The Ford Performance GT will make its track debut on Australian soil at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, showcasing Ford Performance innovation and engineering in one of the most advanced race cars it has ever built. Driven by none-other than Australian racing driver, and full-time Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Ryan Briscoe, the Le Mans-winning Ford GT will turn its first wheel in anger at the world-famous 6.213 kilometre circuit as a prelude to this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to put this amazing race car on such an iconic circuit,” said Ford Australian and New Zealand President and CEO, Kay Hart. “Innovation through design and engineering drives Ford Performance, and where better than Bathurst to introduce the Ford Performance GT to Australians.”
The Ford Performance GT race car is the culmination of years of Ford innovation in aerodynamics, lightweight carbonfibre construction and ultra-efficient EcoBoost engines, and serves as a test bed for new technologies and advanced lightweight materials that will benefit future Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles. With its carbonfibre teardrop-shaped body climbing the Mountain, it will be the most capable vehicle wearing a Ford badge to ever lap Mount Panorama.
“To have such an iconic vehicle in the Ford GT here – a car with strong success in some of the world’s greatest races – is something Australian fans will love, and it shows how highly regarded Bathurst is globally, and by Ford and Ford Performance,” said Supercars CEO, Sean Seamer.
The Ford GT’s simultaneous road and race-car development centred around three primary goals. At its core, the program provides a working training ground for Ford’s engineers to develop future engine technology and to expand their understanding of aerodynamics. On top of this, the challenge pushed the boundaries of advanced material usage, which has resulted in its teardrop body shape with carbonfibre buttresses, not possible if made of steel.
The Ford Performance IMSA GT Number 67 will be freighted to Australia for the first time, and will see Briscoe behind the wheel as part of the Ford Performance presence at this year’s Great Race. “To have Ryan, an Aussie who has driven with us many times at Bathurst, Sandown and on the Gold Coast, is the icing on the cake.”
Briscoe is well aware of this momentous occasion, and intends to take full advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity. “The Ford GT is an ultra-high-performance car, so I’m really excited and honoured to turn the Ford GT’s first laps at Bathurst” said Ryan Briscoe, who last raced in Australia’s premier motor race in 2013. “For me, Bathurst is one of the best, if not the best racing circuit in the world.”
The challenging layout will be another to add to the Ford GT’s list of iconic tracks, which so far this season has seen Briscoe and co-driver Richard Westbrook three-time winners following victory in Canada, Road America and the 2018 Rolex 24-hour at Daytona to build their championship campaign. "We know Ryan is excited to come back home to be part of such an historic occasion,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director Ford Performance Motorsports. “He's been an integral part of our success with the Ford GT in racing, and will certainly put on a good show for the fans."
Despite the familiarity with both the Ford GT and the circuit, putting the two together for the first time means that the Mountain will provide a fresh challenge for the Australian.
“Nothing quite compares to Bathurst,” said the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing pilot. “Bathurst as a circuit demands the highest respect at all times. It has the intensity of a circuit like Indy, where its very high speed and you just always need to be 100-per cent focused,” he said. “Of all the circuits we race on, Bathurst is probably closest to Watkins Glen (New York), though, as they both have a very smooth, high-grip surface with a lot of high-speed corners.”
Mount Panorama will provide an even greater challenge than ‘The Glen’, as it’s known, with the steepest corner at the Australian track being The Cutting, with its 1-in-6 grade climb. “Watkins Glen doesn’t have near the elevation change that Mount Panorama has,” said Briscoe. “And while the downhill section of Bathurst is comparable to Laguna Seca, Laguna is a very low-grip track, so it’s different in that way.
In 2016, the GT made history with its triumphant debut at the Le Mans 24 hour, by claiming victory 50 years on from the Ford’s crushing 1-2-3 formation finish for the Ford GT40 in the 1966 race. In doing so, it achieved the primary goal of the Ford GT’s program. Fittingly, Ford’s legacy at Mount Panorama goes back to the event’s origins in the 1960s, and since then, Fords have claimed victory at Bathurst 19 times.
In 2019, Ford Performance will support the Ford Mustang’s entry into the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, which kicks off in March at the Adelaide 500.
The Ford Performance GT will be in action during the Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, held over October 3-6, 2018.