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Ford “Learned a Lot” in Mustang GT3 Debut

Strong debut for Mustang GT3 before mechanical issues gives Rushbrook confidence for season…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Ford Performance global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook said the brand “learned a lot” about the new Mustang GT3 during an up-and-down race debut for the car in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Only one of the two Mustang GT3s entered by Ford Multimatic Motorsports saw the finish of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship curtain-raiser, as the No. 64 car shared by Harry Tincknell, Mike Rockenfeller and Christopher Mies finished sixth in the GTD Pro class.

The No. 64 was delayed by early rear bodywork issues that afflicted both factory cars, before six laps were lost when Tincknell was rear-ended by the No. 4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R during the night, leaving the car with diffuser damage.

Ford retired the sister No. 65 machine of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Frederic Vervisch with an undisclosed mechanical problem in the closing stages.

“We definitely learned a lot,” Rushbrook told Sportscar365. “That’s the one thing about IMSA starting with the biggest race of the year, and starting the season with a brand new car. We had that experience in 2016 with the Ford GT.

“We know our issues, we have some ideas of how to fix them. There’s work to do but we will all work together, address those issues, and go racing.

“It’s nothing the team can’t address. In 2016, we learned a lot in the first race, we went away and addressed it, and later that season we won at Laguna Seca and Le Mans.

“There’s no reason why we can’t do the same again.”

Asked to comment on the performance of the Mustang GT3, Rushbrook replied: “The drivers were really happy with the handling and the balance. 

“BoP is BoP, and I don’t want to play that card, but we were there in contention until we had some of these issues.”

Tincknell: Ford Can Be “Proud” of Debut Showing

Tincknell meanwhile expressed his satisfaction with the Mustang GT3’s performance in the debut, particularly in the early stages of the race, although he conceded that the winning Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 would have always been out of reach.

“It started off really well,” he told Sportscar365. “We were the fastest car on track, led the race on pace. I think we took a step forward again from the test to the race. 

“We ran flat out from the start and others seemed to get quicker and quicker. We can be proud of ourselves that we showed everything, and I think our times reflect that. 

“We learned a ton, we have things to improve on, from a No. 64 point of view the car ran very reliably, if we didn’t have the little issue with the diffuser.

“Last year in the Porsche, we struggled a lot [at Daytona] and they went on to win at Sebring. So I am very confident, and there might be a bit of a BoP adjustment there.

“We did a load of testing at Sebring, so I think we have a good base and we can go there with a lot of optimism.”

Describing the contact that damaged the No. 64 car’s diffuser, Tincknell said: “I got a tap from behind from [Earl] Bamber, we all got checked up into Turn 6. The contact was just at the wrong angle and it damaged the diffuser.

“That also hit me in to the No. 55 [Proton Competition Ford] which also damaged their diffuser, so that was a double whammy. We lost six laps there, and I think we were seven laps down at the end. 

“[Without the incident] we would have probably been fourth, which would have been a mega start to the program, although the performance gap at the end was too big.

“Hopefully we can go to Sebring with a little bit more of a chance on raw pace.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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