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FORD WAS ACTUALLY PURSUING A LMDh RACE PROGRAM BEFORE MUSTANG GT3

Ford Motorsports Director Mark Rushbrook Elaborates On The Decision

S550 S650 Ford Mustang GT3 Multimatic Motorsports IMSA Racing Daytona 24 S550 GT4
Image via Ford Performance

Both IMSA and the ACO’s World Endurance Championship are on the verge of entering the next era of modern sportscar racing. Dubbed LMDh or GTP depending on your allegiances, manufacturers from both sides of the Atlantic have been eager to sign up for the new regulations which see hybrid propulsion from Bosch and Williams integrated with OEM engines and manufacturer-specific bodywork dressing up an LMP2 chassis from providers like Multimatic, Dallara, Oreca, and Ligier. Already Cadillac, Acura, Porsche, Audi, BMW, and Alpine have all confirmed participation, while brands like McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Nissan are all heavily interested in joining the fray. Despite being involved in the drafting of the regulations Ford Performance has decided not to participate in the new prototype regulations in favor of a Mustang GT3 program.

Announced at this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in January, the Blue Oval confirmed it would be forgoing an LMDh/GTP program, instead, it would enter the Ford Mustang in global GT3 competition–much the same as Chevrolet has chosen to do with the C8 Corvette Z06 GT3.R program announced late last year.

Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports Mark Rushbrook was on hand in Florida to answer questions about the forthcoming GT3 program, and elaborate on why the company decided to ditch prototypes.

According to DailySportscar, Ford was actually pursuing an LMDh/GTP program before deciding to switch focus to a Mustang GT3 program in collaboration with longtime partners Multimatic and M-Sport.

“I would say timewise that we decided not to pursue LMDh first. We kept studying and we kept following it to see where things were going. So I wouldn’t say we necessarily rejected it. But we just said it’s not the right program for us at this time,” Rushbook was quoted as saying.

With Ford’s supercar fading out, and a new S650 Mustang about to debut, momentum seemed in favor of continuing motorsports with the Original Pony Car.

“With our road car lineup, knowing that the Ford GT was going to go out of production, it’s easier to tie a GT to an LMDh, than it is to tie Ford or a Mustang to an LMDh. But a Mustang GT3 is a Mustang. So once everything shifted with GTLM ramping down and GT3 ramping up, then it was a pretty easy decision.”

With Ford GT production winding down to the last 250 cars, the Mustang is expected to pick up the slack as the brand’s global performance flagship, especially as the company leans into the yet-to-be-seen S650 Mustang redesign. An abstract prototype program doesn’t offer the same ties to a production vehicle sold at local dealerships.

“I actually believe the LMDh formula is a great set of regulations. And I think it’s going to be very successful. I can’t wait to see those cars racing here. But for us, having something that is more relevant or tied to a production car is what put our decision in favor of Mustang and GT3,” Rushbrook continued.

“Because you start with a production body in white, you start with a Coyote production block and heads. And certainly, if you’re in LMDh, it’s not that. That doesn’t mean LMDh is wrong. It just means for us we are putting more emphasis on the direct relevance.”

Written by Michael Accardi

Michael refuses to sit still, he's held multiple hands-on automotive jobs throughout his life. Along with being an investigative writer and accomplished photographer, Michael has wrenched on Fords as a dealership mechanic, worked with air-cooled Porsches in a small shop in Toronto, as well as Nautique ski boats in cottage country. Additionally, he was part of the Ford GT program at Multimatic, oversaw a fleet of Audi TCR racecars, and cared for GT3 Cup cars. Currently he's working with a Duqueine LMP3 in the IMSA WeatherTech paddock.

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