Ford and Chip Ganassi campaigned two Ford GTs at the final Road Atlanta event in the 2018 IMSA GTLM series. Cars number 66 and 67 competed in the final race, and while car 67 had a chance to win the driver’s championship their fifth-place finish wasn’t quite high enough to nab that title.
But Ford’s GT did take home its first manufacturer’s title. With first place finishes in five races this season the Ford GTs only needed to cross the starting line to secure the manufacturer’s title, which meant all the Ford GT owners in attendance could relax a bit after the first lap in the 10-hour race was over.
It’s not an overstatement to describe the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R as the most fun I’ve ever had at a race track. The Ford Performance engineers were targeting a car with not only power and poise but also uncompromised at-the-limit communication and confidence. And they nailed it.
Much ado has been made about the GT350R’s flat-plane V8, and deservedly so. The engine revs past 8,000 rpm, creating a glorious exhaust note while offering one of the broadest torque bands you’ll find in a modern, or vintage, automobile. The engine makes 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a slick-shifting Tremec 6-speed that sends power to a mechanical limited-slip differential.
The Shelby GT350R’s drivetrain is undeniably impressive, but it’s this Mustang’s handling capabilities that made me fall in love during the Ford GT Owners Rally in Utah. Hammering this car around Utah Motorsports Campus quickly illustrated both its ultimate grip and its confidence-inspiring behavior at the limit of traction.
In August of 2017 another gathering of Ford GTs and Ford GT owners came together in Park City, Utah. While this was the 12th Ford GT Owners Rally, it was the first to feature new Ford GTs alongside 2005 and 2006 models. I had every intention of driving my 2005 Ford GT to this rally. After all, it was the same road trip I’d made in my GT just 4 months earlier to attend the new Ford GT press launch.
Sadly, after planning to drive the GT my schedule shifted and I couldn’t afford the 2 extra days to make the trip up and back. I quickly purchased airplane tickets and wondered what kind of rental car I’d be stuck in while following GTs through the mountains of Utah. Then I had an idea. What if I contacted Ford and asked for one of the new Shelby GT350Rs? I hadn’t driven one yet, and I’d be showcasing the Shelby to a highly-targeted demographic of likely customers.