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.
“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.
It feels good to get the first win for the Ford Mustang GT4. — Scott Maxwell, KohR Motorsports
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
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.
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.
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
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!