News: 2015 Shelby GT350R First Ride

0 2015 Shelby GT350R First Ride Featured

Shotgun in the Shelby

After hot laps in the Shelby GT350R, we can say Carroll would be proud

By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Strapped into the Shelby GT350R for the first time, the anticipation is intense. Our drivers cycle through the driving modes with each lap, and each lap gets quicker. The Hummingbird is flying around the 2-mile Grattan Raceway in Western Michigan and its numerous improvements are proving their worth. The suspension gobbles up the uneven surfaces, the power pushes us back into the seat, and the grip—oh the grip—is amazing.

We made the trip out to Grattan Raceway in Belding, Michigan, for the once in a lifetime opportunity for the first official ride in the 2015 Shelby GT350R. We were greeted by this line-up of beautiful Mustangs.
We made the trip out to Grattan Raceway in Belding, Michigan, for the once in a lifetime opportunity for the first official ride in the 2015 Shelby GT350R. We were greeted by this line-up of beautiful Mustangs.

Heading down the front straight, the driver bangs the gears right at the 8,200-rpm redline. The power is intoxicating, but when the corner is racing toward us the brakes impress even more. We are assured that they just don’t fade. The pedal is always firm, and they are always at the ready. That’s good because we have to be doing over 120 into the brake zone, and the giant stoppers reel us in like it’s nothing.

As we glide through the twisties, the car just feels planted. It seems the grip is nearly equal at all four corners. We have seen a marked uptick in the handling of Mustangs over the last 10 years, but never have we felt something quite like this. The car is balanced and agile, and it seems the drivers don’t have to work that hard to give us a thrill ride at about 80 percent of their full effort.

The GT350R lives up to the last letter of its name. Built for the racetrack, it’s definitely agile on the track, and part of that agility can be attributed to weight reduction. The R-model clocks in with an official curb weight of 3,650 pounds, which is 130 pounds lighter than the Performance Pack-equipped Mustang GT.
The GT350R lives up to the last letter of its name. Built for the racetrack, it’s definitely agile on the track, and part of that agility can be attributed to weight reduction. The R-model clocks in with an official curb weight of 3,650 pounds, which is 130 pounds lighter than the Performance Pack-equipped Mustang GT.

By the time we reach the hill, the speed is back. The elastic powerband lets Second gear eat up the sharper turns but not require a shift until things open up a bit. As the speed climbs and the elevation increases, we finally reach the top of the hill and whoosh. All four wheels are off the ground. What might have been a fright in the last generation of Mustangs is a delight in the halo S550. The car returns to earth without an ounce of drama and gets right back to business.

That business is being the best handling Mustang we’ve ever experienced. Of course, that experience was limited—for now—to watching it unfold from the passenger seat. However, riding with a highly skilled driver is often nearly as informative as being behind the wheel. After one hot lap, I knew I couldn’t even approach the times that Ford’s drivers could at ¾ speeds. Still the confidence and predictability shown by the GT350R told me that this car will make us all feel like a hot shoe.

You can ride along with us right here and get some feedback from driver Gene Martindale…

For a better idea of what the car sounds like on track, you can watch our second set of laps with driver Mark Lecrone…

For even more GT350R track action, here’s some sweet video from Ford…

Of course, getting a feel for the GT350R’s handling is one thing. Grasping the power from the passenger seat is a bit more difficult. It’s clear the car is faster, but how much faster than a GT is difficult to say without a back-to-back comparison. However, the GT isn’t the benchmark for which Ford Performance was aiming.

The 2015 Mustang made us believers in the independent rear suspension, and Ford Performance engineers assured us the Shelby GT350’s improved IRS will put down the power in a straight line. We didn’t experience that, but we can safely say it will tame just about any road course surface you can throw at it.
The 2015 Mustang made us believers in the independent rear suspension, and Ford Performance engineers assured us the Shelby GT350’s improved IRS will put down the power in a straight line. We didn’t experience that, but we can safely say it will tame just about any road course surface you can throw at it.

