Ford Performance Director Dave Pericak Talks GT, Raptor, GT350R

Performance doesn't end with supercars and high-powered Mustangs.

The name "Ford Performance" might not mean much to you, but it should. Going forward, all of the company's sports-oriented assets--including Ford Racing, SVT, Team RS in Europe, and performance parts and accessories--are being brought together under this single umbrella. Heading up this initiative is new Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak, previously a chief engineer for the 2015 Ford Mustang. We spoke to Pericak at the 2015 Detroit auto show, where Ford released an onslaught of exciting new performance models, including the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang, and, last but not least, the new Ford GT supercar. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

Ford GT

AUTOMOBILE: Let's talk about your new halo, the GT. Did you know you guys would be building a new GT anytime soon? Because we didn't.

DP: We were able to keep the Ford GT a secret probably better than we've ever done in the past. We decided we were going to do an all-out performance car, make it the pinnacle of performance through the Ford Performance team, and there was no better car to do that with than the GT. The new car has heritage, but it's not yesterday's car. And there's nothing carried over from the previous GT.

AUTOMOBILE: When it came time to style and develop a new GT, what were some of the main points you wanted to hit when it came to design, engineering, and the overall feel of the car?

DP: From a design perspective, you definitely want to have that heritage so that you know it's a GT when you look at it, but everything that was done on this car—every curve, every shape, every circle—has been done with the intent of reducing drag and improving downforce. This is an all-out machine. This is going to perform like nothing else at Ford Motor Company. You can see the tapered fuselage, which is absolutely one of the characteristics of the car, that's meant to reduce drag and improve downforce.

AUTOMOBILE: What were some of your benchmark cars during development?

DP: The typical cars you'd look at—Lamborghini, Ferrari. I mean, a lot of the exotics out there are cars we looked at and are still looking at as we finish engineering the car.

AUTOMOBILE: The decision to go with a 600-plus-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine over that 5.2-liter in the GT350, a pretty racy engine, came why?

DP: This is a race-proven engine. We use this engine in our Daytona Prototype through IMSA, and it's already been successful, winning a few races in its first year including 12 Hours of Sebring. It supports Ford's messaging around EcoBoost, and, quite honestly, we're showing the world that there's a more efficient way to do cars like the GT. This car is going to have one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car out there, and the EcoBoost technology is allowing us to do that. Again, a V-6 engine putting out more than 600 hp—who would've thought that possible?

AUTOMOBILE: The engine features both port and direction fuel injection. Tell me a bit about that and other cool features.

DP: Everything about this engine has been designed to be more efficient. That's why you get the PFIDI system, you get roller finger-follower cams—everything is to reduce parasitic losses to make it more efficient and produce as much power as we can.

AUTOMOBILE: Where does the GT's seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle come from?

DP: It's going to be coming from Getrag, and we're working with them right now. I think the DCT is going to be a fantastic part of this machine, and another opportunity for us to use new technologies that could potentially make their way through the rest of the Ford lineup in the future.

AUTOMOBILE: Looking at the GT, do you see a future for that car to develop through Ford? Or will it come and go the way the last GT did?

DP: We'll see. I think right now we're celebrating the fact that what we showed you is actually going to be a production car. But as we look through our entire lineup of Ford Performance vehicles and what we're bringing to market, we will continue to have very high aspirational cars that we leverage as a test bed for these technologies and innovations that will then cascade through the rest of the lineup

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

AUTOMOBILE: Now onto the big brawler, the Raptor. What hand did Ford Performance have in developing the Raptor? What are you proud of on this truck?

DP: The Raptor is 100 percent engineered out of Ford Performance. The Raptor is the toughest, smartest Raptor we've ever built. We took 500 lb out of the truck. We made it more capable through its suspension system. We gave it an all-terrain system that allows the driver to select anything from normal mode to street mode to Baja mode to rock mode, really changing the dynamics of the truck to perform in those environments. The Raptor is going to be one hell of machine.

AUTOMOBILE: How are off-roading enthusiasts going to feel about a big, nice aluminum body that can get knocked around by trees?

DP: We're using military-grade aluminum, and we've shown its durability. Aluminum is not weak. If you use the right grade and you do it in the right way, we don't think it's going to be an issue at all.

Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang

AUTOMOBILE: Moving on to the Mustang GT350R—were the GT350 and GT350R developed side-by-side?

