LAS VEGAS –Motor Co. and of America Inc. are ready to fulfill the dreams of those who aspire to push a car hard into a corner or feel the adrenalin rush of sustained full-throttle acceleration, without fear of a costly traffic citation.
At the recent Specialty Equipment Market Assn. show here,and VW announced plans to create separate race series and to supply the necessary vehicles straight from the factory.
Ford’s stockcar of choice is the Mustang Shelby GT, while VW is preparing the ’09 Jetta 2.0L 4-cyl. turbodiesel for the upcoming Jetta TDI Cup. And lurking on the horizon is the possibility of a drag-race ready version of the all-new Dodge Challenger. Street-legal versions of the Challenger go on sale next year.
Ford has assembled 77 ’08 FR500S Mustangs at the AutoAlliance International Inc. plant in Flat Rock, MI, and the auto maker plans to sell them for $75,000 apiece in the coming months through Miller Motorsports Park or the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog.
The first event in the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup will be held in March in Houston. Miller Motorsports will own and operate the race series, and drivers will need a national-level racing license. The Grand American Road Racing Assn. is the sanctioning body.
The FR500S represents Ford’s first production-line race car. It has an unrestricted Shelby GT powerplant – a 3-valve 4.6L V-8 rated at 325 hp (and a 3-time Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner) – a race suspension and a 6-speed manual gearbox lifted from the Shelby GT500.
“This is basically a road-racing car, normally aspirated, and we’ve kept the weight down. It’s about handling, performance and balance,” says Jamie Allison, manager-Ford Racing Performance Group.
Without a backseat or many of the safety devices found in production Mustangs, the FR500S is not street legal. Cars leave the Flat Rock plant as decontented production Mustangs, with no interior content and no trim, and are shipped to Watson Engineering Inc. in nearby Taylor, where the roll cage is installed.
The vehicles then are transported to Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, UT, where the race suspension is installed and decals are applied before the cars are ready for delivery.
“There are a lot of enthusiasts out there who want to get in and go racing,” Allison says.
Many people enter motorsports through amateur club racing, “or you go pro and spend $1 million. This bridges the gap. It makes racing affordable, and it’s a fun, rear-wheel-drive, V-8. It’s going to be a blast to drive.”
Less expensive than the FR500S – and targeted for younger buyers – will be VW’s Jetta TDI Cup cars, which are expected to be available for about $30,000, says Clark Campbell, manager-motorsports for VWA.
Long a proponent of new-generation, clean-burning diesel engines, VW is preparing 30 identical Jetta sedans powered by the all-new 2.0L 4-cyl. TDI, rated at 170 hp and nearly 300 lb.-ft. (406 Nm) of torque for the racing applications. The engine will be mated to the swift-shifting dual-clutch DSG 6-speed transmission, with paddle shifters.
Street-legal versions of the ’09 Jetta TDI sedan and SportWagen arrive in mid-2008 with a bit less power – 140 hp and 235 lb.-ft. (318 Nm) of torque.
Neither the racing nor production versions of the upcoming Jetta will require urea injection for improved emissions. Instead, particle filters will do the job, and the cars will meet strict Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions requirements, allowing them to be sold in all 50 states, Campbell says.
VW’s Jetta TDI Cup amateur race series is aimed at young, aspiring racers on a budget. At $30,000, the race cars will be priced well above production versions, which likely will be around $23,000, Campbell says.
Racers will pay for the cars, but VWA will own and maintain them and transport all 30 of them to the track on race day.
“You just show up at the track with your helmet, and we’ll give you the racing suit, your gloves, shoes and the HANS device (for head and neck support). The car will be there,” Campbell says. “You don’t have to bring a pit crew or tires. It’s all included in the one price of the car.”
But there is an extra fee if the driver crashes a car. The first crash will cost up to $7,500, the second $12,500 and the third $15,000. “After that, you’d better learn how to drive,” Campbell says.
“The idea is to learn how to race cleanly and keep it on the track, learning how the car handles,” he says. “We have a professional coach who will work with young drivers and talk about their lines and their performance levels.”
The Jetta TDI Cup cars will come equipped with full roll cages and racing seats, as well as standard safety features such as airbags, seatbelts, headlights, taillights and antilock brakes, but the cars will be dedicated for track use only.
Campbell considers $30,000 a bargain for aspiring racers. For do-it-yourselfers, the cost of the car, with the new suspension and the addition of a roll cage, would be at least $40,000.
“Then you have to service the car. And you need a pit crew, and you have to buy your own tires and pay for your own fuel,” he says. “It’s basically $5,000 per race.”
VW hopes to run eight events at road-racing tracks in 2008, beginning in May (just ahead of the street Jetta’s launch) and 10 in 2009, Campbell says.
The Sports Car Club of America will sanction the races, and the series will be certified as CarbonFree by Carbonfund.org.
Is there any chance the high-output 170-hp version of the TDI could find its way into street versions of future production vehicles?
“It’s not impossible,” Campbell tells Ward’s. “Early versions of the engine will come out, and we’ll see how it goes with 140 hp. There’s no decision yet.”