When Ford ended its GT sports car racing program in 2019, the announcement disappointed a great many fans, partly because it always sucks to see a popular manufacturer back away from racing, and partly because the Ford GT was especially cool. It was like an old-school prototype that just happened to be mixing it up in the lower class, evoking the Toyota GT-One, Porsche 911 GT1 and Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR.
The Ford GT’s racing days may be behind it, but it seems it’s passing the baton. The company’s next global GT-class contender will be the Mustang GT3, the manufacturer announced on Friday ahead of this weekend’s 24 Hours of Daytona.
Dearborn is planning to enter IMSA’s GTD Pro class in 2024. The Mustang GT3 will be built by Ontario-based Multimatic, which is also responsible for assembling the Ford GT. It’ll be powered by a 5-liter Coyote V8 tuned by one of the company’s other longtime motorsports partners, M-Sport, which operates Ford’s WRC effort.
As for other modifications that aren’t powertrain-related, here’s what Ford’s release has to say:
The new Mustang GT3 race car will feature bespoke Short-Long Arm suspension front and rear, rear-mounted transaxle gearbox, carbon fiber body panels, as well as a unique aero package developed to meet GT3 targets.
Ford had entertained programs in the DPi and LMDh prototype classes but ultimately decided to stick with a production car-based effort — and a recognizable one at that. Despite the Mustang’s mass appeal, the pony car has been remarkably shy of top-level sports car racing throughout its long history. There have been a few privateer one-offs, as well as Saleen taking a pair to Le Mans in 1997 and campaigning the radical SR Widebody in Grand Am in the early 2000s — but nothing with true factory backing.
In fact, the program that eventually culminated in the second-generation Ford GT actually began as something called Project Silver — a bid to create a Mustang that could win its class at Le Mans. Courtesy of an Auto Extremist story you absolutely must read:
This was a significant effort within the company, with many of the people involved adding the project to their normal workloads. But in the end, in order to make the Mustang competitive, it was determined that a wildly expensive “homologation special” would have to be created, and though it would have been by far the most radical and compelling Mustang ever built – complete with carbon fiber passenger cell – the project ground to a halt at the very last “go/no go” meeting in [former Ford CEO] Mark Fields’ office. The bottom line? It was too expensive and some of the Ford regional executives weren’t keen on the financial contributions that would be required of them.
If that had happened, we would have gotten a Mustang homologation special instead of the current Ford GT. Wild to think about, though I’m kind of happy history panned out this way. With today’s news, we’ll at least have gotten to see both race.
As for the new Mustang GT3, Ford also plans to prepare customer cars for the Pro-Am GTD class. It’s unclear what the company’s ambitions are beyond IMSA — it’s keeping quiet regarding Le Mans at the moment, but you never know what could happen. Besides, I have a hunch they’re itching to fight Corvette Racing for bragging rights over the world’s greatest race.