A Day at the Track: Ford Shelby GT350/GT350R
I felt very fortunate to be invited by Ford Performance to experience the Shelby GT350 and GT350R – according to Ford, the most track-capable Mustangs ever made – at one of the country’s most famous racetracks, Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.
The morning kicked off with a brief history of Ford’s relationship Carroll Shelby and the Shelby brand’s heritage. The Ford Performance team’s passion for the brand and exuberance for where the company is headed was palpable. They discussed the huge transformation in Ford vehicles in recent years, with a growing emphasis on technology, innovation and fuel efficiency. Another key factor? Performance. As a part of the new performance lineup, Ford says there will be a total of 12 new vehicles introduced through 2020 – one of which included the Ford GT that was on display at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.
After the briefing on the brand’s rich heritage, I was able to sit behind the wheel of the GT350 to learn more about the vehicle before taking it on the track. From the beginning of the development, the designers aimed to harmonize the weight distribution and front and rear downforce to create an extremely well-balanced car. The front of the GT350 is specifically designed to reduce drag and front-end lift. The fascia is closely sculpted and the hood is significantly lower than standard Mustang models.
The GT350 boasts a 5.2 liter V8 engine – the most powerful naturally aspirated production engine Ford has ever produced – with 526 hp and 429 ft.-lbs. of torque. This engine incorporates a flat-plane crankshaft developed exclusively for the vehicle.
Ford Performance designed a new transmission case and gear set just for this car – a Tremec 3160 6-speed manual. It mates to the engine with a high-strength, dual-disc clutch. Ford engineers also refined and tuned the chassis to help deliver the most balanced, nimble and exhilarating production Mustang ever made.
Track Pack and Technology Pack both come with the option of MagneRide dampers on the front and rear. To suit performance requirements, this innovative system alters dampening at individual corners within seven milliseconds. According to Ford, the brakes are the biggest and most powerful ever installed on a production Mustang, and were built in-house by the Ford Performance team.
The significant difference between the GT350 and the GT350R is that the R’s weight was reduced by 120 lbs. To achieve this weight loss, Ford Performance removed the radio, back seat, air conditioning, trunk lining and spare tire, and produced special carbon fiber wheels. In addition, MagneRide comes standard on the R.
Ford mounted Go Pro cameras to each of the vehicles, but I have yet to receive my footage. Until then, here’s a great clip of the GT350R being put through its paces by a professional driver.
Ford didn’t quite divulge exactly how many GT350s it’ll produce. However, we know it won't be more than 200 (unfortunately, that number is not missing a zero)…and – bad news – there’s already a wait list.
The GT is really the pinnacle of Ford Performance until the GT hits the streets, so it was an amazing experience to be one of the first ever to experience the GT350 and GT350R.
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