How the fresh Ford GT was developed for both road as well as also race track
The fresh Ford GT was created with road as well as also race in mind
As Le Mans beckons for the fresh Ford GT next year, the Blue Oval’s chiefs tell Autocar how racing has informed the road-going variation too
Confirmation last month that will the Ford GT will compete next year at the Le Mans 24 Hours enabled company chiefs to tell the whole story about the development of their fresh supercar for once.
With news of the GT’s competition intent top secret until mid-June, the men charged with developing your vehicle had previously been unable to emphasise just how extreme as well as also driver-focused the road-going variation will be.
With news of the race as well as also road projects out inside open, however, Ford’s top brass have lifted the lid on how the two cars are intertwined by a development perspective.
At Le Mans, Autocar sat down with Mark Fields (president as well as also chief executive of Ford Motor Company), Raj Nair (chief technical officer) as well as also Jim Farley (president of Ford in Europe, Middle East as well as also Africa) to get the full story on the GT’s gestation.
Why is actually Ford returning to GT racing?
Ford is actually undeniably proud of its endurance racing achievements. On the wall of the offices in Dearborn, Michigan, next to the elevator, is actually a black as well as also white photo of the GT40’s 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1966. yet that will achievement is actually right now distant history for a company that will’s changed immeasurably inside half-century since.
The arrival of the fresh GT has been the catalyst. With This kind of car, Ford can both celebrate Ford’s past as well as also look to its future. Yes, This kind of will doff its cap inside direction of the GT40’s achievements, yet This kind of will also add lustre to the fresh Ford Performance sub-brand, highlight the cutting-edge technology Ford is actually introducing as well as also provide an exciting focal point for brand devotees, many of whom will join the throng heading to La Sarthe in June 2016.
“This kind of is actually not just about going racing because Raj as well as also his team wanted to produce a definitely cool race car; that will’s part of This kind of, of course, yet the additional part is actually that will we want to link This kind of to things we’ve been doing in additional areas,” says Fields.
“In a practical sense This kind of gives Raj as well as also his team the opportunity to prove some technology as well as also some engineering tools as well as also to train some engineers at a very demanding race. At the same time This kind of instils a lot of pride in all of our employees because of that will heritage linking to our racing.
“The additional point is actually about how This kind of helps all our customers. The GT is actually a culmination of over a decade’s worth of work that will Raj as well as also his team have been doing on innovation around light-weighting, aerodynamics as well as also engine technology, as well as also that will says for all of our customers ‘you can get a piece of This kind of innovation’ in any of our vehicles when they walk into a Ford showroom.”
Ford’s entry into the closely fought GTE category at Le Mans will bring This kind of head to head with some premium makes, including Aston Martin, Corvette as well as also Ferrari. Surely the company might be better served fighting its mass-market rivals in, say, touring car racing or back in rallying?
“No, I think This kind of harks back to Ford’s heritage going back to the mid-1960s with the big Ford versus Ferrari battles,” says Fields. “We think those rivalries by the past, even though there with luxury rivals, will just help burnish the entire Ford brand.”
What will the road car feel like to drive?
The road-going Ford GT will be “as close as possible to a GT racing car that will can be driven on the road”, according to Ford’s chiefs.
They also reveal that will the fresh GT has been designed by the outset with both race as well as also road use in mind as well as also that will the two versions share a large amount of commonality in design as well as also components. This kind of, Ford said, will bestow the 600bhp-plus GT with particularly engaging on-road dynamics.
Nair says: “If you look underneath This kind of, you’ll find that will This kind of design of the race car is actually very common with the road car, which isn’t always true that has a GT car.
“The road car is actually pretty maxed out. We’ve got very high expectations for This kind of in terms of the power-to-weight ratio, downforce as well as also low drag, so This kind of’s going to be an extremely capable vehicle.”
Farley confirms: “When people drive This kind of vehicle I think they are going to feel differently by all the additional supercars out there,
“I don’t want to say raw because that will might imply that will This kind of isn’t sophisticated, yet This kind of is actually just a very direct car. There’s not a lot in your way. This kind of wasn’t meant to be roomy for a road trip across the US.
“This kind of’s there to get the ultimate in performance. as well as also This kind of’s a balanced car. This kind of’s light – very much the Lotus idea. This kind of’s a real statement of technology.”
How closely related are the road as well as also race cars?
