Karl on Cars

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Tag: Race

Ford GT Mark II: Ultimate Track Toy for Ford GT Enthusiasts

Ford GT Mark II Driving

The Ford GT Mark II is a purpose-built track toy

Ford Motor Company has made a lot of noise with the street and race versions of the modern Ford GT. In race form, the GT has racked up an impressive list of wins at tracks like Le Mans, Daytona, Laguna Seca, Silverstone, Fuji, Shanghai, etc. Over that same 2-year period the street version of the Ford GT has remained a hot commodity in the exotic sports car world.

Ford GT Mark II Profile

The Ford GT Mark II maximizes downforce with unique body work

However, whether in street or organized race trim, the new Ford GT has been configured under a litany of regulations. The street version has to abide by emissions, safety and sound regulations, all of which add weight while restricting power. Even more frustrating, the Ford GTs racing in the World Endurance Championship and IMSA series also face horsepower restrictions and weight penalties, all in an effort to “balance” the GT’s performance against lesser…uh…I mean other…competitors.

Ford GT Mark II Doors

The Ford GT Mark II can be painted in any design the buyer wants

This begs the question: What if Ford built a version of the new Ford GT without any street or organized racing restrictions? What if the company simply took the GT’s basic platform and drivetrain and configured it in a way to maximize performance?

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New Ford GT: Race Car for the Street Status Confirmed

New Ford GT 2005 Ford GT Utah Karl Brauer

Having both generations of Ford GT to experience during the press launch provided great perspective

When the new Ford GT press launch was over I had almost everything I needed to understand the GT’s capabilities and purpose. I say “almost” because there was an additional dimension to the GT’s engineering brilliance I had yet to explore, but I didn’t know this at the time…

Sure, I’d driven it on the street pretty aggressively, and I’d driven it on the track even more aggressively. But it was my first experience in Ford’s half-million dollar supercar on a track I’d never driven. To say I left plenty of reserve in my approach as I piloted the new Ford GT in both locations is an understatement.

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New Ford GT Races at Le Mans, and Wins!

Ford GT 2016 Le Mans Front Strait

The Ford GT returned to Le Mans 50 years after its first victory

Fifty years after winning Le Mans in a 1-2-3 sweep, Ford Motor Company returned to the most famous race in the world. This 24-hour test of man and machine, with a 90-plus-year history, remains the pinnacle of endurance racing. Winning the 24 hours of Le Mans is a claim every automaker wants to make — but only 14 can. Winning Le Mans four or more times, which Ford did from 1966 to 1969, has only been accomplished by 6 automakers. So when Ford returned to Le Mans with the new Ford GT in 2016, it was a big deal.

Ford GT 2016 Le Mans Pit Lane

A tour of the Le Mans pit area was one of many perks of this trip

I was fortunate enough to attend the race for the first time that year. It had been on my bucket list forever, and I figured this was the year to make it happen. Happily, the Ford GT Forum felt the same way and arranged a group travel package for owners. By working directly with the automaker the Ford GT Forum was able to secure space in Ford’s VIP suite, which overlooks the front straight at Le Mans.

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Ford GT Races at Petit Le Mans and Wins the IMSA GTLM Manufacturer’s Title

Ford GT Petit Le Mans Race Car

The “Fan Walk” at Petit Le Mans lets everyone get close to the race cars

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.

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Ford GT versus McLaren 12C

April 2013: Ford GT Goes High-Speed Racing

While a Ford GT doesn’t work well for traditional quarter-mile drag racing, it’s a perfect candidate for Shift Sector Airstrip Attack events, like the one at Coalinga Airport in April of 2013. I drove my Ford GT up to this airstrip, about 100 miles northwest of Bakersfield, to try my luck at high-speed, straight-line racing.

2005 Ford GT MacLaren 12C Shift Sector

Two Ford GTs flank a McLaren 12C at Shift Sector

At these Shift Sector events you can race from either a dead stop, like traditional drag racers, or you and your opponent can roll casually up to 50 mph and then punch it up to between 150 and 200 mph. This type of racing offers several advantage for high-horsepower supercars. First, it removes the traction issue that many supercars struggle with when trying to apply full power from a standstill. Second, it really tests a car’s horsepower and/or aerodynamics rather than just it’s ability to put power down from zero-to-60.

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