Twice as Nice
Shelby GT350R-Cs dominate the IMSA Grand Sport opener at Daytona
By Steve Turner
Two GT350R-C racing teams began the season with a strong start in the first IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport race of 2016. This was the first time the Shelby GT350R-C raced at Daytona International Speedway, as the Shelbys hit the track when the 2015 season was in progress. This race also marked the debut of the privateer Compass360 team running the number 76 Shelby it purchased from Ford Performance.
The weather was quite soggy for most of the test sessions and Mother Nature also delivered the first-ever qualifying session in the rain. As such, the teams only got one dry morning session before strapping in for the race on Friday afternoon. For more than half of the race it was a heavyweight fight, as the Rum Bum Racing Porsche Cayman driven by Hugh and Matt Plumb tried to maintain its pole position. With each lap the Shelby GT350R-C driven by Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson kept challenging the Porsche in the turns.
The pressure kept building and it was apparent that once the Multimatic Motorsports Shelby made a pass, it was going to pull away. On lap 54, Billy Johnson made his move in turn one and got around the Cayman, though there was some contact between the cars. The two traded the first position until Billy got the jump on the restart and the Rum Bum entry fell back to due to a weak fuel pump. From there on out the GT350R-Cs took over.
“We knew we had a good car right away this morning,” Scott said. “I’m not used to starting, but when you have a guy like Billy, your job is to get him a good position to go at the end, which he always does and did today.”
Billy definitely finished the race strong, and the Shelby seemed to not only run strong on the straight sections, but was actually showing a handling advantage in the turns. When you consider the GT350R-C is quite a bit heavier than some of its competitors, it’s all the more impressive.
“It was great to see two Ford Performance Shelby GT350R-Cs on the podium after all the hard work everyone’s done getting the car to where it’s at,” Billy said. “It’s the first time the car’s competed at Daytona and we’re really happy to be in victory lane with the car and a 1-2 finish for the GT350R-C. Scott did a fantastic job on the first stint and I just can’t thank him and the team enough for all the hard work and good job they do.”
And, thanks to Ford Performance, you can relive some of that hard work in action right here…
“It was great to see the other GT350R-C get up to speed,” he added. “I’m sure Compass360 will keep waving the Ford banner for the rest of the season.”
The indie GT350R-C was more than up to speed. It was hot on Billy’s heels for the waning laps of the race. In fact, drivers Paul Holton and Pierre Kleinubing were a scant 2.328 seconds behind Johnson, which was a great start for this new team.
“It was my first race in this car, and it’s a very different car to drive, for me I’ve driven Street Tuner and GT cars, nothing with that kind of torque and that small of a tire. The Continental Tires are really good. We had a really green track because it was raining all week and this was the first dry day,” Paul said. “I didn’t have a single dry lap going into that race, so as we went on, the track got grippier and grippier and then greasier and greasier, so it was quite a handful. The car changed a lot. The track changed a lot over the course of the race.”
The Compass360 teams certainly seemed to get a handle on the track surface as the drivers worked the car through traffic to finish the race hot on the heels of the Multimatic Motorsports car and take the second spot on the podium. It was definitely an auspicious start for both cars running Roush Yates-prepped Voodoo 5.2-liter engines.
“What a way to start off the season, a one-two finish,” said Doug Yates, President and CEO of Roush Yates. “Winning the BMW Performance 200 today, to kick off the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend is a great way to start the year.”
IMSA CTSC Daytona 2016 Gallery