The most anticipated new car release of the year in enthusiast circles is the upcoming 2017 Ford GT. Built to compete in the 24 Hours of LeMans 50 years after Ford posted a one-two-three finish at that hallowed race, the GT is a race car in street car guise.
Of course, it’s also a race car, and several months before the production car hits the streets we’ve already seen the race car compete in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. I was there, and I finagled access to the car in the garage. I also got the chance to speak to Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president, global product development, and chief technical officer, about the differences between the race car and the street car. Here is what I learned.
“First of all, there are very few differences,” said Nair. “This is pretty close to a no-waiver car.” A no-waiver car would have no changes from the production to car to make it competitive in a race series. The reason it is so close is that Ford designed the race car and the production car at the same time, knowing the rules for IMSA’s GTLM class and the FIA’s LM GTE Pro class.
Starting at the front, the headlamps are different as the production car has to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the race car does not. The race car has three-bank headlamps that are considerably more powerful than the road car’s twin stacked lights with LED signature lighting.
CHECK OUT: 2016 ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA FULL RESULTS
The aerodynamics are completely different between the two. Up front, the race car’s lower grille sits flush, the front fascia is rounded off, the diffuser is unique, and winglets at the corners add more downforce. The street car also has an active rear spoiler that raises at speed and changes pitch when the brakes are applied to act as an airbrake. Active aero is illegal on the race car, so it has a much larger fixed rear spoiler, as well as a massive rear diffuser.
More cooling is needed for the race car, so it has NACA ducts in the center of the big nostrils on the hood and at the front of each rear fender.
Inside, the interior is stripped and fitted with a single seat instead of two seats. It also has a racing steering wheel, racing controls, and racing displays and gauges.
The tub is common to both cars. The suspension geometry is basically the same, though final suspension calibrations for camber, caster and other factors are optimized for racing. The race car also sits lower, and uses some sold-mount bushings that would hurt ride quality in the production car. An active suspension will be used on the street car, but that is not allowed for racing, so the race car uses Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers, which were developed by Mulitmatic Motorsports, the company that is building both the race and road-going versions of the GT for Ford. The race car also runs racing slicks on unique wheels, and its brakes are iron instead of the carbon ceramics of the street car.
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