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A Ford Mustang GT3 and New Performance Pickup Could Come Sooner Than We Think

Motorsports has been in Ford’s blood since its inception with the Ford 999 all the way back in 1902. The brand has been at the forefront of wheel-to-wheel and drag racing for well over 100 years with factory-backed entries in the NHRA, NASCAR, IMSA, SCORE, and others. That continues today with Ford’s return to the FIA’s Formula 1 series, but it seems that’s not the only place we’ll see the Blue Oval in the future. With one particular slide, a Mustang and pickup silhouette hint at other avenues both vehicles might enter here in the U.S. and across the world. We do a little speculation as to what these tiny hints might mean going into 2024 and beyond.

Is the Ford Mustang GT3 Approaching?

The Mustang portion of the slide is rather interesting in itself. While NASCAR, Formula Drift, and the NHRA are avenues Ford has its modern Pony Car competing in, the additions of IMSA, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and SRO Motorsports Group—who control the World Challenge series here in the U.S.—are places the Mustang is somewhat absent from. We say “somewhat” because within that is a GT4 class Mustang already racing. We also already knew the refreshed Mustang would garner a GT3 variant, but didn’t really know when we’d see it. That is until now—it must be right around the corner.

Joining Chevrolet’s Corvette Z06 GT3, Ford will have a Mustang joining IMSA’s top category with the WeatherTech Championship in 2024 in the GTD and GTD Pro categories. This is great news for Blue Oval fans who want to see more street cars as racecars in top tiers of motorsports. The FIA’s GT3 rules—which IMSAs GTD and GTD Pro are based on—dictate that the homologated cars are built directly by the manufacturers or by outside motorsports car builders “at the behest” of the manufacturer, like Multimatic does for Ford and the current Mustang GT4.

This also wouldn’t be the first GT3 spec Mustang built by Multimatic. If you remember back to 2007 when the S197 was still new, Ford built the Mustang FR500 variants that included GT4, GT3 and Grand Am spec cars—which was the premier road racing series at the time in the U.S. In fact, the GTD class name is a holdover from the Grand Am era and the subsequent rebirth of IMSA. GTD, which stood for GT Daytona, were once Grand Am spec sports cars while GT Le Mans (GTLM) were FIA specification cars and the ones you’d see racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (where it got its name from). We’re only now seeing the full fruition of the plan setup by the FIA, ACO, and IMSA to better homologate the top tiers of the WeatherTech, WEC, and other global GT series to make it easier for teams to compete at Le Mans with a common set of rules.

Where Else Could It Compete?

With a GT3 variant of the Mustang, this also opens up the possibility of customer cars racing in both professional and grassroots series where GT3 rules are followed. We could see these cars racing in SCCA and NASA club racing to the SRO Motorsports GT World Challenge America along with its GT America series where the Mustang GT4 already competes. This would also open up the Mustang to compete in the Trans Am Series’ XGT, the class just below its TA and TA2 categories of tube chassis racecars, where silhouette body Mustangs also regularly compete.

What to Expect From A Mustang GT3

Ford has done a very soft teaser of the Mustang GT3, but no details have been released by the Blue Oval’s racing division, Ford Performance. We would imagine that a GT3 version of the Mustang would share some of the basic parts from the GT4, possibly including its 5.2 liter V-8 with extra power, its Holinger RD-6 sequential but built to handle the extra power, steel unibody with its welded-in FIA safety cage, and carbon fiber body parts.

The bodywork would be a GT3 specific package that allows for more downforce, more adjustability, and made to fit wider tires as allowed in the GT3 class. Don’t be surprised if it’s a mix of what we see from the GT4 along with its Australian cousin, the Supercars Mustang. Either way, the Mustang GT3, just like the GT4, will be race-only vehicles built off of production-built cars. While it would be awesome to see a Mustang GT3 on the street, we sort of already have that in the Dark Horse, but without a 5.2 liter V-8 under its hood.

Ranger Danger

Along with the Mustang, Ford listed some interesting series for its off-road/dirt series appear on the same Ford Performance product map, along with a mystery new performance pickup. While the Bronco has taken most of the spotlight, there are series that it wouldn’t normally compete in, but a global Ranger could. Most notably would be the Amsoil Championship Off-Road series. This is an all-truck series and the interesting classes for the Ranger Raptor are Pro Spec and Pro Lite.

While these aren’t factory trucks made into race vehicles like the Mustang GT3, the rules mandate that a body be based off of a 2WD compact pickup truck. A loose interpretation of the rules means that the only body available for Ford for either class would be the Ranger Raptor. Though, we’ll be honest and say that we might be reading into this a bit too much. The Ford F-150 is well represented in the Pro 2 (a 700 plus hp 2WD class) and Pro4 (same idea, but driving all four wheels) classes. Still, it would be great to see the Ranger Raptor get represented in either, smaller truck Pro classes.

The Baja Beckons

SCORE is another interesting avenue for the Ranger and the Bronco. Most recently, the Ranger Raptor ran the stock class for the 2022 Baja 1000, but it was an Australian built, right-hand drive truck. Hopefully for the 2023 season we’ll see a left hand drive Ranger Raptor take on the most historic race in off-road history (if you ignore those who claim that the Dakar is, anyway). The only thing that might push back that news or run would be a potential entry of the Bronco DR—the race-only Bronco made for open desert competition. A prototype was slated to potentially make a run in last year’s 1000, but it never ended up materializing in time for the race.

That doesn’t necessarily rule out both the Bronco DR and left hand drive Ranger Raptor from competing at the same time. The Bronco DR would race in the SCORE Heavy Metal Class (8000 to 8099 race numbers) for “full-size, mini, or mid-sized trucks with V-8 engines,” while we’d expect the left hand drive version of the Ranger Raptor to drive in Stock Class again as a production-based vehicle with only safety equipment added.

A Ranger DR or Raptor R?

Though, there is another possibility we’re leaving open. Considering that the Bronco and Ranger share a lot of common parts and dimensions, what if Ford is also planning to release a competition-only Ranger DR with a 5.0 liter V-8 also under its hood. Another possibility are Raptor R versions of both the Ranger and Bronco.

While the engines wouldn’t change, an idea we’re foreseeing are stripped down trucks with lightweight bodywork, even more suspension travel, more boost pressure, and—dare we say it—40-inch tires? Think Dark Horse, but as a pair of twin-turbo V-6 trucks, maybe. RTR proved that it’s possible to stuff a 42-inch tire under a four-door Bronco during the 2022 SEMA Show; so why not a set of 40s on a stripped out, race-ready pair of smaller Raptor Rs? It’s a stretch, without a doubt, but seems like a fun idea to us. In the meantime, we expect to hear more about Ford’s GT3 plans and future performance models very soon.

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