DP: Absolutely. We always knew we were going to have an "R" version of the GT350. The GT350 is already an incredible machine, but with the GT350R, anything that doesn't make the car go faster around a racetrack is gone. It's not a car that's going to have the creature comforts people want, but it's made for racing. You barely can put a license plate on that thing, it's that much of a race car. But why? Because that's what Ford Performance is all about: pushing the envelope. We've done this with Mustang over the years. Every time we do something new, the question is, "Oh, what's next?" And here we go. We've just introduced a 2015 Mustang and, look, we're already showing you a GT350 and GT350R.

AUTOMOBILE: What are some of the coolest changes to the GT350R over the stock GT350?

DP: The MagneRide dampers are fantastic, and it's a technology that we finally have in Mustang that is critical to doing a car like the GT350R. Now that we have independent rear suspension and the chassis set up the way we do, we can take full advantange of MagneRide, really allowing us to dial that thing in for the track when we want to and giving you more of a comfortable ride when you're going home from the track. And the carbon-fiber wheels: We're the only high-volume manufacturer to put carbon-fiber wheels on a car. They reduce over 50 lb of unsprung mass, which is huge in making the car feel more nimble, precise, and agile. It was a challenge to do it—no other OEM has done it—but our engineering team figured it out. And then the overall tuning of the vehicle is significantly different from the GT350. Everything is tighter, more precise, and ready for racing.

AUTOMOBILE: No extra horsepower in that thing?

DP: No, right now we're saying it has equivalent horsepower to the GT350 [500-plus].

AUTOMOBILE: But there's room to go up?

DP: We'll see when we get closer to launch.

AUTOMOBILE: I noticed a rear-seat delete. The Boss 302 Laguna Seca had a crossbar. This one doesn't.

DP: The overall stiffness of the Mustang is better than the outgoing car, so we felt we didn't need that in the GT350R. When you get behind the wheel, you'll realize that it's not needed. The car is extremely stiff. There's not a lot of compliance in that car.

AUTOMOBILE: What's your favorite thing on the GT350R over the GT350?

DP: The sound. It's phenomenal. We removed the resonators. Again, resonators weren't required to make it go, so it has a very sharp, distinct exhaust note. It's fantastic.

The Future of Ford Performance

AUTOMOBILE: Looking at this trio—Raptor, GT350R, GT—what does each car mean to Ford Performance? What does each do for this brand-new brand?

DP: They all play their role in sending the message that we're going to drive innovation through performance. And that we will have smartly executed performance vehicles, whether they're high-performing cars for a racetrack or whether they're going into the desert to climb over rocks. Performance can be interpreted in many different ways, but all of these vehicles serve as a proof-point that we're willing and able to do innovation through performance.

AUTOMOBILE: What are some of the first innovations we'll see come from Ford Performance that will then trickle down to the rest of Ford?

DP: Larger use of carbon fiber, for instance. The Ford GT that we just showed has carbon-fiber body structure—tub, if you will. We showed carbon-fiber wheels on the GT350R. Different techonologies you're going to see come through, some of which we're not ready to announce right now…Ford Performance is going to be the test bed for all of the new technologies we want to use at Ford.

AUTOMOBILE: Tell me about what Ford Performance is going to do to all of these brands? RS is really well known. You've just introduced ST on the Fiesta and Focus, and that's starting to catch some ground. But now what does Ford Performance do to those?

DP: The nameplates of the cars themselves, whether it be a Shelby or an RS or an ST, that's not going away. We're still going to use those and leverage those—we have a lot of equity in those names—but we're not going to confuse everyone on what was produced by Ford Racing, what did SVT do, what did Team RS do in Europe. It's going to be one group that produces all of those fantastic products we're talking about.

AUTOMOBILE: Let's talk about the racetrack. What are the first racing efforts we should be looking for from Ford Performance? What's Mustang going to do—will we see a GT3? Are we going to see this new Ford GT racing anytime soon?

DP: We're not here to talk about our racing plans today. We're here to show new product and, clearly, they are products we expect people will race. But our plans—where we're going to race and where we're going to put our energy—we're finalizing that right now. I'll tell you this: Wherever we race, it'll be done right because either we'll be all-in or we're not going to do it. So "all-in" means you've got the right funding, you've got the right engineering support—everything you do is to make that successful. Whatever we do in racing is not only going to support our goals in Ford Performance but also in Ford Motor Company, so we need to make sure there's a return on our investment.

AUTOMOBILE: Ford Performance will get its hands on about a dozen Ford vehicles in the next five years, right?

DP: That's correct. We'll bring twelve vehicles to market by 2020.

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