Lap after lap, the burnt-orange '05 Mustang gobbled up BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche opponents, passing what seemed a handful each time it completed the Daytona asphalt. Its engine purred as it revved through the gears, and the chassis moved deftly through the turns. If we squinted while watching the burnt-orange 55 car, we had flashbacks of Parnelli Jones ripping it up in Trans-Am in the late '60s and early '70s, but this was February 2005, the track was the famed Daytona International Speedway, and the race was the Grand Am Cup 200.
Naturally, the Mustang in question was an '05 Mustang, but not just any '05 Mustang. The burnt-orange car, driven by David Empringham and Scott Maxwell, was the result of a development program designed to create the Boy Racer. You may recall getting a peek at this car's development on the Discovery Channel. That little piece of reality TV captured the development and initial testing, but at Daytona, the cars were thrust into the real world of competitive road racing against some of the best in the world. Better yet, these race cars, which now go by the official name of FR500C, not only qualified well, but they also won in their first outing.
As a bit of background, the FR500C racers (the artists formerly known as the Boy Racers) were designed and constructed by a Canadian outfit, known as Multimatic Motorsports. Involved in Ford and racing for many years, Multimatic was most recently associated with bringing to life the Focus Daytona prototypes that also race in the Grand American Road Racing series using a Yates-built version of the FRPP Cammer 5.0 ("Reality Racing," Sept. '03, p. 55). Suffice it to say, Multimatic knows how to get cars around a racetrack in a hurry. Moreover, these guys are hard-core racing enthusiasts led by the likes of wild man and technical director Larry Holt (you'll remember him from the hula dancer on his dash in the Discovery Channel show).
In short, Multimatic took the new Mustang as a body-in-white, and reworked the chassis and suspension via testing and computer modeling to create a race car that's ready to run out of the box. And run it did. While the Ford Racing/Multimatic Motorsports team cars fared quite well, it was actually a customer car run by Blackforest Motorsports that took the top of the podium at Daytona just days after the team took delivery of the car. Having little or no experience with the car's handling, fuel mileage, or performance, drivers Ian James and Tom Nastasi held on to put the FR500C '05 Mustang in the record books soon after the street cars hit the showrooms.
In another 35 years, we might be looking back fondly at the beginning of a racing legacy for the S197 Mustang. Fortunately, we were there to see it with our own eyes.
Behind The WheelYears ago, an editor suggested I suffered from "newsenheimer's disease," an unfortunate affliction members of the press develop. "You learn quickly, write about what you learn, then completely forget it," he said. Consequently, before I cranked the engine in the Ford Mustang FR500C race car, I went back and reviewed the test I wrote on the '00 SVT Mustang Cobra R five years ago.
Granted, unlike the Cobra R, the FR500C is a full-fledged race car, not remotely street-legal and already track-proven, having won its first race, the Grand-Am Cup 200 at Daytona International Speedway last February. The win, achieved by the privateer team Blackforest Motorsports, just days after it took delivery of the car, was no fluke, as suggested by the Second-place finish of one of the two Multimatic Motorsports team Mustangs.