The Ford Performance Mustang GT4 scored its first win in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GT class at the Visit Sebring 120 on Friday March 17, 2017 with car #60 taking the checkered flag.
There is a furtive tension in the Ford Performance pits at Sebring International Raceway. Engineers and the race team congregate around video screens as IMSA’s Visit Sebring 120 race enters its final laps.
There is only one Mustang left in competition and it isn’t in the lead.
Patron saint of the Ford cars we love, Raj Nair (Ford’s executive vice president, Product Development, and chief technical officer), ascends the pit wall with his personal headset tapped into the KohR Motorsports team communications. At his side is the father of the S550 and current Ford Performance Chief Engineer, Dave Pericak.
You might think these two were only in Central Florida to watch the Ford GT compete in the 12-hour race, but the focus is intense as they watch the Mustang roar down the front straight on the final laps. Clearly, every Ford competitor matters.
Behind the wheel of the GT4 is Ford Mustang racing stalwart Scott Maxwell. He and co-driver Jade Buford recently joined the KohR team after racing with the factory-backed Multimatic Motorsports squad. Jade put the fledgling GT4 racer on the pole with a 2:11.610 lap and kept the car in the hunt during his stint in the race.
KohR Motorsports drivers Jade Buford (right) and Scott Maxwell combined to put the new road-race ’Stang on both the pole and in victory lane.
“We were able to qualify on pole, which is a great start, but at the end of the weekend we wanted to bring it home in the same position,” Jade said. “We planned on executing the best race we could, lead from the start, do our best to stay there, make clean stops and just do our best to control our own destiny. Scott did a great job. The team did a great job of getting us in and out of the pits as fast as possible. We had a brilliant strategy. We did exactly what we planned on doing.”
As the pressure mounted, Scott was in a familiar spot. He was looking to make a move. There were two McLaren 570S GT4 standing between him and the checkered flag. He tried one side and it was blocked. He moved to the other side and the fates were on his side. An error by the other drivers left him a clear path. He jumped ahead from third to first place during the waning laps of the race and held onto it for the win.
If there was any doubt at all that performance is a core value at Ford, you need only witness the intensity displayed by Raj Nair and Dave Pericak during the closing laps of the Visit Sebring 120. As Scott Maxwell made a power move from third to first and held on for the win, the tension broke and smiles abounded.
It feels good to get the first win for the Ford Mustang GT4. — Scott Maxwell, KohR Motorsports
“The car ran flawlessly and the strategy was perfect,” Scott enthused. “It feels good to get the first win for the Ford Mustang GT4. We were so close at Daytona, and in my mind, Sebring is just as special. It was a good win for KohR and Ford Performance and NanoProMT and we earned it.”
While it was the first win for the new Mustang GT4, pulling into victory lane was old hat for Scott and Ford. The driver notched his 17th win in a Mustang, while Ford earned its 50th win in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
In its two races so far, it’s showing beyond a doubt that it has the potential to carry on Ford Mustang’s winning legacy into the future. — Dave Pericak, Ford Performance
“It’s great to get that first win for the Ford Mustang GT4 race car,” Dave Pericak, said. “In its two races so far, it’s showing beyond a doubt that it has the potential to carry on Ford Mustang’s winning legacy into the future. We can’t wait for customers to be able to race it around the world. Our congratulations to Scott and Jade on a terrific race today. And to KohR Motorsports for their first win with us.”
Scott was able to close the gap on the McLarens thanks to a full course yellow, which bunched on the cars. One of the cars that went off the track to extend that caution was unfortunately the other Kohr Motorsports entry, the #59 Mustang GT4 piloted by Dean Martin and Jack Roush Jr.
Sadly electrical issues took the #59 Mustang GT4 out of competition during Friday’s race, but the car was making moves through the field before the problems arose, so the potential is certainly there if they can work through the bugs.
After gaining some experience on the bumpy Sebring surface a few weeks back when we drove the Roush RS3, the duo was feeling confident. Dean topped qualifying at Daytona before suffering a driveline failure in the race, and at Sebring Jack Jr. put the car in the top three in qualifying.
Misfortune haunted the duo again at Sebring, however, as a faulty alternator wire caused the #59 entry to lose power on track. They tried to repair the car and get it back into competition, but ended up finishing in the 14th spot, 23 laps down.
“The Multimatic guys built a great car,” Dean Martin (right) said. “Ford Performance has done a great job with the engineering. We just need to get through the gremlins. It’s a brand-new car, so it’ll come. We’ll be patient.” He and co-driver, Jack Roush Jr., will be ready to go at the next race in Texas.
With the No. 59, we just had a little bad luck. We had a good run. Jack pushed all the way up to p4 after starting in the back, we were just biding our time… — Dean Martin, KohR Motorsports
“It’s great,” Dean said. “We knew it was going to come soon. We just had to beat the gremlins. We managed to do that with the No. 60 car today. Jade and Scott drove a fantastic race. The crew chief called a great race. It just went according to plan, which is unusual. With the No. 59, we just had a little bad luck. We had a good run. Jack pushed all the way up to p4 after starting in the back, we were just biding our time waiting for a caution to bunch the field up, and then unfortunately had the battery issue before that happened. Highs and lows.”
With any luck, both KohR teams will be riding a high when the Mustang GT4s return to racing action on May 4-6 in Austin, Texas, as there will likely be a new foe awaiting them — the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R!