As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love my job. I enjoy working with people from all around the world and I’m proud of what we do here at ATRA. But every now and then my job takes me somewhere special and lets me do something that kicks it up a notch: That was the case last May when I was invited to a Ford Performance event at Buttonwillow Raceway Park.
Buttonwillow is a small town, 26 miles west of Bakersfield, California, and has a population of about 1500. The raceway park has a track that’s a bit over three miles long and has 45 different configurations, including a few “testing” configurations. These configurations make it usable for gocarts, formula one cars, motorcycles… just about anything with wheels and an engine.
The purpose of the event was twofold: First, to highlight the advancements Ford Performance is making to their cars; and I have to admit I had no idea about all the high-end technology they were involved in.
The jewel of their performance efforts was the 2017 Ford GT. It was amazing! It boasted 600HP from a 3.5L V6. It also came with a $400,000 price tag!
The focus of the day, though, was the 2016 Shelby GT 350. It comes in two models: the GT 350 and the GT 350R. The R-version is essentially a racing car; there are no back seats, and creature comforts — such as air conditioning and a music system — are nowhere to be seen. It also has different aerodynamic features and a few other goodies that make it more suitable for the track.
They both come with a 5.2L V8 that delivers 529HP, and a six-speed, manual transmission. They had these cars everywhere; there was even one propped on its side so you could get a closer look at all the technology underneath. But the highlight of the day was getting to drive one on the track!
The track configuration they chose for us was 1.9 miles long, and they arranged to have eight cars on the track at the same time. These cars are phenomenal! I got behind the wheel of an R-version and it was incredible. The engine redlines at 8250 RPM, so you’re doing over 100 MPH on the straightaway and still in third gear! There was absolutely zero oversteer or understeer and it hugged the corners like glue. It sounded great, too.
If I were a Ford Performance engineer I could probably fill two pages just on the specs and performance equipment but I’ll just say that, for right around $70,000, I don’t think you can find a better performing car. Maybe not even for twice that price. All in all it was a fantastic day.
I’d like to thank Ford Performance for making this day possible and to remind all our readers that, even when you’re working, life can be fun!