Seeing exotic machinery take to the Nurburgring's tarmac isn't uncommon. But seeing a 2013 Ford Shelby GT500- and one that appears to be a development mule - on the 'Ring isn't something you see every day. Yet that's exactly what our spy photographers managed to capture.
Actually, our spy photographer was a little unsure of what he captured. The Deep Impact Blue GT500 is clearly a 2013 model, based upon the tail lamps and grille inserts. It also appears to be equipped with the $3500 SVT Performance Package, as the lace-spoke, painted forged wheels shown here are only available with that option group (which also includes adaptive dampers and a Torsen limited-slip differential). There's a chance this particular car could also be fitted with the optional $2995 SVT Track Package, but seeing as its contents - which include an external engine oil cooler, a differential cooler, and transmission cooler - aren't readily visible from outside the car, it's hard to say for sure.
Some overly excitable Mustang fans could read into this as a mule for the uber-potent Shelby 1000, which debuted earlier this month at the 2012 New York auto show, but they'd be wrong. To start, this is clearly a 2013 model, and the Shelby 1000 is based off a 2012 GT500. A source close to Shelby American tells us the company has yet to receive a 2013 GT500 to date, and indicated the company had little interest in testing or developing products at the Nurburgring.
Given that the 2013 GT500 isn't expected to go on sale until this summer, there's a good chance this is a Ford-owned vehicle - and there's other evidence that backs this notion up. Ford isn't a stranger to testing on the 'Ring; in fact, early 2013 GT500 prototypes were caught on the Nordschleife as far back as 2011. That this car also wears license plates registered in Cologne, Germany - much like many other European Ford prototypes - gives us pause as well. There's also the matter that Ford - not Shelby American - bears responsibility for engineering and constructing the 2013 GT500 in its base form, and if you'd like to dump more fuel on the fire, this particular tester bears a striking resemblance to a previous 2013 GT500 prototype that was recently sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale. Like that so-called "durability" prototype, this tester appears to boast a roll bar and upgraded racing seats sourced from Recaro.
Even if it's a safe bet that this is just another 2013 GT500 test car, another question arises: what's it doing on the Nurburgring? Is Ford working on new round of mechanical upgrades, or a Euro-spec GT500? Is it aiming to try and spank the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1's 'Ring lap time, or just a matter of two employees having a quick go 'round the Ring?
We reached out to Ford officials for their side of the story, but didn't receive comment before deadline. Until we do, feel free to speculate: What is this big blue beast, and what is it doing on the 'Ring? Let your imaginations run wild in the comments section below.