Thomas J. Lyman
June 1, 2007

There's a small percentage of professional Mustang racers that don't hit the quarter-mile meccas across the country. This group focuses on twists and turns and cornering g's rather than strictly straight-line speed.

Enter Blackforest Motorsports, a road-racing team founded in 2000 by co-owners Brian T. Nott and Alan Ziegleman, that has been at the forefront of Ford's road-racing endeavors. Shortly after the Ford Mustang FR500C was introduced in 2005, Blackforest scored the first victory for the car, with Tom Nastasi and Ian James winning the Grand Am Cup 200 at Daytona. For the past two years, Blackforest has been campaigning the now-venerable FR500C, a car that Ford specifically built to Grand Am Cup specifications.

With the option of either buying a turnkey-ready ?Boy Racer? (a nickname given to the car for its ease in getting out on the track at a fraction of the cost of many top-flight teams), or purchasing the parts necessary to make any road-going Mustang into a track demon, Ford literally hit one out of the park with the program. In today?s environment of high technology, however, motorsports teams are always looking to the future and to the newest product that can score victories.

During the ?05 season, Blackforest saw an opportunity to try and make the FR500C a GT-class competitor. Unfortunately, after working the Mustang over, the team couldn?t get it light enough to make the weight requirement of 2,800 pounds within the GT or Prep II rules. The issue wasn?t strictly from a performance standpoint?the Hoosier-spec rubber that Grand Am rules call for can?t withstand the abuses of a car that weighs more than 2,800 pounds?the tires just can?t take the weight. Instead of scrapping its GT plans, Blackforest went a different route and took the GT concept to Crawford Race Cars, a highly respected manufacturer of purpose-built racing automobiles.

The result is the Crawford-built Mustang Cobra GT, a culmination of a year?s worth of planning and testing with Blackforest that first saw action at January?s Daytona 24-Hour race. Crawford completed the chassis and body in about six months, and Blackforest will campaign the car throughout the ?07 Rolex GT season, taking on other GT machines, such as the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, the Ferrari 430 GT, and the Pontiac GXP R. The motor is a Roush/Yates 5.0L modular V-8; actually the same Cammer R50 motor that can be found in the FR500C, although here it is not restricted as it is in the GS class of Koni Challenge racing.

That motor, which makes power somewhere in the 430hp range, is mated to an XTrac five-speed transmission. The chassis is a Daytona prototype?derived piece (purpose-built, closed-top racers), with Crawford working to change the midengine layout seen in that series. The suspension comes from Dynamic Suspensions, and is similar to the system in the FR500C with multiple adjustment parameters. Crawford has worked closely with Blackforest on the Mustang and will continue to help out with the evolution throughout the ?07 season. The carbon-fiber bodywork was retained in its natural color for the Daytona 24 in what would be a trial by fire for the Mustang.

Driving duties at Daytona were split between Blackforest team driver Tom Nastasi, Champ Car regular Alex Tagliani, sports-car specialist Guy Cosmo, and GT newcomer Valerie Limoges. Tagliani, in the second qualifying session, actually put down the fastest lap for GT, but under Grand Am rules, the grid for the first 20 spots is set in the first session.

The car ran well into the night during the race, but eventually transmission troubles befell the Mustang. However, Nastasi and Blackforest are in this battle for the long haul, with the entire season of the Grand Am series ahead of them.

"We're not quite at 100 percent yet, Nastasi said, ?but we?re getting there.? As with any new race-car program, there always seems to be a ?teething? period?working out little gremlins can take weeks, even months. However, with such a sound package under its feet, Blackforest, especially with its current record with Ford products, will be sure to make it to the front of the pack in no time.