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HAND: Harnessing a Champion Spirit

Joey Hand files his latest Sportscar365 column following Laguna Seca weekend…

Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford

We actually did more than meets the eye weeks prior to our race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The ‘Champion Spirit’ livery, commemorating 60 years of Mustang champions in our sport, was set to debut there and later in Detroit for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rounds.

We filmed a hype video in Detroit about a month ago, followed by some shooting at Laguna Seca with some of the featured historical race cars.

We are making history by paying tribute to Mustang and its champions that have come before us. From the 1985 Roush IMSA GTO Motorcraft hood of the car from my buddy Scott Pruett to the 1997 Trans Am All-Sport car driven by Tommy Kendall on the right-rear, it’s cool that we can not only celebrate them, but also make some history of our own.

Even the 1970 Parnelli Jones Boss 302, which stood out to me because I had that as a slot car growing up.

I had such an awesome experience driving the Mustang GT3 down the Pacific Coast Highway when we were in California – something I never thought I’d ever do. With the roads secured by California Highway Patrol, we opened it up on that stretch of the highway, which was incredible.

Laguna Seca is my home race, which makes it special. I was fortunate enough to have all my family and friends there to support me. There were so many others that I’ve met over the years, even from when I coached karting. Some approached me, asking: “Hey, you remember me? I took one of your karting classes in 1997.”

My attitude coming into this race was so positive, because it’s rare that I have so much family with me, especially my wife and kids. The last time I was in full-time racing, the kids were only 10 and 12 years old. Now, when they sit in the race car, they actually fit. Chase fits perfectly and could have driven it, which was wild to me.

Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford

This race track was a different beast with the repave, and we first realized that there was a ton of grip compared to the last time I was there – it was kind of like a slot car track. On that note I discovered that Rocky (Mike Rockenfeller) and I were two of three drivers in the field that had driven on the last repave in 2007.

I really enjoyed turns nine and 10 coming down the hill. That part of the track was already quick, but this time, you could really feel it in your neck from the g-force. That section has always been my favorite. I remember watching sports car races from the bottom of turn nine as a kid. You could hear the cars leaving the Corkscrew but couldn’t see them yet until they popped over into turn nine with all that g-force.

The race was going well, as we were holding station with Dirk (Müller) and when I was ready to get in the car, we had a really good pit-stop – actually, we had two very good pit-stops including the one during my second stint. We leap frogged a few cars during the pitstop which was awesome.

Maybe we didn’t have the pace but at some point, we will with this car. Ford Multimatic Motorsports is making big strides in the background to be in contention.

The fantastic pit-stops we did this weekend alone will pay dividends when we get to that point. I know we will find our way, but right now, I’m focusing on what we’re doing right that will help us when it’s our time. We’re putting a lot of preparation into each event, and everyone is continually learning how to work together. It’s an exciting time.

I’m very thankful to Ford and proud to be a part of this. We’re doing these commemorative liveries, and what I feel when we do these sorts of liveries is love for the customers – for the people who already own Fords and people who may own one in the future.

So many people are excited to have Mustang back out there competing, so to give them something cool so early-on… I hope we keep going down this road of showing off new liveries that complement this sleek Mustang GT3 design. It gives people something to cheer for and a way to include them in our journey.

Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford

Joey Hand is a Ford Performance factory driver, competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 65 Ford Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT3.

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