5.0 Mustang & Super FordsNews & Views
Grown Boy: Inside Ford Racing's FR500C
The making of a Grand-Am Cup Champion
Horse Sense: The FR500C began its racingcareer at 3,125 pounds, but early success and the resulting inevitablewhining of competitors saw this legislated up to 3,300 pounds byseason's end.
A Cinderella story, really. In its first year of Grand-Am Cup GrandSport competition, the "Boy Racer" '05 Mustang FR500C took on the likesof Porsche, BMW, Cadillac, and Nissan, handily outrunning them all totake not only the manufacturer's championship for Ford, but also theteam championship (Multimatic Motorsports) and driver's championship(David Empringham).
While these championships are great news for Ford fans, perhaps the mostsatisfying aspect of the Mustang FR500C program is that it's real. Thisis not a case of the factory concocting a couple of mega-dollar"unobtanium" halo cars, then getting bored and moving on to somethingelse. Customers can buy--and win with--the exact same car the factory teamraces. Nor is this some tube-chassis skeleton with a Mustang body gluedon. From the beginning, the FR500C was developed to be a saleable,competitive, turnkey race car--one that was repeatable, dependable, andaffordable (at least by race-car standards)--and is built up from aregular production body-in-white.
Having amassed five victories out of its debut season's 12 races--enoughto tie a series season-win record and secure the above-mentioned trio ofchampionships--even those less biased than ourselves would surely have tojudge the program a resounding success. How good is the FR500C right outof the box? Well, consider that privateers, Blackforest Motorsports,took delivery of theirs just two days before the '05 season opener atDaytona--and promptly won that event. Obviously, there was little time--orneed--to make adjustments. The FR500C was too good, in fact, causing thesanctioning body to add a total of 175 pounds of ballast over the courseof the season, and mandate the replacement of its original 4.10 gearswith less energetic 3.55s. Despite this rule hobbling, BlackforestMotorsports also managed to win the last race of 2005 at VirginiaInternational Raceway. The factory Multimatic team accounted for theFR500C's other three victories.
With such a world-conquering initial season under its belt, we thoughtwe'd take a look at what goes into the construction of each and everyFR500C, an international combined effort of Ford and a select fewcorporate partners. By the end of this tome, you'll likely agree that,at $125,000, the FR500C is one of the great bargains of the road-racingworld.
Partners In Performance
Without a doubt, Ford's principal partner in the program is longtimeassociate, Multimatic Motorsports, based in Toronto, Canada. Themotorsports division of Multimatic has engineered and built many asuccessful road racer, was instrumental in the suspension configurationand on-track development of the FR500C, and is responsible for its finalassembly. But each car's gestation starts back home in Detroit, where abody-in-white finds its way over to Watson Engineering for a flurry ofseam welding and installation of a stout rollcage.
Meanwhile, the FR500C's 5.0 motivation is being hand-assembled at Ford'sEngine Manufacturing Development Operations building in DearbornHeights, an understandably secretive skunkworks where FoMoCo's futurepowerplants are under constant development, and where journalists withcameras are apparently immediate cause for managerial apoplexy. And thefinal outside contributor that we're aware of is McLaren VehicleDevelopment, which crafts the racer's unique stainless steel headers andmodified oil sump.
Enough introduction; the following photos and captions provide a bitmore detail of how the championship-winning FR500C Mustang takes shape.
Ford Racing calls it the M-6007-R50; we call it lust in aluminum. By anyname, the FR500C's hand-crafted 5.0 cammer has proven itself to be morethan sufficiently powerful and dependable. This is where we'd love totell you exactly how powerful, but Ford isn't talking. The official lineis that the R50 was configured to reliably generate a certain level ofhorsepower and torque deemed desirable by the race series' sanctioningbody. And let's not understate that reliability thing--there were no R50failures during the '05 season, and post-season teardowns were more outof curiosity than necessity. By the way, we had hoped to show you theprocess of an FR500C engine being hand assembled--as each and every oneis--but Ford's understandably restrictive policy about cameras in theEMDO facility soon put an end to that idea, and resulted in all ouraccompanying engine hardware photos being taken in the staff lunchroom.
