Ford Racing taking its technology to the track

A majority of the components used in the new Ford Taurus SHO pace car are in the race engines used by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Bob Chapman

This weekend’s Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach marks the first street course event for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and is also the debut appearance of Ford’s Taurus SHO as the official safety vehicle. 

While the Ford-powered prototypes competing in Saturday’s race don’t necessarily bear a strong resemblance to the high-performance sedan, the two platforms share an important common link under the hood.

Remarkably, the majority of the components in the Taurus SHO’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 production engine are carried over into the race engines used by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian.

From the use of the stock aluminum block and heads to the high-pressure direct injection system, development of the largely production-based engine has truly been a team effort between engineers from Ford Motor Company, Ford Racing and Roush Yates Engines.

"The collaboration with the production side has been very natural with this program,” said Dave Simon, Ford Racing Engine Engineering Manager. “Those guys originally designed this engine. They have all the expertise in terms of what the engine is capable of and how they ran their original development.”

But motorsports, particularly endurance racing, offers up a completely new set of challenges with ensuring both power and durability. With the race engine delivering up to 600 horsepower — nearly double of the road-going unit — and competing in events anywhere from 100 minutes to 24 hours in length, preparation has been key. 

As a result, the EcoBoost V6 race engines have gone through more than 14,000 miles of durability testing on its dynos in Dearborn, Mich., to prepare for the rigors of race day. 

"The power results in higher pressures and higher stresses on a lot of the production components, which were designed to operate at 365 hp in the Taurus SHO,” said Simon. “But believe it or not, it was some of our aftermarket racing parts that broke in early development."

Proof of that came just last month when Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti took their No. 01 Ganassi Riley-Ford to victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, marking a breakthrough win for the EcoBoost engine in only its second-ever race in a DP-based prototype. 

Simon said much of the early success, in what’s been a highly accelerated development program, could be traced back to the production line, with many of the race-winning components that were initially outfitted on Taurus SHO. 

"There’s always been quite a successful relationship between Ford Racing and our production side,” said Simon. “But on this particular engine, being a production engine and Ford’s bread-and-butter V6, the enthusiasm and level of interest on the production side is way beyond what we’ve ever seen before on a racing program.

"The guys are really engaged. They want this engine to be the best racing engine out there because it’s theirs. There’s a lot of pride behind that particular engine, and it’s now out there competing against all of the other prototypes and manufacturers. It tends to kick up the intensity level.”