By Crystal Lewis – CarBelles
Jumping off planes with only a parachute on one’s back, or diving off the side of a plane while tethered to an elastic rope seems like a good time to most, there are others that would rather get their thrills without having to plummet towards the ground. That doesn’t make their risk any “less riskier”, it’s just a different type of thrill. Enter the world of high speed auto racing. This motor sport doesn’t require that you jump off planes or buildings, but it does require the driver to possess skills to go speeds that surpass most highway speed limits.
Auto racing has been around since the late 1800s, with the first American racing circuit created specifically for automotive racing built in 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Through the years, the number of tracks has grown, driver skills have improved, and the automobiles have become more advanced. These advances all lead up to one thing, a faster experience behind the wheel.
Ford Performance, a division of Ford Motor Company, invited journalists to Concord, North Carolina for the GT500 Track Tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This was a chance to get behind the wheel of the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500, and experience life on the track.
Media drove Ford press fleet vehicles from up and down the East Coast to participate in the event.
Ford’s Mustang series has been in existence since 1964. The Mustang was designed to be sporty, and in true fashion, became the catalyst for other automotive brands to create sport’s cars of their own. The success of the Mustang was evident when Ford surpassed the original 100,000 sales estimates by 300,000 in its first year.
In 1964 with the success of the Ford Mustang, Lee Iacocca, Ford Division General Manager at the time, enlisted the help of Carroll Shelby, and his Shelby American company, to help turn the Mustang into a faster and more impressive sports car. Carroll Shelby was no stranger to fast cars. A former international race car driver, Shelby knew his way around the track, and under the hood. He combined European aesthetics and speed with American engineering, thus making his brand of cars fast and less expensive to maintain. The 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 was the inaugural vehicle of the Ford and Shelby collaboration. A few years later, the GT500 was born. 24 generations later of the Ford Mustang, and the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 is back by popular demand.
The GT500 Track Tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a way to spotlight the highly coveted track ready sports car with a price tag starting at $72,000 and going as high as $106,000.
With media segmented into three separate groups, the tour included 3 main areas, the history lesson, the drive along, and a good old fashion drag race. During the history lesson on the evolution of the Ford Shelby brand, Ford Performance engineers and members of the Shelby American family walked media members through the history of how the Shelby Mustang came to be. They also took time to explain in detail the differences between the current build and the original build. These changes naturally made for a faster, lighter and safer vehicle.
After the history lesson, it was time to get behind the wheel. For anyone not familiar with the power of a supercharged 5.2L V-8 engine, the feeling of being responsible for so much power can either be intimidating or exhilarating. With top speeds of 186mph, going around the race track and barreling down the straightaway in the Shelby GT500 is an experience that most of the media participants found exhilarating. While the media didn’t drive 186mph, they did participate in a sort of “follow the leader” exercise, where they drove behind one of several Ford Performance trainers around the speedway’s roval. It was hard not to feel like Tia Norfleet or Nicole Lyons behind the wheel. After a few laps, the media switched places, and got in the passenger seat. The trainers took the wheel and showed just how well made and fast these cars really are. Their expertise on the track humbled even the most arrogant media attendee, as they showed how everything from tire selection to engineering components made the vehicle not only a racetrack marvel, but also a brilliant body of work.
Stop three was to the zMAX Dragway where 10 Shelby GT500 vehicles were waiting for their next competitor. As with the entire event, this portion of the tour was to not only explain the rules of the game, but to showcase the capabilities of the vehicle. While slamming on the gas and brake simultaneously, you enter launch mode with adjustable rpm. This is essentially the vehicle revving up, ready to take off after the 3 yellow lights on the drag tree flicker towards green. As the tires screech on the custom synthetic resin on the ground, which helps with traction, the driver is told to not move the wheel and only focus straight ahead. The fishtailing is normal, and the traction control system will automatically account for that and course correct on your own. The drivers only mission is to hit a top speed and time that will beat their opponents.
After 4 hours of the track tour, the Ford Performance team sent the media participants on their way with a bag of branded goodies. The Ford team readied themselves for the next group of tour participants, this time actual owners of Ford Mustang vehicles. The drive back up the coast felt slower in comparison to the fast-paced experience at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. We have the state troopers to thank for that!
“CarBelles is dedicated to highlighting and uplifting women throughout the automotive industry.”
I’m reminded daily that there aren’t many influential women being highlighted in the automotive industry. This seems odd, since there are several influential women IN the automotive industry. From auto designers to PR specialists to auto saleswomen, women are not as visible as their male counterparts. CarBelles wants to change the way the public views the auto industry by being your inside track into the car industry. We’ll share pictures from car events, hosts events for our readers, and we’ll also make sure we keep you abreast of all that’s going on in the automotive world. Most importantly, we’ll interview women that have direct connections to the automotive industry and spotlight women that are taking charge in their own industries.