Ongoing development of the first turbocharged powerplant for the Daytona Prototype class and the recent arrival of new manufacturer-specific bodywork has the Michael Shank Racing team working overtime as it prepares for 2014.
The Ohio-based Grand-Am squad continues to spearhead the Blue Oval's expanded involvement in the new-look United SportsCar Racing championship, assisting with the fitment and future track testing of the brand's 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbo V6 and refining Ford's custom DP body for use in the IMSA-sanctioned series that starts next year.
“We're putting the turbo car back together right now,” Shank told RACER. “We have the first of the 2014 bodies here in my shop – the only set that exists. It looks awesome and I can't wait for people to see it. The motor is also something impressive to look at, if you ask me.”
Rolex Series rival General Motors set the bar exceptionally high in 2012 when it unveiled its gorgeous Corvette-themed DP bodywork, and as the second manufacturer to build a bespoke shell for its cars, Ford will be challenged to match the visual appeal of what the Bowtie has pressed into service.
Ford Racing boss Jamie Allison confirmed to this writer that its 2014 DP body would not feature styling from a specific production model, opting to follow a general theme that has created a bit of curiosity as to what the car will look like when it breaks cover.
Its new DP powerplant is much less of a mystery, having started life as a Roush Yates-built LMP2 engine that has now been tailored to fit the tubeframe confines of a Riley chassis.
“We just did a giant endurance test on the EcoBoost motor and it performed very well,” continued Shank as he described its recent dyno run. “The entire program is going full speed forward. It sounds way better than the [turbocharged V6] Indy cars, way better than the LMP2 cars – the turbo P2 cars, and it sounded great when we did the demonstration laps around Daytona in January.”
Compared to the blaring, monotone rumble from the V8 engines that currently power the entire DP field, Shank is thankful Ford's 2014-spec DP motor will give sports car fans a different listening experience.
“It still has that V6 tone, but it's angrier,” he explained. “We don't have mufflers; it's a straight pipe out like most turbos, but it's not restricted on the inlet side [of the turbo]; all the restricting is done through boost levels. It's a larger displacement than the [2.2-liter] IndyCar motor and just sounds better to me. Really aggressive, which is what I'd think you'd want.”
Track testing dates for the Ford EcoBoost DP and other presentation plans are in the works, according to Shank, and could take place as the 2013 season winds down.
“We have a good idea on when we'll be out running the car once everything is together and when it will be shown to the public,” he said. “There's still a [DP] championship to be run, but you'll see some news about the next steps in project that I hope will energize a lot of people who want to cheer on Ford in the new series.”