The Ford Mustang made a thunderous return to factory-backed endurance racing at the 24 Hours of Daytona over the weekend, challenging mainstays like Porsche, BMW, and Chevrolet. It was also a statement from Ford: the Mustang is its flagship performance car now. The Ford GT is no more and its return isn't in the cards, so it's the pony car's turn to lead. Why the Mustang and not a purpose-built, from-the-ground-up race car? According to Ford, the inspiration to cast the Mustang as its leading man actually came from Porsche and its iconic 911.
"We learned that from other brands—full disclosure we learned that from Porsche and the way they’ve created that level of opportunity [with the 911]—it’s something we can do and there’s nothing stopping us from doing it," Jay Ward, Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsport communications, told The Drive at Daytona.
There's a Porsche 911 flavor for everyone, from the base model all the way up to the hardcore 911 GT3 RS, and the fact that Porsche goes racing with the 911 not only makes the brand money, it increases the model's value in the eyes of enthusiasts. Ford is doing something similar with the Mustang now, as it starts with normal trims and ascends to serious track-ready equipment like the high-performance Dark Horse and extreme Mustang GTD.
"If you think about the number of people who are going racing in a Mustang on any given weekend, whether it is club racing or a person doing track days or whatever, [as a company] you gotta go racing with a sense of purpose," Ward said. "You can’t just go racing for fun, it has to serve a purpose. And particularity with the new Mustang, this is the kind of business opportunity—going racing in GT3 and GT4, and Dark Horse R. So if you’re very focused, you can add revenue while also adding value to the brand."
Over the weekend, Mustang owners got to watch cars that looked a lot like their own lap Daytona and mix it up with the best Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, and of course Porsche have to offer. That legitimizes the Mustang in the racing world and bolsters the car's performance capabilities in the eyes of the global public. It's brand value that only motorsport can offer. The 911's competitive and sales successes have certainly shown what's possible over the years, and you could say Ford has learned from the best.
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