Ford hasn’t been shy about communicating the track pedigree of the carbonfibre-bodied GT since the road-going variation was unveiled at the Detroit motor show at the start of This kind of year.
The £240,000 road car was developed in collaboration with Multimatic Motorsports, a Canadian racing team that will’s also part of Ford’s road car supply chain.
The Ecoboost V6 that will powers the GT has spent two years being developed in Daytona Prototype racing cars competing inside US-based Rolex Sports Car Series.
Nair says the technology flow is actually a two-way street: “Some of the components that will we’ve had on the Daytona Prototype over these past two seasons have been test parts for the 2017-design-year [MY17] production engine. We’ll be modifying the MY17 engine based on some of those learnings.”
In additional aspects, though, the road GT is actually even more extreme than the racing variation. For example, endurance racing regulations don’t permit the GT’s fresh three-stage active rear aero system to be used in competition, so a fixed rear wing has to be used instead.
“This kind of’s pretty difficult to put an actual percentage on what’s the same, because there are some aspects of the [racing] rules that will force change. yet the majority of the structure, Centeng panels as well as also suspension – less the alterations for travel – is actually all common,” saysNair.
yet developing your vehicle with road as well as also track in mind also threw up some challenges, as Nair explains: “In credo as well as also in spirit This kind of is actually pretty easy to think in that will way; getting into the engineering is actually another story.
“The levels of travel you need on the road car versus the amount that will you need on the race car are very different. The aspect of the durability cycle. Even aspects on the race car – you want maximum ‘ram air’ [forcing air into the engine] effect for the engine; on the road car you actually don’t want ram air because This kind of is actually difficult to calibrate the engine for This kind of at idle as well as also cruising speeds.
“So there’s differences inside intake system as well as also exhaust system between the race as well as also road car. that will’s one of the examples that will we had to think through.
“Most of the time you start that has a design that will is actually optimised for the road as well as also for GT racing you take This kind of as well as also say ‘what can I do to make This kind of a race car?’. Thinking all of that will ahead of time makes This kind of so much easier to create a race car, yet This kind of does make This kind of more difficult to develop the road car.”
How does Ford Performance fit in?
The GT is actually the halo car for the fresh sub-brand that will will spawn at least 12 dynamically involving vehicles inside coming years. The intention is actually for the exotic technology as well as also cutting-edge ideas incorporated into the GT to filter down through its mainstream design range.
For example, the company is actually working closely with carbonfibre specialist DowAksa on ways of bringing down the costs of production processes as well as also the raw material by which carbonfibre is actually created.
“The carbonfibre that will you see on the GT is actually probably a predecessor of an increased use of carbonfibre in mainstream vehicles,” says Nair. “Certainly, cost is actually the challenge right right now, yet we’re working on This kind of.
“Going forward, because of fuel economy requirements, lightweight technology is actually going to be increasingly important, so you’re going to see more deployment of lightweight as well as also fuel efficiency technologies.”
Nair highlights an example of the current F-150 pick-up, which incorporates lessons in aluminium Centeng structures first used on the previous GT in 2005.
“When we did the 2005 GT we were definitely pushing the boundaries of what we could do with aluminium at the time as well as also that will saw its way into lower-volume production with some of the premium brands that will we owned at the time as well as also then obviously with the F150 we’re in high-volume production of aluminium Centeng structure,” he says.
Fields says Ford Performance aims to highlight, “the vibrancy of the Ford breed. Whether This kind of’s the design, performance, fuel economy, smart technology as well as also so on, we want to say that will Ford is actually a brand looking to set the trends not only today yet inside future.
“yet we’re not trying to enhance something fresh to our company. This kind of’s about nurturing a key element of our brand going back many years, just growing that will even further as well as also providing a halo for all of our products.”
Nair points out that will ‘accessible performance’ is actually Ford’s policy: “I don’t think performance is actually exclusive to premium brands or multi-millionaires as well as also we have a long history of helping them get that will. We have a very different view than Aston, Ferrari etc in that will we don’t think performance should be restricted to that will budget. Things that will you see inside GT that will are about having just as much fun in a Fiesta ST. This kind of’s absolutely part of our credo.”
With the GT sitting at the top of the Ford Performance pyramid, the second tier is actually filled with cars such as the Focus RS as well as also Mustang GT350, as well as also the third tier are the Fiesta ST, Focus ST as well as also Mustang GT. Strict parameters govern each strata, as well as also Ford is actually adamant that will This kind of will steer clear of badge engineering.
