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Ford Focus RS, Shelby GT350R Mustang Set Records in 2016 C&D Lightning Lap

The results for the 2016 Car & Driver Lightning Lap are in and both of the Ford vehicles in the field turned in solid times – with the new Shelby GT350T turning in the 2nd best time ever among American muscle cars and the quickest time ever for the LL2 class while the new Ford Focus RS set the best time ever by a 4-cylinder car in the 10 years of the Lightning Lap shootout.

Each of the last 10 years, Car & Driver has held their annual Lightning Lap shootout on the Grand West configuration at Virginia International Raceway. In this year’s Lightning Lap field, there were two Ford vehicles – the 2017 Focus RS and the 2016 Shelby Mustang GT350R – both of which turned in impressive times.

The Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R Tops LL2
First up, the 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R turned in the best time from the blue oval with a time of 2:51.8. This made it just the 7th quickest car in the 2016 LL field, but it was 3 seconds quicker than the next closest muscle car (2017 Camaro 1LE SS).

While finishing 7th doesn’t seem all that great in a 19 car field, it should be pointed out that the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is the only muscle car to turn a quicker time than the new GT350R and with a starting price of $75,000, the old Z/28 was almost $11,000 more than the current Shelby Mustang. That price difference puts the 2016 Shelby Mustang and the 2015 Camaro Z/28 in different classes, and among the LL2 class, the new GT350R is the quickest entry in the 10 years of the event.

For under $65,000, there has been no car in the Car & Driver Lightning Lap shootout to run a quicker lap and the closest competition in the LL2 class was the 2014 Corvette Stingray – which was 2 seconds slower.

Focus RS Sets the Bar for 4-Cylinder Cars
The new Ford Focus RS has been marketed as a street legal track monster since the day that it was first introduced, but some folks were disappointed to see that it was only the 14th quickest car in this year’s Lightning Lap. However, in searching through past years, the new Focus RS is the quickest 4-cylinder production car ever tested on the VIR Grand West course. It is also the quickest 5-door hatchback ever in the Lightning Lap trials.

The Focus RS was also a second and a half quicker than the current Mustang GT with the Performance Pack goodies, so shy of the new Shelby GT350 and GT350R – the Focus RS is the most track capable modern Ford product on the market.

While Ford Motor Company would have likely enjoyed seeing the new Shelby GT350R a bit closer to the Camaro Z/28 time, the fact that the Shelby is the quickest LL2 car and the Focus RS is the quickest 4-cylinder car ever are both very impressive accomplishments for the newest Ford high performance products.

2016 Car & Driver Lightning Lap Times
2:44.2 - 2016 Dodge Viper ACR
2:45.1 - 2016 Ferrari 488GTB
2:47.0 - 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
2:47.1 - 2017 Corvette Grand Sport
2:47.4 - 2016 McLaren 570S
2:50.2 - 2017 Acura NSX
2:51.8 - 2016 Mustang GT350R
2:52.9 - 2017 BMW M4 GTS
2:54.0 - 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4
2:54.8 - 2017 Chevrolet Camaro V8 1LE
2:56.1 - 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus
3:01.9 - 2016 BMW M2
3:02.2 - 2016 Jaguar F-Type Project 7
3:03.5 - 2016 Dodge Charger Hellcat
3:03.9 - 2016 Focus RS
3:04.0 - 2017 Chevrolet Camaro V6 1LE
3:05.9 - 2016 Lexus GS-F
3:06.4 - 2016 Mazda Miata MX5 Cup Car
3:07.7 - 2016 Audi TTS

Source: October 2016 issue of Car & Driver