Defending Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class champion Scott Maxwell reckons the new-for-2017 Ford Mustang GT4 is a step up from its predecessor and expects a strong fight all year in the revamped GS class.
Maxwell and 2016 co-driver Billy Johnson won six races in the Ford Shelby GT350R-C en route to the title a season ago, but a larger GS field and and the adoption of GT4 regulations for Continental Tire Challenge in 2017 has changed the landscape of the class.
Both drivers were heavily involved the the development of the Multimatic-built Mustang GT4 since the project’s inception, but with Johnson’s off-season elevation to a Platinum driver rating and his resultant ineligibility in the series, much of that project fell on Maxwell’s shoulders.
The Canadian said he has relished that role, and gave a glowing review of Ford’s new GT4 contender, which made its public debut this weekend at Daytona.
“The biggest difference [between the two cars] is the aerodynamics,” Maxwell told Sportscar365.
“We have a lot more downforce [on the GT4], so that’s the first thing. We have a different engine, so it has different characteristics in the way it pulls, the torque curve, peak horsepower, and things like that.
“Another thing, the paddle shifts, the new gearbox we’re running, it makes it a lot easier, obviously. It’s a lot cleaner shifting. That helps with lap times.
“The tires are completely different than what we’ve run before. We’ve tested on both the IMSA-spec and PWC-spec tires. That’s a huge difference.
“Overall, a summation of it all, it’s a quicker car. It’s a lot easier to drive. It feels more like a GT racing car, a GTD almost, than what we were running before.
“The other car, we had a lot of horsepower but not a lot of grip. I like to use the term, the car would ‘float’ a lot because we didn’t have the downforce.
“So we had all this power, not a lot of grip, and not a lot of downforce which made it a real drivers’ car. I think really good drivers excelled in a car like that because you had to drive it aggressively.
“But this one is a lot more fun!”
Reunited with former co-driver Jade Buford for the upcoming 2017 campaign, the Multimatic Motorsports team faces significant challenges in an upgraded GS field that saw 21 cars entered for the annual Roar Before the 24 pre-season test.
That number is expected to grow before the season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona later this month.
The increase is accounted for by an influx of GT4 machinery from Porsche, Aston Martin and McLaren, and Maxwell noted that just how the Mustang GT4 will stack up against is competitors is up in the air.
“I was following a couple of the fast McLarens and fast Porsches and you can see their strengths and weaknesses versus us,” he said. “Overall, we won’t know until we get here in three weeks, but I think it will be quite close.
“I was skeptical on the plane down that we would be as close as we were, but I had never really run behind these McLarens, and that’s the one that everyone was wondering about.
“IMSA’s looking at all the data after every session. I’m sure they’ve learned some stuff. Come race day, it will be close, but it will take awhile to figure that out.”
Multimatic’s entry for Maxwell and Buford is the Blue Oval’s lone representative at the Daytona test, but Maxwell said he expects to be competing against other Mustang GT4s later this year.
“I don’t think that day is too far away,” he said. “I think the intent hopefully is for there to be more than one Ford at the first race and then maybe as the season goes on they’ll start to show up at the events.
“By this time next year I’d like to see a handful of them, if not more, here, and over in Europe and wherever [GT4] runs.
“If we can prove that we’re competitive against these other manufacturers, the global image of the Mustang is pretty strong.
“I think people want this car. It’s unique, it makes a lot of noise, it’s American muscle, it’s what people love.”