“…Last week brought out our GT350R and our GT350 Track Pack here at Grattan to do fair, back-to-back same day, same driver comparison. The GT350R with the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires is equal to the hundredth of a second as fast as the Porsche 911 GT3 and it is over a second quicker than the Z28,” Chief Functional Engineer, Global Performance Vehicles at Ford Motor Company, Kerry Baldori said. “The base GT350 with the Track Pack, which uses the Pilot Super Sport tire, is equal again, to within a hundredth of a second, to the Porsche Carrera and the Corvette C7 with the Z51 package.”

Yeah, it is fast, and it is clear that the powerband is built for the racetrack. As we mentioned the ample midrange power and the extended rpm range offered by the Voodoo 5.2 means you shouldn’t have trouble power through the tight stuff and letting it eat when the track unwinds. The car keeps pulling until you run out of nerve.

After our laps, we spent some quality time snapping photos of this car. The Shelby GT350R looks great in any color, but there’s just something about this car in Race Red. It looks as fast as it is.
After our laps, we spent some quality time snapping photos of this car. The Shelby GT350R looks great in any color, but there’s just something about this car in Race Red. It looks as fast as it is.

And, if the debate about the car’s sound is getting on your nerves, we will say that the car sounds amazing doing its thing. Don’t let most of those rev videos you’ve seen fool you. When the car is under load and being driven in anger it makes some beautiful music. On the track with the exhaust valves opened up it fuses the burble of a stock car with the crescendo of an exotic into a note that just makes you smile when you hear it rip.

While the R-model is completely at home on the racetrack, it’s easy to lose sight that this is a street car. Never have we been in a Mustang that offered such predictable grip, reassuring braking, and worry-free lapping. We are told that the car is built to easily endure 20-minute open-track sessions and still get you home in comfort if you opt for the Tech Pack option. In fact, our second hot-lap session was made with the air-conditioning blasting, and the car didn’t miss a beat.

We know the GT350 wears improved front knuckles, larger sway bars, and new bushings versus the Mustang GT. Those pieces work with the Magneride dampers, which can adjust every 7 milliseconds, to grip the track like no street Mustang we have ever ridden in.
We know the GT350 wears improved front knuckles, larger sway bars, and new bushings versus the Mustang GT. Those pieces work with the Magneride dampers, which can adjust every 7 milliseconds, to grip the track like no street Mustang we have ever ridden in.

Now all we are missing is a chance to drive this amazing machine and compare it with the standard GT350, but that will come in time. For now, take solace in the fact that Ford may have yet again built the best Mustang yet.

As Ford Performance Vehicle Dynamics Supervisor, Eric Zinkosky, told us. He believes that his car finally delivers on the dream that Carroll Shelby had for the original GT350. “He wanted a car that could go out a pick on Porsches, and this one can pick on Porsches. I think he would be proud.”

We have to agree.

