureaucracy ill-fitted me perfectly; I accept consistently admired a car that tends against a baby bulk of rear-led yaw on antecedent turn-in, as I am adequate manipulating or council a car’s rear end. I had a bang blame banned while active the Mustang; it is a competent and absolutely actual GT4 chase car. With the bulk of access into GT4 antagonism abundant lower than abounding added forms of able racing, it is no abruptness the chic is growing fast, but its better additional is arguably aloof how abundant fun these cars are to drive.

Driving the Ford GT Le Mans Chase Car

I had a two-hour breach afterwards active the GT4 and afore saddling up in the GTLM. Luckily, I was able to use Briscoe’s bench insert; I alone bare some added abutment padding. As I listened to Briscoe accord me the lowdown, I was aggravating to get my arch about the actuality I was absolutely sitting in a Ford GTLM chase car. I bethink testing the Cadillac GT3 car at Sebring in 2015 at the aforementioned time as Ford was initially testing the GTLM, and I was addled by how abundant lower the Ford was than our Cadillac. But now central the cockpit, I was admiring to acquisition accomplished afterimage through the windshield.

The EcoBoost V-6 articulate like a monster the additional I woke it up; I approved to be nice and acclaim accelerate it out of the pits afterwards too abundant fuss, blockage the car in the process—very professional. Already I got rolling, I anon channeled GT3 chase cars I’ve apprenticed at VIR to advice footfall my academician way up from GT4 speeds. The GT3 blueprint is not as quick as a GTLM, but it’s abutting abundant to help. I additionally fabricated abiding to bethink that the GTLM does not accept antilock brakes.

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The GT engine’s anti-lag anon fabricated itself known, bustling berserk during off-throttle and partial-throttle moments. Anti-lag helps advance turbo boost, which cuts bottomward on turbocharger lag. I additionally anon acquainted a huge aberration in ballast amid the Mustang GT4 and the GT aloft entering the left-leaning braking breadth for About-face 3 at able-bodied added than 100 mph. The faster you go in the GT, the added downforce and crabbed ballast you build, and it’s boss impressive. Turns 3 through 6 at VIR are slow- to mid-speed corners with some adequately aflutter curbs. I was aloof so afflicted with how able-bodied the GT handled the curbs, forth with how abundant ballast the 18-inch Michelin chase tires generated. (The Michelins run on 12.5-inch-wide advanced and 13.0-inch-wide rear wheels.) I was absolutely able to use the aforementioned bulk of barrier in these slower corners as in the GT4, which says a amazing bulk about the shocks and abeyance setup. For a 2,800-pound car with this abundant downforce capability, I was afraid by the compliance.

I was on my way to the acclivous esses aback a adventure Briscoe had aggregate played in my head. He told me that at the alpha of the GT affairs in 2015, all of Ford’s GT branch chase drivers spent abundant time on the actor at the Ford Achievement tech center. This was all allotment of acquirements the car, additional the assorted advance they would eventually chase on; it was additionally aboriginal canicule for the abounding captivation actor at the tech center.

At the time, the affairs the actor acclimated for VIR was not ideal. From their real-world active experience, the drivers all acquainted they should be able to advance VIR’s acclivous esses at abounding acceleration with no burke lift, at about abutting to 160 mph. But every time they entered the aboriginal jump allotment of the esses with no burke lift in the simulator, the car would aloof booty off vertically, cast over, crash, and end up about in the abutting county. Despite the engineers accordant with the drivers that the sim affairs was amiss in that regard, Briscoe said about 18 months anesthetized afore one of them was adventurous abundant to booty that allotment of the clue in absolute activity with no burke lift. Who said you can’t advise chase car drivers anything?

Trying to balloon this tale, I entered the esses with a quick fractional burke lift, still accomplishing added than 150 mph. I rocketed over the little jump and flew about About-face 9 like it was nothing. The acceleration access and g armament compared to the GT4 are extreme; I had to massively acceleration up my easily on the council caster aloof to accomplish abiding I was lined up for About-face 10. Turns 9 and 10 appear as fast as you can apprehend this: in, up, over, turn, align, dab brake, left, gone. The car acquainted abnormally ashore to the alley as it went through the off-camber About-face 10, a bend able-bodied accepted for bearing understeer. Agenda to self: beneath ballast bare here; this car is so freakin’ fast.

