Home » The $145,000 Ford Mustang Dark Horse R Revives An Old Racing Series

The $145,000 Ford Mustang Dark Horse R Revives An Old Racing Series

Mustang Dark Horse R
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Last night, Ford unveiled yet another Mustang race car, and this one’s aiming directly at American club racers thanks to a revival of the old Mustang Challenge spec series. Say hello to the Ford Mustang Dark Horse R, a stripped-down, lightly-massaged, most definitely not street-legal version of the most potent 2024 Mustang. So, how much street car is actually in it? Well, aside from the typical race car safety and recovery stuff like tow hooks, a full cage, and a proper fire suppression system, the Ford Mustang Dark Horse R contains a surprisingly sensible set of upgrades over the standard Dark Horse largely focused on durability and handling.

Mustang Dark Horse R

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For example, the differential cooler and transmission cooler have both been upgraded, as has the oiling system. I’d suspect the latter improvement includes a baffled oil pan, as a Ford Racing oil pan is on the parts list and baffling helps prevent oil starvation in wet-sump systems. Because race cars are lifted up in the air so often, the Mustang Dark Horse R comes with reinforced jacking points to minimize the risk of, say, bending a pinch weld. On a related note, since wheels and tires get swapped out fairly often, this race-ready Mustang gets wheel studs from MSI Racing, the same company that supplies wheel studs for Hyundai’s TCR race cars.

Mustang Dark Horse R

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that brakes need to absorb and shed a ton of heat while racing, so the Mustang Dark Horse R gets upgraded calipers, pads, and discs over the stock six-piston front, four-piston rear Brembo setup. While the street car is available with pricey carbon fiber wheels, the truth is that wheels are consumable items in motorsports, so Ford’s keeping things relatively cheap and cheerful with a set of staggered flow-formed 19-inch alloy wheels measuring 10.5 inches wide up front and 11 inches wide out back. While true forged wheels would likely be stronger, flow-formed wheels have pressure applied to their barrels once cast, compressing the aluminum alloy and adding tensile strength. It’s the same technique Enkei uses in its popular RPF1 wheels, and you’ll see those on club-spec grids everywhere because they’re stronger than low-pressure cast wheels but way cheaper than forged wheels.

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Mustang Dark Horse R

So far, so sensible, but what about those handling mods I mentioned earlier? Well, I’m glad you asked. Much like the Mustang GT4 race car, the Dark Horse R features a set of Multimatic DSSV dampers, some Canadian spool-valve trickery found on just about everything really fast from Formula 1 cars to DPi cars. Adjustable front camber plates will help teams dial in alignment settings, while adjustable anti-roll bars keep body roll in check and can be tuned as part of a looser or tighter car setup. In addition to the bolt-on bits, the car’s unibody features strategic seam-welding for added rigidity.

Mustang Dark Horse R

Well, that’s where things get interesting. Instead of mixing it up in an established class, Ford and IMSA have re-launched the Mustang Challenge spec series exclusively for the Mustang Dark Horse R after more than a decade of dormancy. See, the last Mustang Challenge kicked things off with 325-horsepower Mustang FR500S spec cars, so this reboot should be noticeably faster. Expect six race weekends, each with two races, in 2024.

Mustang Dark Horse R

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The Ford Mustang Dark Horse R stickers for $145,000, which is pricey as far as one-make series cars that aren’t supercars go. For example, a Mazda MX-5 Global Cup car costs less than $80,000 turn-key, while a Toyota GR86 Cup car costs $89,990. At the same time, a BMW M4 GT4 costs around $196,000, and a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport costs $229,000. Those are both a lot more money than a Dark Horse R, but they aren’t one-make series cars, instead competing in SRO GT4 classes. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Ford Mustang GT4 also exists. Still, more racing is pretty much always good, and the Mustang Challenge spec series should offer close competition. Welcome to the world, Ford Mustang Dark Horse R. Spec racing rules.

(Photo credits: Ford)

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Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
10 months ago

I will say that I respect Ford for going as hard with the S650 as they are. While initial reviews seem to suggest that it more or less feels like the reskinned S550 that it is…with all the same flaws and strengths, Ford is at least launching it with a special high end model as well as several racing models.

They didn’t have to either. It’s been a well known secret for years that the Mustang was going to be the last pony car standing…so Ford could have, well, you know….Forded it up and given us a totally phoned in lazy ass product like the Explorer and gone “whatever you idiots will still buy it, V8 go brrrrr”.

But they didn’t. They’re launching it with some significant fanfare and taking it racing right away in multiple forms….and honestly, it’s the slow and dignified death that such an iconic name deserves. While I think the chances of me winding up in an S650 are close to 0, there is a part of me that’s seeing the entire situation and wondering if it would be worth it to stretch my money for a Dark Horse or whatever other special ones are in the pipeline (please have a Voodoo V8 please have a Voodoo V8 PLEASE HAVE A VOODOO V8) to get in on the celebration.

Unfortunately the days of this stuff are numbered. Enjoy it while you can. I’m just happy that the Mustang still exists in rip roaring V8 form. I wish the Camaro had lived on too but what can you do…Chevy should have made a car you can actually see out of an use every day.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
10 months ago

Me too…it’s very true to the Mustang ethos.

Ford’s always treated the Mustang as a small bit of cool for a large amount of people, and that philosophy is part of what makes the Mustang the all-arounder.

It’s never the best at any one thing, but rather, it does a whole bunch of things reasonably well – from being a styling boulevard cruiser to a full-on race car, the Mustang can tackle it.

Sure, the downside is the familiar stereotype (which predates the internet), but at the same time, name another car that’s used as often as the yardstick by which others are measured for whatever attribute.

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