2021 Ford GT40
The Ford Mustang GT4 is the appetizer. It’s a abundant app for sure, a bowl of bacon-wrapped scallops or bison sliders, added than abundant all on its own. But today, at Virginia International Raceway, Ford Achievement and Multimatic brought added than one trailer. The one that disgorges the Mustang is a triple-axle amid deal, adorned but accepted fare, goosenecked to a boss F-series Super Duty pickup. But over in pit lane, there’s article a bit added substantial. It’s a Ford Achievement 18-wheeler for alteration the absolute primo stuff: Ford’s IMSA GT GTLM cars. Next to it, sitting appreciative on its basic air jacks, is # 67, the just-retired Ford GT Chip Ganassi antagonism car. Yesterday, I collection a agenda facsimile of this car in Ford Racing’s simulator. I comatose a lot. Today I’ll drive the absolute thing. This time, there’s no displace button.
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I collection the Mustang in the simulator, too, although not for as abounding laps. The Ford bodies accept that the Mustang sim, admitting its authenticity—you’re sitting in an absolute Mustang interior, agitation to and from on hydraulic rams with the wraparound awning bushing the windshield and ancillary windows—isn’t absolutely as dialed in as the GTLM sim. Which agency that, in my case, demography it to the absolute meant active as far as I could afterwards decorating the actor with breakfast. The world’s best busy antagonism bold elicits a faculty of the astonishing valley, and if your eyes are fooled, your close ear is not.
No such problems with the absolute thing, though. The GT4’s Holinger six-speed consecutive chiral manual engages aboriginal accessory with a aerial clack, its aeriform actuation sending a shiver up through the quick-release council wheel. Today the acoustic acknowledgment is real, and it’s delicious.
The GT4 is based on the Shelby GT350R-C chase car and uses the Voodoo 5.2-liter V-8, bare that engine’s signature allotment of hardware, the flat-plane crank. Aback IMSA’s Balance of Achievement dictates that the Mustang GT4 should accomplish about 450 horsepower, there’s no advantage in giving its agent a high-winding redline fabricated accessible by a collapsed crank. So, yes, your banal GT350 makes added application than the GT4. No, it is not quicker on any clue in this universe.
At a rulebook-minimum 3406 pounds, the GT4 is some 250 pounds lighter than a Shelby GT350. Best of its anatomy is carbon fiber, and the autogenous is gutted and caged. And this accoutrement has austere aero. Ford is backstairs about absolute downforce numbers, but that Dreamliner-sized rear addition isn’t there to appearance off at Chase Wars. There’s additionally a advanced splitter, awning vents, and a rear diffuser—basically, your Viper ACR tricks activated to a Mustang. Speaking of angelic street-legal clue cars, the GT4 additionally uses Multimatic’s spool-valve dampers. Pour some out for the Camaro Z/28.
Standing on the accouter aloft VIR’s acknowledgment stand, I watch racer Andy Pilgrim altercation the GT4 through About-face 1, a right-hander that is basically a half-trip about a skidpad. And, damn, if it doesn’t attending like he’s afloat it. I can see the blooper bend from a thousand anxiety away. Back he pits, I ask him if he was blame about in About-face 1, seeing how it would stick with the appendage out. “Oh, no,” he replies. “It aloof affectionate of does that.” It aloof affectionate of does that? Aftermost time I saw a Mustang with its appendage out that far, it was on YouTube, “Cars and Coffee Mega-Fails 18.”
Soon it’s my about-face to band in and try my luck with the GT4’s twin-plate antagonism clutch. With a bright appearance bottomward the alloy line, I accord it affluence of revs and get abroad afterwards stalling. And then, that’s it for the clutch. Once you’re moving, you about-face amid the gearbox’s straight-cut apparatus with the paddles alone. The soundtrack is abnormally savage: The accepted cross-plane crank and booming bankrupt say NASCAR, but the acute accessory beef and instant, absolute rev-matched downshifts allege to conflicting road-course machines.
Which is what this is, actually. That abundant is bright by the end of a lap. The surprise, for me, is that this gutted, winged, malevolent-sounding apparatus is so friendly, so accommodating at the limit. In About-face 1, area you’re abacus burke and accepting acceleration for a acceptable continued while, I feel the rear end booty a set hardly alfresco the band scribed by the advanced tires, like the car wants to advice bind your line, appropriately auspicious added throttle, added speed. The aback end is a little bit out, but it doesn’t feel like it’s breakdancing on a tightrope the way a approved assembly Mustang would appropriate now. Like Pilgrim said, it aloof affectionate of does that.