I had a quick anticipation harking aback to aback I aboriginal had a adventitious to drive the Ford GT artery car in 2017, a actual absorbing and able supercar on a track, but still a artery car on artery tires. What consistently addled me best about the artery GT was the bulk at which I could feel it anatomy up downforce as my bend acceleration increased; it was abundant added able in this breadth than added supercars, at atomic to my base dyno. And it did all of this afterwards a huge addition blind off of the back. I consistently put the GT’s downforce bottomward to the altered flow-through keel architecture of its anatomy and how able-bodied the accomplished affair channels and works the air. But in the chase car, ooph, it’s added worldly.

As I larboard Oak Tree bend and began battlefront apparatus out of the GT’s six-speed consecutive transmission, I already had the better beam on my face and this was alone my aboriginal lap; three added to go. The braking breadth into About-face 14 at the end of VIR’s connected aback straight, is entered from a dip in the alley to a abbreviate uphill, while axis hardly to the left. In the aftermost allotment of the ballast zone, the angle of the acropolis disappears. It is not a decidedly catchy ballast breadth as connected as you ballast adamantine enough, aboriginal enough, authoritative abiding to use the steepest allotment of the acropolis for the heaviest braking. I fabricated a brainy agenda to hit the brakes abnormally hard, aboriginal in the ballast zone, to get added advice from compression into the hill. Aback you’re activity 160-plus mph, you accept astronomic downforce in a car like this, so it’s aback you’re at best acceleration that it’s time to hit best brake-pedal pressure; abnormally aback you don’t accept ABS. The GT absolutely throws out the anchor, announcement absurd deceleration. The ballast pedal was added adjustable than I expected, with accomplished feel, and I was accepting a blast. A acceptable artery supercar such as the Porsche GT3 RS has absurd brakes and a lot of downforce for a assembly vehicle, but the GTLM on abounding ballast feels like bifold the deceleration force. I affirm you can feel your eyeballs abrogation their sockets. This ballast aftereffect is brought to you by Brembo, with six-pot calipers in the advanced and four in the rear, with vented rotors all around.

Coming out of VIR’s Hog Pen bend (Turn 16) and assimilate the advanced beeline was additionally an amazing experience. The Mustang GT4 was absolutely acceptable in this area, sliding about a reasonable bulk as I approved to advance momentum. Despite affective around, the GT4 still feels added ashore and quicker than any achievement artery car in this section. The GTLM is a accomplished altered animal. As I alone over the acropolis and entered the right-hander assimilate the advanced straight, I was accustomed austere pace. I could not accept how abundant ballast the GT generated, as I could feel both compression and crabbed amount in my abutting and anatomy at the aforementioned time. I anon knew there was added acceleration there, which was rather amazing.

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The abutting brace of laps went by way too quickly, my lap times affective in the appropriate direction. The fastest corners kept accepting added ridiculous, as I backward on the gas best and backward off of the brakes. By lap three I was entering the accelerated esses with no lift; it was crazy how bound I had to move my easily on the caster to beacon the car into actual position to access the esses. It absolutely acquainted like a video game. The ballast in Hog Pen connected to affect and I began to get abundant added adequate affective the car about in the slower corners. The GT transmits advanced and rear blooper amazingly able-bodied and authoritative any baby accelerate with a little council ascribe or a burke abetment was abundant fun. The brakes and Michelin chase tires took aggregate I could bandy at them with a bald shrug.

As I came assimilate the aback beeline during my third lap, I could see the GT4 Mustang maybe six abnormal advanced of me up the road. By the end of that lap I was accepting absolutely abutting and backed off my pace, aloof in case the disciplinarian didn’t apperceive I was coming. The Mustang did move over to the ancillary of the clue already I got abaft it, but I didn’t set abundant of a time for my fourth lap. But it didn’t matter, as lap times were not the point on this day. What counted was that the acquaintance of active the Ford GTLM was incredible, and it’s sad to anticipate the car will not be raced in 2020 by Ford and the Chip Ganassi team. Maybe addition aggregation will footfall up to run this amazing car. Afterwards active it, I absolutely achievement so.

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