Unleashing the Shelby GT350 On Track
Finally, the time has come, I’m standing inches from the 2015 Shelby GT350 and Ford has handed me the keys. I’d waited for this moment for months, and now I stood there, at the world-famous Laguna Seca road course, and in moments, I’d be unleashing the Shelby GT350 on track.
The Shelby GT350 dates back to 1965, when racer and car builder Carroll Shelby modified Ford’s Mustang to go Corvette hunting in SCCA sports car racing. The GT350 was a smashing success and slowly Mustang began winning race after race. The mystique of the Shelby Mustang grew, riding high on race wins and gorgeous Shelby models that followed the original. Today, the next chapter of Shelby performance begins, not only in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, but in the 2015 Shelby GT350 and the GT350R.
Thanks to years of success with boosted Shelby GT500s, Ford fans have become accustomed to an abundance of power in the beloved Shelby. Ford’s wheels began turning in 2003 with the SVT Cobra making 390 hp, but by 2014, output climbed to a ridiculous 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. But in a gutsy move, Ford took a decidedly different approach to performance, eschewing the blower for the GT350.
“We looked at using a blower,” said Jamal Hameedi, chief engineer at Ford Performance. “But we’ve done that before and there’s a lot associated with supercharging. We’ve always pushed the envelope of technology and wanted to do something really cool,” he added, speaking of the flat-plane crankshaft in the 5.2L engine.
Strapped to the GT350, I depressed the clutch, pressed “start” and that flat-plane crank spun into action. The quad exhaust came alive and the 5.2 Voodoo settled into a rumbling idle. It was my turn to take on Laguna and the famous Corkscrew. Cameras rolling, I let it loose and 50 years of Mustang heritage and glory rolled on track.
I poured it on from the start, applying lots of throttle and the GT350 came alive with vigor. And while fast and loud, it’s refined and very, very fast. After only a few corners I felt like I was in a prepped racer, not a daily, if you can call a GT350 a daily. It’s hunkered down, and all the feedback is pure goodness.
While the Mustang GT with the Performance Pack is a capable track car, the GT350 is a track monster. Steering, brakes, engine, suspension, offer precision like a surgeon and this makes the car incredibly easy to drive at speed. There’s just on drama, even when you push a bit too hard. It's amazing hot it all gels and it does so with the engine screaming past 8,000 rpm and when you're is such a daunting place as the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
Laguna Seca is a wonderful track for this car, not just because GT350s have raced and won here for so long—but because it’s sweeping corners, long straights and rises and dips let you reach deep into the 5.2L engine’s powerband and it is a sweet song when that thing revs. I took it to 8,250 rpm every chance I got, and the sound was glorious. I want an MP3 version of the engine note to play on constant loop. Approaching a corner is no problem. The GT350 hauls from speed with great control, and the fully independent suspension is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. This is the stuff legends are made of, especially the Magneride suspension.
Ford has once again branched Mustang performance in a direction that will keep the competition chasing. We hope there are many years of Shelby GT350 production, because this is a car thousands of enthusiasts will want.