The R50 starts as a bare M-6010-T50 block, basically an aluminum Cobrablock having water-jacket modifications sufficient to permit thin-wall,centrifugally cast, nodular-iron liners of 3.70-inch bore. Some areas ofthe block made thick for production applications (for reasons of NVH)have actually been thinned for lighter weight (this should tell yousomething about the bull strength of a stock aluminum Cobra block). AtEMDO, the block is deburred and the cylinders honed using deck plates,and in goes a production NA Cobra- or Mach 1-style steel crank, modifiedonly for balance to account for a reciprocating assembly consisting ofTerminator-style Manley rods and the same flat-top forged pistons usedin the T50 crate motor, good for about 11:1 compression. Main caps arethe older-style nodular-cast-iron versions, which Ford Racing feels tobe superior.
On top go production Four-Valve Ford GT cylinder heads using specialvalves and springs for sustained high rpm. Valve diameter, however, isunchanged, and the lifters, rockers, and cam drives are standardproduction parts. The cams themselves, according to Ford Racing's AndySchwartz, have "one-half-inch lift and relatively short duration."
That eye candy atop the R50 is a fixed-geometry (no variable runners)intake fed by a stock Cobra dual-bore throttle body. Ford Racing madefull use of the '05 Mustang's higher hood line when designing themanifold, the configuration of which is instrumental in meeting thetargeted horsepower and torque levels of the Grand-Am Cup series.
On the bottom is an in-house-designed, McLaren-fabricated, high-capacity(9-quart) oil pan baffled for the high-g antics of road racing, and theR50's headers are non-equal length with 17/8 primaries and 21/2-inchcollectors. Injectors are 42-lb/hr Lightning units, and the 90mm massair meter is also Lightning sourced. Factory engine management hardwareis retained, but calibration is done specifically for theseries-mandated Sunoco GT100 fuels.
This total engine hardware and calibration package is homologated,meaning neither can be varied from race to race. Incidentally, we'll seethe R50 engine assembly itself, and eventually many of its individualcomponents--including the intake and cams--make appearances in upcomingFord Racing Performance Parts catalogs.
Stiff And Agile
So far we've seen that, for purposes of parity, the FR500C is limited toroughly the same levels of horsepower and torque as other competitors inthe Grand Sport class. Makes sense, but this obviously places a premiumon braking and handling--vehicle dynamics, in other words--in order towrestle victory from the clutches of those foreign interlopers. Luckilythe S197 begins life with a unibody structure that is vastly superior toany previous Mustang's. Even so, that unibody must be prepped for therigors of racing, and that's where Watson Engineering comes in withwelders blazing. According to Ford's FR500C program manager, PrimoGoffi, some 2,100 seam welds are applied at Watson, not counting thestick work necessary to fit the road-race cage. A well is alsofabricated in the trunk area for the mandated fuel cell before theunibody is shipped across the border to Multimatic.
Meanwhile, trailer loads of production Mustang parts have also crossedthe bridge at Windsor, along with complete, dyno-tested R50 engines andapplication-specific T56 six-speed gearboxes. Everything comes togetherin a dedicated FR500C assembly area at Multimatic, typically in groupsof three cars. At the time of our visit last October, 16 cars had beencompleted, including the number 05 and 55 preproduction prototypescampaigned in 2005 by Multimatic itself. While the eventual build tallywill likely be determined simply by customer demand, the initialcontract between Ford Racing and Multimatic is for 25 FR500Cs.
Multimatic's build process is one of hand assembly, with each chassispainstakingly going from a caged bare unibody shell to a completerunning world-beater ready for delivery to the customer. Part of thatprocess involves installation of the FR500C's front and rear coiloversuspension hardware from Multimatic's British subsidiary, DynamicSuspensions. This is one of the few major departures from stock hardwareon the chassis itself, another being the 14-inch Brembo front brakes. Ofcourse the cockpit is another story altogether; about the only thingfactory inside is the dashpad. Everything else is pure race functional,including the mandated fire-suppression system.
Our photos and captions will fill in the details, after which it shouldbe clear that what rolls out Multimatic's shipping door is aworld-class, production-based race car. Operators are standing by totake your order.