Joey Hand said he’s relishing his new roles with Ford Performance ramping up to the manufacturer’s return to top-level sports car competition with the Mustang GT3 effort in 2024.
The former 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE-Pro class winner has been confirmed as Ford’s test and development driver for the newly announced program that will see Hand reunited with members of the Ford GT program.
While having been on the sidelines since the end of the factory GTE operation in 2019, the 42-year-old Californian is set to play a crucial role in the development of the Multimatic-built car.
“It’s going to be fun,” Hand told Sportscar365. “My number one thing is racing but my second favorite thing is developing. Hopefully I get an opportunity to race the car [as well].
“I now know that you don’t walk into a program and wonder how it’s going to go. That’s the cool thing about this.
“Like Larry [Holt, Multimatic] was saying about getting the band back together. You know everybody’s worked together pretty much and you can be pretty confident it’s all going to go well.
“I’m super thankful to the Ford family. They’ve kept me in the loop.
“There was obviously a dry spell there trying to find a deal with my Platinum rating [at the time]. Now I’m back.”
Having played a role in the development of the Ford GT, Hand expects a similar procedure for the Mustang, which will be Multimatic’s first bespoke car built to the FIA GT3 regulations.
“I would hope that we have a pretty good judge,” Hand said. “There’s so many GT3 cars, you have a pretty good feel of what you need to be like and where you need to be.
“The biggest thing for me will be a V8 instead of a V6 and some of the shifting stuff.
“What [also] stands out to me is the ABS. The ABS will be very important. That will be a big part of the development.
“The chassis stuff, when it gets to me, it’s done and going to be like ‘How do we tune that?'”
Hand said he’s looking forward to the “longevity” of the program, with customer cars likely to open opportunities to compete in GT3 races around the world.
His newly re-classified Gold driver rating from the FIA means that Hand will also be eligible for competition in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
“For a guy like me, it opens up so many options,” he said. “Now we have GTD Pro, where [driver] ratings don’t matter.
“The nice thing is that I can now jump in and help these guys with the GT4 deal. I can be racing in [Pilot Challenge].
“From my standpoint, it gives you longevity in your career also. If you look at all of the other GT3 cars, these cars can be around for a long time.
“Even if you were in the Pro class for a while and then you could do Bathurst with an Am deal and Nürburgring or whatever… There’s no rules now.
“I’ve got Gold status, there’s going to be customer cars, pro cars. You can’t stop me now!”
Hand Set for Busy 2022 With NASCAR Road Races, Sim Development
Despite no on-track testing with the Mustang GT3 until 2023, Hand will likely be staying busy this year between sim work and a six-race NASCAR Cup Series program with Rick Ware Racing.
“I’ve been on the Ford deal since June [last] year, just helping with the simulator and the next-gen [NASCAR] car development and helping coaching some of the Cup guys in the road course races,” he explained.
“To be able to do all of the Cup races on road courses [this year] and help develop that way and have this, for me it’s a big deal.
“Talk about fun and talk about an opportunity that I have.
“I believe that I can win a race in Cup because of the equipment I’ll be in and the race tracks we’ll go to and the lack of time testing for everybody else.
“You hook that all together. I’m spending time in the sim already. That’s where this [GT3 program] will start as well.
“What I also see is being very busy.”