With 90 percent of its 429 lb-ft of torque on tap from 3,450 to 7,000 rpm, the 526-horsepower Voodoo 5.2-liter V8 powering the Shelby GT350 is pulls hard on the track. If you bang the gears at 8,200 it will snap your neck back. This engine will be legendary, and we did finally confirm that the heads and intake fit a Coyote 5.0-liter. The fitment isn’t optimum as the valves will be shrouded, but it will work. Of course, you’ll have to run cams for a standard firing order to make that happen.
With 90 percent of its 429 lb-ft of torque on tap from 3,450 to 7,000 rpm, the 526-horsepower Voodoo 5.2-liter V8 powering the Shelby GT350 is pulls hard on the track. If you bang the gears at 8,200 it will snap your neck back. This engine will be legendary, and we did finally confirm that the heads and intake fit a Coyote 5.0-liter. The fitment isn’t optimum as the valves will be shrouded, but it will work. Of course, you’ll have to run cams for a standard firing order to make that happen.
The R-models we rode in were fully optioned with the Tech Pack, which means they had navigation, Sync, and air conditioning. The latter definitely came in handy on a hot Michigan day. We didn’t grab the wheel this time, but the passenger side Recaro did keep us planted as the car sprinted around Grattan.
The R-models we rode in were fully optioned with the Electronics Package, which means they had navigation, Sync, and air conditioning. The latter definitely came in handy on a hot Michigan day. We didn’t grab the wheel this time, but the passenger-side Recaro did keep us planted as the car sprinted around Grattan.
The brakes on the GT350R measure a whopping 394 millimeters in front and 380 millimeters in back. The rotors are mounted on floating, pin-driven hats. This design reduces heat transfer to the bearings. Clamping those rotors are six-piston Brembo front calipers and four-piston calipers in back. The pistons in the calipers vary in size to evenly apply pressure to the pads. In this car, fade is a word you can drop from your vocabulary.
The brakes on the GT350R measure a whopping 394 millimeters in front and 380 millimeters in back. The rotors are mounted on floating, pin-driven hats. This design reduces heat transfer to the bearings. Clamping those rotors are six-piston Brembo front calipers and four-piston calipers in back. The pistons in the calipers vary in size to evenly apply pressure to the pads. In this car, fade is a word you can drop from your vocabulary.
The R-model’s additional cooling enhancements—oil cooler, trans cooler and diff cooler—are definitely effective. The cars never flinched during our hot laps, and Ford’s development testing has shown the cooling is stable.
The R-model’s additional cooling enhancements—oil cooler, trans cooler and diff cooler—are definitely effective. The cars never flinched during our hot laps, and Ford’s development testing has shown the cooling is stable.
Built by Carbon Revolution to Ford’s stringent standards, the carbon fiber wheels on the GT350R weigh 15-pounds less that the GT350 aluminum wheels and offer 40 percent less rotational mass. Executive Director of Carbon Revolution, Brett Gass told us that dropping the rotational weight at the corner makes the car feel hundreds of pounds lighter.
Built by Carbon Revolution to Ford’s stringent standards, the carbon fiber wheels on the GT350R weigh 15 pounds less that the GT350 aluminum wheels and offer 40 percent less rotational mass. Executive Director of Carbon Revolution, Brett Gass told us that dropping the rotational weight at the corners makes the car feel hundreds of pounds lighter.
The rotors on the GT350 are definitely special. Supplier SHW creates these units by drilling the hat and securing the rotor with pins. Then they cast over the pinheads to permanently secure the hat. The result is a braking system that is quieter and smoother than one that employs bolt-on, two-piece rotors.
The rotors on the GT350 are definitely special. Supplier SHW creates these units by drilling the hat and securing the rotor with pins. Then they cast over the pinheads to permanently secure the hat. The result is a braking system that is quieter and smoother than one that employs bolt-on, two-piece rotors.
Here’s a look at the NASA-sourced technology that ensures the GT350R’s carbon fiber wheels and shrug off the heat generated by the brakes on track. We are told that it is possible to clean the brake dust from this ceramic-coated surface and get it back to white again.
Here’s a look at the NASA-sourced technology that ensures the GT350R’s carbon fiber wheels shrug off the heat generated by the brakes on track. We are told that it is possible to clean the brake dust from this ceramic-coated surface and get it back to white again.
Here’s a quick comparison of the GT350 and GT350R Recaro seats.
Here’s a quick comparison of the GT350 and GT350R Recaro seats.
If you see any of these people in your travels, be sure shake their hands and offer your thanks. Driven by the same passion for cars that you share, the engineers at Ford Performance put in a lot of extra hours and effort to create the cars that we love.
If you see any of these people in your travels, be sure shake their hands and offer your thanks. Driven by the same passion for cars that you share, the engineers at Ford Performance put in a lot of extra hours and effort to create the cars that we love.

2015 Shelby GT350R Gallery

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