And the downforce, whatever the amount ability be, is formidable. On my aboriginal few trips through the Climbing Esses—where the straightest band runs beyond two boom strips—I don’t run too far assimilate the curbing, alert of the suspension’s stiffness. But as I bluff a little college on anniversary lap, I acquisition that downforce changes the bold at this allotment of the track. There’s assuredly a moment of aurora beneath the central tires as I skip over the aboriginal curb, but afresh the downforce crushes the car aback bottomward assimilate the track, force on steroids. The dampers absolve it all off, too. Big hits are no big deal. Strange that a chase car would put me in apperception of a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, but there we accept it. If you like the complete of this, Multimatic will advertise you a Mustang GT4 for $225,000.
On any accustomed day (or anniversary or fortnight), cadging laps in the GT4 car would be the aerial point of your on-track experience. But today it’s the commencement to article alike better. Because anchored appropriate abaft it in the pits is #67. This car’s aftermost chase was aftermost summer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, area it accomplished fourth in the LMGTE Pro class. As in 1968, Ford is accepting out of the Le Mans business, so we won’t get to see this car action the new C8.R Corvettes. Which is a abashment for chase admirers but abundant for me, aback it agency that I’ll get a adventitious to sample a accepted aggressive GTLM car on a six-lap bout of VIR afore it gets bound in a building or angry into an oligarch’s plaything.
As with the Mustang, Balance of Achievement rules beggarly that the GTLM chase car makes beneath application than the Ford GT assembly car—by a advanced margin. While the street-legal GT makes 647 application and the track-only Mark II makes added than 700, the chase car produces amid 490 and 520 horsepower, depending on the track. But that’s adjoin a minimum weight of abandoned 2822 pounds in IMSA trim. And afresh there’s the override knob.
As I assert bottomward into the GTLM’s abysmal seat, pro racer Ryan Briscoe gives me a abrupt briefing on the aggregation of switches and knobs on the ellipsoidal council wheel. Two of them are obvious: the alpha button and the annihilate switch, which is emblazoned with a blithe skull and crossbones. On the larboard ancillary is a bulge that selects altered agent maps. Position 11, area it’s set, complies with Balance of Achievement restrictions. Briscoe leans in and flicks the bulge up to 12, afresh aback down. “Going to 12 takes you off the Balance of Achievement ambience and opens it up,” he says. “Maybe do a brace laps and afresh try that out. It makes absolutely a lot of difference.” I say article civil about how I’ll apparently leave that all alone, thanks, while mentally artful how anon I can get abroad with unleashing max boost.
Getting the bench adapted involves some accommodation because I’ll charge to be able to circle that boxlike council caster afterwards hitting my legs. Appropriately I charge to sit further aback than I’d like, accepting my knees bottomward beneath the wheel. Foreshadowing: This will prove to be a problem.
But aboriginal I accept to get moving, which agency imparting astringent abortive abrasion aloft the 5.5-inch three-plate carbon clutch. This car does 82 mph in aboriginal gear, and the aboriginal mile per hour is the hardest. Also, of the 80 percent of its genitalia that this car’s twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 shares with the F-150’s engine, I accept to anticipate the flywheel isn’t one of them. In fact, there’s no affirmation from the cockpit it alike has a flywheel.
But afterwards a brace stalls I get it out of the pits and arch bottomward to About-face 1, affective up through additional and third accessory aloof to get the feel of the about-face points. Afresh I brake—rock adamantine pedal, algid brakes, about-face in, and . . . the aperture flies open.
Like the assembly GT, this car has doors that accessible up and out, so it’s a boss ache adjoin the harnesses to ability up to the cull band to accompany the aperture aback down. Back I administer to snag the strap, the aperture refuses to latch. Afresh the band comes off. This is activity great!
I administer to grab the nub of band up on the aperture itself and authority it in a afterlife anchor as I doodle about VIR to get aback to the pits. The car bucks and shudders, antisocial the slowness, but I can’t alike drive semi-quickly because I can’t downshift afterwards absolution go of either the aperture with my larboard duke or the council caster with my right. Eventually I sputter aback into the pits and appeal for help. Briscoe, who shut the aperture afore I left, proclaims, “Hey, I’m a race-car driver, not a aperture closer.” This time he slams it tight, and I’m off again.
When you see the GTLM-spec 3.5-liter agent on a stand, it looks like the cephalothorax of a awful brownish arthropod, the turbos and their accouterments its antennae. At idle, it sounds cantankerous, abashed and bustling like it can’t abide stillness. Beneath way, the anti-lag and traction-control systems backpack on a active agitation entitled, “All the addition or none of the boost?” The V-6 doesn’t afford the bland brier of the Mustang’s V-8. It’s angrier, ragged, and impatient. It’s additionally a lot added powerful.
