When Ford said it was taking the 2024 Mustang racing, it was serious. While we’ve already seen the NASCAR, Australian Supercars, and Formula Drift Mustangs, the most exciting variant was just shown off at Le Mans, festooned in carbon fiber and golden light. The Ford Mustang GT3 is built in collaboration with Multimatic and M-Sport, and is here to kick some GT-class butt. Imagine being a rich dentist in a Ferrari 296 GT3 and seeing this angry slab of Americana glued to your rear-view mirror.
Ford claims that the Mustang GT3 is “based on the all-new 2024 Mustang Dark Horse,” which is technically true, but this doesn’t look anything remotely like a bolt-on package. I mean, we share much of our DNA with apes, but King Kong has no concept of what a Roth IRA is. While there’s a kernel of Dark Horse hiding in here somewhere, Ford Performance has made substantial enough changes that the Mustang GT3 isn’t easily-identifiable as a Dark Horse relative.
For starters, there’s the engine, a 5.4-liter V8 derived from the five-liter Coyote and built by legendary motorsport outfit M Sport. While the dual throttle bodies and engine family of this V8 should feel familiar, the carbon fiber intake manifold, silicone-booted plumbing, and displacement are all a bit alien. That engine sits low in the front end beneath a jungle gym of tubes, some of which stiffen the vehicle and some of which support independent front suspension like you haven’t seen on a production Mustang in decades.
See, every Mustang starting with the Fox body in 1979 has featured MacPherson strut front suspension, which is great for a cost and packaging perspective. Not only are MacPherson struts cheap to produce, they don’t require upper control arms, which simplifies the front suspension. Fewer bushings to wear out, less space taken up by control arms, easy serviceability. However, MacPherson struts have some limitation in motorsport applications.
For a start, MacPherson struts don’t really gain camber throughout compression, and camber gain under compression can really help with cornering grip, especially in a front-engined car. To compensate, MacPherson strut-equipped race cars often run high static camber, which can affect straight-line grip and, to a lesser extent, tire wear. However, a short-long arm front suspension setup does gain camber under compression, and a race-optimized version of that is what we’re seeing here.
If a complete change in front suspension style seems crazy, wait until you hear about what Ford did to the gearbox. The standard Mustang Dark Horse you’ll be able to buy from Ford dealerships features either a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox or a 10-speed automatic bolted to the back of the engine and sitting roughly next to the driver’s inboard lower leg. On the Mustang GT3, the gearbox and rear differential are combined in a transaxle sitting in the rear of the car. Just like in a C7 Corvette, this setup requires a torque tube to send the engine’s output to the input shaft of the transaxle, which is very weird for a Mustang. However, the transaxle should help weight distribution, which is a noble cause.
Oh, and how could we not talk about the outrageous carbon fiber body? Viewing the Mustang GT3 from the side, it’s shock-and-awe with how each front fender gets five extractor vents on a giant fender bulge while the rear quarters are pumped out and then punched out with scoops reminiscent of the 1969 Mustang Fastback. The side-view mirrors are pure concept car, the swan neck rear wing is the size of an entire Festiva, and that’s all before you notice the side pipes.
Perhaps my favorite angle of the Mustang GT3 is from the front, where familial cues meet sheer aggression. We’re talking about an enormous swath of exposed carbon fiber surrounding the lower grille like you could get on the Ford GT, slim round LED driving lights in the upper grille, and a scowl of pure vengeance. It feels like the sort of down the road graphic a child would draw on a dream car, and what’s a Mustang if not a childhood dream come true?
Although the Ford Mustang GT3 isn’t racing this weekend, expect to see it out on track in 2024. Not only does Ford itself plan to run two Mustang GT3 cars in IMSA’s GTD Pro class, German racing team Proton Competition plans to race a pair in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship. The best part? If you are a racing team, you’ll be able to buy one too.
(Photo credits: Ford)
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