Ford aims 2017 GT supercar at the street and Le Mans

  • 15-Jan-2015 04:21 EST
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The 2017 GT, Ford's new carbon fiber supercar, will get the highest-output EcoBoost V6. It was designed to compete in the 2016 24 Hours of LeMans marking the 50th anniversary of Ford's first victory over Ferrari.

Ford’s ongoing development of a green image does not mean ignoring the performance market, and at the 2015 North American International Auto Show it introduced new editions of the Raptor pickup and Shelby Mustang GT350R, and dropped a genuine bombshell with the debut of the new Ford GT supercar.

First the head-spinning GT, which is a thoroughly modern interpretation of Ford's original GT40 factory race car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four consecutive years beginning in 1966. The new GT will enter production in street trim next year (as a 2017 model) as well as serve as Ford's platform for a Le Mans effort next year—marking the 50th anniversary of the GT40's first victory over Ferrari. Industry engineers familiar with the program tell Automotive Engineering that the new GT will be built by Markham, ON-based Multimatic Engineering, which has extensive experience in carbon fiber component manufacturing and enjoys a long relationship with Ford Motorsport.

Featuring a mid-engine/rear-drive layout and carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and 20-in wheels, the GT is powered by a 3.5-L twin-turbocharged Ecoboost V6 that Ford engineers promise will deliver more than 600 hp (447 kW) to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The engine benefits from learnings gained from Ford's racing V6 used in Daytona Prototype-class machines.

Remarkably, the show car represents approximately 12 months of development. Perhaps even more impressive in an era where nearly everyone carries a mobile camera with internet capability was Ford's ability to keep the car secret—not a single leaked web photo emerged—until its NAIAS unveiling on January 12. The show car's overall exterior form, with its flying buttresses that connect each rear fender to the car's roof and feature a downforce-generating airfoil geometry, is "about 95% finished," according to VP of Design Moray Callum.

The complex exterior is an exercise in careful computational work aimed at making the car aerodynamically efficient as well as enhancing engine performance—intercoolers integrated into the leading edges of the F1-influenced rear fenders eject hot air toward the rear of the car, exiting through the taillamp centers, explained Jamal Hameedi, Global Performance Vehicle Chief Engineer. The design includes an active, multi-axis rear spoiler that provides both downforce and drag when it deploys to full vertical extension.

The carbon-fiber tub connects to aluminum subframes front and rear. Front suspension is by a pushrod-type arrangement. The show car wears carbon-ceramic brake rotors and Brembo calipers. The car's doors swing upward to open to optimize ingress and egress. Inside the cockpit the two seats are non-adjustable, being integrated into the composite tub. The pedal cluster and steering wheel are electrically adjustable, however, and the instrument cluster is reconfigurable.

The high-performance V6 features a dual fuel injection system with both port-facing and direct injectors. Ford engineers said dual injection permits use of smaller nozzle injectors in each of the two systems to more precisely control the fuel flow under all conditions. This contrasts with simply using injectors with larger holes, that would allow the increased fuel flow necessary but would lose precision, particularly when low fuel flow rates are commanded.

Automotive Engineering will provide further reports of the GT's development, technology, and race preparation in the months ahead.

All-new aluminum Raptor

The Raptor may be based on the F-150, but the new second generation continues to be a full-fledged member of the Ford high-performance family and serves as the "halo" of the F-Series family, according to Doug Scott, Truck Marketing Manager. The new Raptor gets an aluminum body like its F-Series cousins and a new higher-strength steel frame. The vehicle is about 500 lb. (227 kg) lighter than the previous model, vs. 700 lb (318 kg) for the F-150, as Ford “gave back” some weight on the Raptor to provide additional feature content and upgrade the frame.

Like the GT, the new Raptor is powered by a 3.5-L EcoBoost V6 that makes more power than the previous model's SAE-rated 411 hp (307 kW) V8, according to Scott. A true dual exhaust is part of the new engine package. Although the displacement is unchanged, the twin-turbo V6 itself is almost all-new, Scott said, with only a handful of carryover parts. It will be phased in across the board. This is also the first application of the new 10-speed planetary automatic that Ford is developing jointly with GM. The transmission is mated to a new two-speed transfer case with a novel integration of its operation.

Unlike the previous model with just 2WD, 4L and 4H, the new Raptor adds an AWD that is based on variable clutch operation. However, when the system automatically goes into 4L or 4H, like the driver-selectable gearing it mechanically locks into position. The 2WD mode is driver-selectable or is very close when the system senses an appropriate load condition. The case is a BorgWarner design, exclusively for the Raptor at this time.

The Raptor gets a terrain management system with six modes: sand, on-road, sport, normal, rock crawl and "baja" (as in high-speed desert operation). Unlike others that are selectable by a turn knob, the Raptor's appears on the cluster for driver to make a pick.

The vehicle is 6.0-in (152 mm) wider than the F-150, has more suspension travel, and will be available in a Super Cab and Super Crew. All the F-150 safety-convenience features, from adaptive cruise to cargo box lighting and 360º camera also are available on the Raptor.

The Fox high-performance off-road racing shocks continue, but the new Raptor specs a larger piston size: to 3.0-in (76 mm), from the previous 2.5-in (64 mm).

Shelby Mustang GT 350 R keeps a V8

There is one new Ford performance variant, however, where the V8 remains king: the Shelby Mustang GT 350 R, a track-ready model that reflects a truly minimalist approach. Ford took out the rear seat, stereo, trunk floorboard and carpet, backup camera, exhaust resonators, even the tire sealer and inflator, and of course deleted the air conditioning. It is equipped with carbon fiber wheels, alone saving some 50 lb (23 kg) vs. aluminum, and the car is 130 lb (59 kg) lighter than the previous model.

A major upgrade is the new 5.2-L V8, which will be SAE-rated at over 500 hp (373 kW). It’s mated to a 6-speed Tremec manual. The V8 features Ford’s first flat-plane crankshaft (see http://articles.sae.org/13709/), which features crankpins spaced at 180º rather than 90º on a conventional cross-plane crank. Cylinder firing alternates from one bank to the other, which reduces overlap of exhaust gas pulses. In conjunction with changes to the valvetrain calibration and cylinder head, the result is improved high-end engine breathing.

The GT350 R's body is designed for increased downforce, starting with a reshaped front fascia, plus a ducted belly pan and a subtle lip on the rear spoiler. Suspension is by continuously variable MagneRide (BWI Group's electronically-controlled damping with iron-powder-filled fluid), with a claimed 10-ms response time for high-performance operation.

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