While this past weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona grabbed most of the media attention (and most of our attention), the BMW Performance 200 on the day before the Rolex was a big deal for Ford Motor Company, as it marked the Daytona and Rolex racing debut of the 2016 Shelby GT350R-C Mustang road race car.
More importantly, the new Shelby Mustang race cars looked great throughout the race – finishing 1-2 and turning in the quickest laps of the race.
Strong in the Roar
In the Roar Before the 24 earlier this year (which obviously includes the teams from the BMW Performance 200), the new #15 Multimatic Motorsports Shelby GT350R-C driven by Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson was the quickest car in the entire field in the 1st, 2nd and 4th time sessions. After the success early, the #15 Mustang team didn’t run the 5th or 6th time sessions at the Roar and in the 3rd session, the only vehicle ahead of them was the #76 Compass360 Racing Shelby GT350R-C Mustang driving by Pierre Kleinubing and Paul Holton.
Holton and Kleinubing didn’t run in the first session and in addition to “winning” the third session, they were in the top 4 in the 2nd, 4th and 5th sessions before also sitting out the 6th session of the Roar Before the 24. In most rounds, the new Shelby Mustangs were the quickest in the field and in every round, the new Mustang race cars were quickly than the previous generation Boss 302R teams – proving that Ford Racing has rolled out an even better product for road racers.
The BMW Performance 200
Coming into the 2016 BMW Performance 200, the teams running the 2016 Shelby GT350R-C Mustang had to be feeling pretty good about their chances, having handled the crowd pretty easily a few weeks earlier. However, the new Shelby teams got a bit of a wakeup call when Porsche teams were the quickest through the first 3 practice sessions and while the Mustangs were the quickest in practice round 4, they slipped in qualifying. A pair of Porsches grabbed the front row, while the #15 and #76 Shelby Mustangs started 3rd and 4th.
Fortunately for Ford, that starting position really didn’t matter.
Early in the race, the #13 Porsche led many of the laps, with the #15 Mustang in tail for many of those laps. However, with just 32 minutes left in the race, Billy Johnson squeezed his Shelby Mustang past the Porsche and he never looked back. After a caution flag a few laps after the Mustang took the lead, the Porsche ran into mechanical issues and fell back in the field, leaving just the two Mustangs and the #33 Porsche Cayman to battle for the win from the lead lap.
In the end, the two Fords pulled away from the Porsche, giving the new Shelby GT350R-C Mustang a 1-2 finish in its debut race. The new Shelby race cars turned in the quickest laps, being the only two cars to break into the 1:56 lap time range.
No Camaro in Daytona
When it was announced that the new Shelby GT350R-C Mustang would be going racing, I was excited to see a matchup between the new Mustang and the previously dominant Camaro Z28R. Unfortunately, Stevenson Motorsports ditched the Camaro and the whole GS class to move up to the GT LeMans class in an Audi R8. Because of that, the GS class in the BMW Performance 200 only had Ford Mustangs, Porsche 997s, Porsche Caymans and one Aston Martin Vantage. The previous generation Boss 302R Mustangs finished 7th and 8th in the 8 car class.
The next stop for the new Shelby Mustang race cars is Sebring in mid-March.