I absorb a lap aloof activity out the car’s responses and aggravating to annihilate my nerves. I’ve been entrusted with this gazillion-dollar chase car, no minders and no limits, so I don’t appetite to spiral it up. I additionally don’t appetite to babyish it. This is my adventitious to go as fast as I’ll apparently anytime go about VIR, and I appetite to booty advantage.
The cardinal consequence afterwards one lap is that this car could use added power. It’s a 500-hp drive car. Luckily, there’s a band-aid to that. On the aback straight, I flick the addition bulge over to 12, and I’m instantly ashamed aback in the seat. Dom hit the NOS, bro! We’re active the Abounding Course, with the continued aback straight, so there’s abundant pavement to get into sixth accessory afore laying on the brakes way early. Strangely, the brakes don’t feel as aboriginal as I’d expected, yet the car still sheds acceleration so calmly that I charge to get aback on the burke and afresh anchor afresh afore the right-hander at the end of the straight. With some of the wildest artery cars, such as the McLaren Senna and Porsche 911 GT2 RS, the brakes grab with arresting-wire-on-an-aircraft-carrier violence. With the GT, it artlessly feels like you collection into airy quicksand. All the acceleration goes away, eventually than you expected, but the action is beeline and bland and afterwards drama. Maybe I charge to bend on the pedal harder.
I analysis that approach on the advanced beeline and anchor way too aboriginal again, this time accompanied by some affectionate of admonishing siren central the cabin. It sounds like the accent afore a analysis of the Emergency Broadcast System. Nobody abreast me on what that means, and there’s no way to ask, so I abstain it and accumulate driving. Turns out it’s a admonishing for basic lockup, aback the GTLM doesn’t accept anti-lock brakes. I assumption I’m on the pedal adamantine enough.
With the tires, brakes, and my claret warm, I alpha to aces up the pace. In About-face 1, you can finer go abounding burke about a exhausted or two afterwards you’re off the brakes. There’s aloof so abundant grip, ever-increasing the faster you go, that it’s a concrete attempt to accumulate the pedal down. The GTLM can cull a abiding 1.80 g’s, according to Ford, and the stick can aiguille alike higher, so in this right-hander, with my bench a little too far back, it’s absolutely difficult to accumulate that long-travel accelerator down. Normally you ascendancy the burke by coil your calf, but with my ass appropriation out of the bench I accept to acutely lock every beef in my appropriate leg to break in it.
As the laps bang off, I get faster. By the fifth lap, I get a acceptable abundant barrage out of Oak Tree to run out of apparatus on the straight. Coming over the hill, I grab for an upshift, but I’m already in sixth. How fast am I going? The car’s geared for 190 mph, but Ford programmed the about-face lights to appear on a little early, to abstain encounters with the rev limiter. Maybe 175? I don’t know, which is aloof as well, probably. Afresh it’s brake, brake, downshift, downshift, Emergency Broadcast System, about-face in, throttle, added throttle, upshift, upshift, VIR abashing accomplished anytime quicker. Somewhere amid laps four and six, the abhorrence is shoved abreast by authentic euphoria. This car’s banned are so high, it’s like accepting a superpower. It’s like back you about-face into a ammo in Mario Kart. It is blinding, bemused fun. For all applied purposes, I can finer drive as fast as I feel like going. Briscoe takes this car through the Climbing Esses at added than 160 mph. There’s aloof no way I can blanket my arch about achievement like that. It would booty added than six laps. Please, sir, may I accept another?
On my aftermost lap, my time dips into the aerial 1:40s. Briscoe is in the low 1:40s. The acknowledged Abounding Course production-car almanac is 1:51, which was logged by Chevy Achievement architect Alex MacDonald in a 2019 Corvette ZR1. It is acutely safe to say that I would never accept gone faster than that in annihilation that is not the 2019 Ford GT GTLM. Unless addition lets me drive a Formula 1 car or a Le Mans ancestor or an exoteric terra-racer extracted from conflicting accident abreast Groom Lake. One of those machines ability be quicker, but no guarantees.
By the time I bark myself out of the seat, I’m decrepit in sweat, and my watch tells me that my baby is at 169 beats per minute. For me, that’s a dart at the end of a 5K. And while the concrete assignment of active the car is taxing, it doesn’t accreditation a affection amount like that. This is my beating antagonism from excitement, from massive depression of adrenaline, from the authentic joy of active a car that feels like it could go out appropriate now and win its chic at Le Mans. Because it could.
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