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ALTZMAN: Steady Strides in Mustang GT4

Jenson Altzman files a Sportscar365 column reflecting on Ford’s commitment to Mustang GT4 platform…

Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford

By: Jenson Altzman

Maybe this statistic doesn’t mean much to others, but it’s a testament to our program and everyone around us: We’ve podiumed the last three of six IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge races. We found success toward the end of last year, rolled it into what could have been a podium at Daytona and most recently captured a podium at Sebring.

I remember Chad [McCumbee] and I talking with Ford Performance global sports car manager Kevin Groot last year, and he emphasizes: “It’s not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary.”

That sure made us really excited for the all-new Mustang GT4 – that one little line put it into perspective. We saw that immediately, and that’s the clear direction of Mustang GT4.

Last year was exciting to learn the GT4 platform in general, and especially with Ford – I’ve been a Ford kid my whole life.

I’ve been fortunate to drive the Mustang, and having everyone, from McCumbee McAleer Racing, Multimatic Motorsports and Ford Performance, on-board has made the learning curve easy and experiences worthwhile. I felt very involved from the beginning, and it was extremely special to be a part of something “brand new.”

Mustang GT4 is refined, which demands a more hectic driving style. The former platform was maybe a little bit rowdier, so your driving style needed to be calm.

That’s really cool to me, and it’s allowed me to work on my driving adaptability. I feel when push comes to shove against smaller, lighter cars, we’ll be able to go toe-to-toe on the brakes and compete. You can tell that this Mustang GT4 will be able to fight those types of cars with the little bit of battling I’ve done so far.

Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford

Our most recent race and podium performance at Sebring demonstrated its capability. It was so memorable to do it with Mustang, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and in top-level sports car racing with Pilot Challenge.

It was also my first time actually celebrating a podium with Chad, though we earned one last year… after tech.

The weekend didn’t start off the way we wanted. We had a super frustrating first practice, but that’s when we benefitted from the simulator work we had done. We knew what we needed, and we had the answers.

Our tweaks worked perfectly, and we kept making big strides. While we didn’t have a terrible starting position for the race, I felt we could have qualified higher barring the issues we experienced.

The car was incredibly strong during the race, and we were very happy with the balance. For its second race and maybe my third time with the car, we were very pleased with how competitive we were.

We had great strategy, made a lot of good calls – with a little luck, but that’s racing. It was such a special moment to share that podium with not only our team, but also the Ford Performance family.

You can feel the love. Usually, you sort of feel like the stepchild in GT4 – and you don’t take that personally, but you just assume that GT3 is going to get more attention. That hasn’t been the case.

Photo: Ford

Multimatic Motorsports has worked hand-in-hand with us in developing the car. Ford Performance’s involvement in our program is bar-none. I really didn’t know what to expect when I came into this last year, but the amount of support they’ve shown for our team is extraordinary.

I don’t think there is any other manufacturer that is putting in this much effort to GT4 racing, at least on the front-end where we can see it at the racetrack.

I think that’s a reason why we are seeing strong results. I’ve been very fortunate to have these opportunities arise with Chad, who has been a Multimatic Motorsports driver for years. I’ve had the opportunity to see different sides of this race program and all the support across the board.

Vervantis, for one, has been extremely supportive throughout the last couple of years. I’m just a kid in a candy store, seeing it all come together.

I’m very positive – maybe too much. I almost want it to be the last two or three races of the season, because I really want to see where this championship ends up.

But I’ll take a quote from Chad: “The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present.”

For now, we just need to continue learning about the car and getting good results so we’re there at the end of the year. I am very optimistic with the car, this program and everyone involved.

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