The Roar Before
Ford Performanceâ€™s EcoBoostÂ and Shelby racers warm up in Daytona
By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Ford Performance.
Racing season is already upon us, and the IMSA series will bring us the first look at the new Ford GT in competition at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 28-31. However, to give racing teams a chance to dial in their combination before the heat of battle, IMSA hosts a practice event called The Roar Before the Rolex 24, which was held this past weekend in Daytona Beach, Florida.
We popped into the track last Friday to score some photos of the cars on track and to soak in the sounds of the GT lapping the track. Many of the highly tuned race cars donâ€™t sound great at low rpm, but we have to say the Ford GT sounded much better at full song in person than it does on video.
Of course the teams and racers are still finding the sweet spot in the new race car, which has come together in a relatively short time span. Remember it was just about a year ago that the production car was announced to the public.
â€œI think for us on the 66 car, it has gone as planned. Our plan coming here was not to go looking for pace. We were just looking to make the car go around the race track as much as we can. We purposely tried to make changes in the garage and not the pit lane so we could turn as many laps as we could, and we really had no big issues with the car,â€ No. 66 Ford GT driver Joey Hand said. â€œThe car ran really good. It felt pretty normal. It didnâ€™t do anything weird, which was a start. I think we got a lot of good information for the guys to go back in with these next couple of weeks and come back with a good starting set to roll out of the truck with.â€
â€œIt was a good couple of days here in Daytona. Weâ€™ve been putting a lot of miles on the car and just learning more and more about stuff. Weâ€™ve tried different things,â€ No. 66 Ford GT driver SÃ©bastien Bourdais added. â€œItâ€™s still a very new project, so now that weâ€™re in a happy place with the brakes and the installation in the car and this-and-that, weâ€™ve been trying to dial the car a bit more, so itâ€™s been an interesting process and itâ€™s all about trying to get ready for the future.â€
You can watch some great footage of the GTs in action at The Roar right hereâ€¦
The Roar also marked the beginning of the second season of Continental Sports Car Challenge featuring the Shelby GT350R-C. Multimatic Motorsportsâ€™s team drivers Billy Johnson and Scott Maxwell ran some of the quickest laps of the weekend before being edged out by one of the Porsche GT4 racers. The weekend served as the debut event for the new private GT350R-C racer fielded by Compass360 Racing.
â€œThis is our first weekend with the (Shelby GT350R-C) Mustang and the car just ran pretty much flawlessly every single session. The support weâ€™ve been getting from Multimatic and Ford has been incredible. We had an incident last session yesterday where the car tagged the wall a little bit, and it was incredible,â€ Karl Thompson, Team Principal, Compass 360, said. â€œWe had a whole bunch of Ford Performance folks come to make sure everything was alright and the Multimatic guys basically came in and helped our crew get the car ready and it went out this morning and was flawless. Overall, our experience has been really, really positive. This is a full program with full support and you can see what that means.â€
â€œI like it a lot. Weâ€™re learning much from the other Mustang guys, and thatâ€™s the biggest reason weâ€™re hereâ€”what we learn in this test will make our season that much better,â€ Compass360 Racing driver Pierre Kleinubing added. â€œThe car is very well sorted, and Iâ€™m happy where weâ€™re sitting right now. Weâ€™ve got room for improvementâ€”this car has a lot of potential.â€
The Ford GTs arenâ€™t the only EcoBoost-powered machines racing in IMSA. There are two cars racing in the all-out Prototype class. The drivers of these machines seemed happy with the early returns.
â€œI feel like Iâ€™ve learned a lot here at the Roar. I think weâ€™ve made our car a little bit better. We still lack some speed, but handling-wise, I feel OK,â€ No. 02 Target/Claritin Ford EcoBoost prototype Kyle Larson said. â€œStill needs some work, but weâ€™ve definitely made gains throughout the three days, so Iâ€™m happy about that.â€
â€œIt was a very interesting last few days. First of all, seeing Chipâ€™s workshop (in Indianapolis) was very cool. Very cool guys. I love the American racing atmosphere. Iâ€™m taking it all in,â€ No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost prototype driver Alex Wurz added. â€œDriving the Daytona prototype car is different than what Iâ€™m used to, so Iâ€™m learning everything, getting used to it, like the track and the carbon (weight of the car), itâ€™s fine-tuned, but very sensitive to set up. Itâ€™s cool and Iâ€™m looking forward to getting rolling for the 24 Hours (of Daytona).â€
We are just 17 days away from live competition at the Rolex 24 and it will be exciting to see how all these Fords perform. If you make it out to the race, be sure to check out the Ford Car Corral.