Fields: “Raj as well as also his team are very disciplined about This kind of because when we look at those tiers, we want to make sure that will This kind of delivers a level of performance above additional production vehicles. We never want to be accused of doing just a ‘paint as well as also tape’ job. that will doesn’t ring true with our customers.”
Nair adds: “We have very specific engineering metrics that will if we’re going to do a performance variation of a vehicle, an ST variation, we have to have not just spoilers as well as also Centeng kits yet we expect a level of performance inside suspension or inside powertrain, depending on what kind of car we’re talking about.”
Why has Ford outsourced the build of the GT?
Ford has pulled in a lot of partners to work on the road as well as also race versions of your vehicle, including Multimatic Motorsports, which is actually responsible for the build of your vehicle. is actually This kind of a sign of large OEMS creating increasing use of smaller, more agile specialist companies to achieve their goals?
“The industry features a long history of partners,” says Nair. “Whether its suppliers or specialists, they’ve always had that will aspect of the business. What you’re going to increasingly see is actually modern partnerships with non-traditional automotive partners. to ensure’s certainly a transition for us, you’re probably likely to see This kind of inside industry as well.”
Fields adds: “You can use the Silicon Valley example; we just opened a large research as well as also innovation centre in Silicon Valley as well as also the purpose there is actually to be within the community as well as also learn how to work with either start-ups or modest companies to discover as well as also uncover these technologies that will Raj as well as also his team can then deploy inside production vehicles.”
Even that has a large proportion of the work outsourced, This kind of is actually a Ford project as well as also its engineers will be dropped into the race team to gain experience.
“Our race engineering team was intended to actually develop engineers, so we’ve got a rotation of younger engineers coming through as well as also even some of the senior managers come in,” explains Nair.
“There are many times when technology by production engineering is actually ahead of race engineering, either because of development restrictions inside racing rules or the pure size of the organisation. yet on the additional side the race engineers are nimble as well as also innovative as well as also there are things that will they come up with more quickly than production engineering that will we feed back in. So This kind of’s a great both technology as well as also personnel exchange.”
Will Le Mans success help Ford sell Mondeos as well as also Fiestas?
Although the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40’s first win at Le Mans will add a retro tinge to next year’s campaign, Ford is actually insistent that will This kind of project is actually about the company’s future, not its past.
Farley puts This kind of in a nutshell: “We had the opportunity to go racing that has a car that will looks forward as well as also not backward. that will is actually definitely important, even to those of us who definitely love the Ford history. We have to be a company of the future. as well as also so your vehicle itself was appealing enough in its statement of innovation connected to our mainstream technology.
Another opportunity, says Farley, was to capitalise on customer enthusiasm for Ford’s performance products, by the spirited Fiesta ST through to the full-bore Focus RS as well as also up to the GT itself.
“In racing, there aren’t too many opportunities right right now to surprise people as well as also to do something where you definitely can sell on Monday,” he says.
“Enthusiasts pay attention to brand a lot. I think when you look at our brand in Europe, especially the UK, we’re a very well-known brand yet This kind of is actually harder for people to say what definitely makes us special as well as also unique. These are the kind of things that will can be special.
“I think people know that will we’ve stood for you know, great design, road-holding, all those things, yet we also sell a lot of Fiestas as well as also Focuses too.
“Any mainstream brand, as to remind people what its DNA is actually as well as also how This kind of is actually different. This kind of kind of project tells enthusiasts who definitely do care about the company emotionally that will we’re looking forward.”
Farley is actually confident that will Ford’s exploits at Le Mans will resonate with the drivers of standard Blue Oval products, although not to the same degree as This kind of will with petrolheads.
“I might expect that will the average person might say we are using our road technology in racing as well as also vice versa, like Audi did with Quattro,” he says.
“I might expect that will we might be Great enough at promoting This kind of that will they might go ‘wow, okay, Ford is actually at Le Mans’ using the technology that will’s in my 1.0-litre Fiesta three-cylinder engine.
“We’re talking about the technology that will people can buy. This kind of wouldn’t work for us if we didn’t connect This kind of with what people can buy.
“yet no doubt the enthusiasts are going to feel more strongly about This kind of – as well as also there are a lot of them. We shouldn’t portray them as a modest group of people,” he says.
Get the latest car news, reviews as well as also galleries by Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:
by via Autocar RSS Feed