A return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and effort in the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli with the Ford Mustang GT3 is “under consideration” according to Ford Performance global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook.
Ford announced Friday that it will build and develop an all-new Mustang GT3 for 2024, which will include both a factory program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTD Pro class as well as making customer cars available worldwide.
Rushbrook told Sportscar365 that additional factory-supported programs, including a potential effort in the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli is being considered but “nothing we’re ready to announce.”
He also said a return to Le Mans in the ACO’s planned GT3 class for 2024 is a “great opportunity” even if it comes as a Pro-Am-enforced lineup as the category is expected to be.
“We’re not pushing for [a GT3 Pro class at Le Mans],” Rushbrook said.
“We’re just happy they’re switching to a GT3-based category. Even as Pro-Am, it’s a great opportunity to have a Mustang able to race at Le Mans.”
Whether IMSA GTD Pro operators Multimatic Motorsports would be part of such a program at Le Mans or in the FIA World Endurance Championship remains unclear.
“That’s part of what we need to understand what’s possible and what’s not possible,” Rushbrook said.
Rushbrook said the global shift towards GT3, both in IMSA and the WEC, was a driving force behind the new project with Multimatic.
The manufacturer has not had a top-level sports car racing effort since the end of its factory Ford GT program in 2019.
“The [Ford] GT goes away at the end of this year, in terms of new production of the road car,” Rushbrook explained. “We need to have Mustang elevate and be more of a halo for the company.
“It’s always been there but especially with the GT going out of production it’s even more of a reason to pull up Mustang even higher.
“Before in 2013/2014 when we were making decisions on GTE/GTLM, the rules were different then and the classes were different and the opportunity was different.
“The growing success of GT3… It’s continued to pick up momentum. Stephane Ratel has done a fantastic job in protecting the GT3 class and just seeing it grow and be stable.”
Rushbrook added: “For us Mustang is a halo car. It’s an iconic car.
“We sell a lot of them around the world. Part of what we looked at was, ‘With everything coming together for GT3, we can now truly race Mustang around the world.’
“We race Mustang in NASCAR, we race Mustang in Australia Supercars. We have the Mustang GT4 and those are all independent or regional programs.
“Now with GT3, we can truly go global just like we did with the GT program.”
In addition to factory involvement, Rushbrook is anticipating an extensive customer program for the car.
Multimatic’s Larry Holt said a “first peak” of 40 Mustang GT3s would be a “good number” while achieving a lifespan total of between 70-80 units.
“That’s part of making this announcement,” Rushbrook said. “We’ve had so much interest to people that I just couldn’t talk to because we hadn’t announced anything.
“Now we have that ability to talk freely with people. There’s definitely a lot of interest there.”
Rushbrook said the introduction of a new Mustang GT4 for next year could help customers ramp up to a GT3 operation in 2024.
“There’s a lot of people that are interested,” he said. “They want a GT4 in 2023 and a GT3 in 2024.”
“No Comment” on Ford LMDh, Other Possible Evaluations
When asked if a LMDh program is now off the table with the GT3 announcement, Rushbrook said: “We’re not going to comment on that today.”
He explained that Ford continues to look at a variety of programs, in and out of sports car racing.
“We keep a constant chart in front of us, with our cycle plan, [of] where are we participating, where are we not participating and where do we want to participate in the future,” he said.
“It’s hard to make these changes to shift between different series or do different programs.
“In this case we’re announcing this two years before we’re going to be competing. We’re always looking at IndyCar, Formula E, Formula 1… they’re all on the chart.
“We keep a good pulse and discussion with all of those different series on what they’re doing in the future because if we make a decision based upon what they’re doing today, it might be the wrong decision because they might be doing something different two or three years from now.
“We keep those dialogues open and are all under consideration at some level.”