The Ford Performance team has high expectations for the new GT supercar and Shelby GT350R Mustang revealed at this week’s Detroit auto show. Jamal Hameedi, Ford global performance vehicle chief engineer, explains how Ford tailored these vehicles for track use.
AUTOMOBILE: What cars did you benchmark for the new Ford GT?
HAMEEDI: We did a little bit of benchmarking with the second-generation Ford GT [2005-2006 model] and the [Ferrari] 458 Speciale. Those are really the two main cars that we’ve been benchmarking.
A: How do you want this car to be different from the competition?
H: It’s obvious that the car is very much a forward-looking engineering exercise. That’s really the big thing that we’ve made a priority. It’s an innovation laboratory, a technology laboratory. We wanted it to be very forward looking, to incorporate technology and be very efficient in everything it does.
A: Will customers miss it not having a V-8?
H: I’m not concerned. I think the last problem that we’re going to have is finding customers for this car. The EcoBoost V-6 is more efficient, has better horsepower and torque per liter, better fuel economy, more horsepower and torque per kilogram, and it’s extremely package efficient. It really plays well to the tapering fuselage of the car. It really was the ideal choice for an engine.
A: Who will be the typical Ford GT buyer?
H: Obviously, [2005-2006] Ford GT customers. They’ve done quite well with their investment! There will also be a lot of the hypercar buyers. They’ll look at this and see that it’s every bit as advanced as other hypercars, from an aerodynamic aspect, etc.
A: How does the new Ford GT compare to the last one?
H: The 2005 Ford GT was a road car, a street car. This is much more focused on being a track car.
A: Is it so focused that it’s compromised for the street?
H: Yes, absolutely. It’s really more comparable to the original GT40 than the [2005-2006] Ford GT, as far as the focus and what it was designed to do.
A: You’ve stated in the past that you’re committed to manual transmissions. Talk to me about the decision to go with a dual-clutch on the new Ford GT.
H: I think going forward, we do like manuals. We felt that in the name of efficiency and performance, there is no question the dual-clutch is more efficient and faster shifting. When you’re pushing the envelope so much, you can’t leave milliseconds on the table on every shift — every upshift and every downshift. That’s lap time you can’t leave on the table. You have to take advantage of that.
A: Who do you see as the typical buyer of the GT350R?
H: There are probably two (typical buyers). Guys that want a track weapon: Put it on the trailer, take it to the track, and have a track-day car. You can also put all the amenities back into a GT350R. So, I think people that want to drive the ultimate, “baddest” Mustang ever created, they’ll put the [optional package that includes] A/C and all that stuff back in there and use it as a daily driver… That’s one of the key reasons we stuck with magnetic dampers. They are really amazing for what they can do for the car on the track. But, also, switch the drive mode and it turns into a very livable car.
A: What about build numbers on the GT350R versus the standard GT350? Launch date?
H: The GT350R will be much lower volume but we haven’t said anything about how much lower or anything like that. The cars will be launched together later this year (2015).