The Need for Speed

2020 Ford Mustang SHELBY GT 500 North American Track Tour
Oct 19, 2020
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC
2020 Ford Shelby GT 500 North American Track Tour Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct 19 2020
2020 Ford Shelby GT 500 North American Track Tour Charlotte Motor Speedway

Ford has had a long-standing relationship with the Shelby Family since 1962. The newest version of their partnership, and what we were there for, was clearly evident as we approached the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The huge information screen used for the NASCAR races in the infield was emblazoned with the Cobra marquee that is synonymous with the Shelby name and the 2020 GT500 Track Tour.

Shelby GT 500 North American Track Tour sign at the Charlotte Motor Speedway morning of Oct 19 2020
Shelby GT 500 North American Track Tour sign at the Charlotte Motor Speedway
Shelby GT 500 NA Track Tour hand sanitizer bottle
Shelby GT 500 Track Tour hand sanitizer bottles were handed out to attendees.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first since I know you all are thinking, “how could you do a group event during a pandemic?” To be honest, I was a little hesitant to participate in such an event during the time of Covid-19 but all of the information pushed to the participants beforehand assuaged my fears. Then to see the measures advertised were actually put in place upon arrival really made me feel comfortable. There were hand sanitizing stations everywhere you looked as well as small personal bottles of hand sanitizer given to each participant. Social distancing was mandatory. The entire event took place outside. Face masks with the Ford logo were given to each participant. Temperature checks were the first thing done as you registered. Pens used for signing documents were a onetime use item. Marks on the ground helped to show where the 6 feet apart rules were to be followed. Every single person present had a mask on. The vehicles were sprayed with an atomizer containing virus killing liquid each time a participant got out of a vehicle. Participants were even required to wear masks under the helmets. The buses provided to go from one location to the next were marked off for only 7 people at a time. All the displays were constantly sprayed down and sanitized. Seeing this level of safety only made me feel that much more comfortable about the physical safety once we were inside the cars.

Sprayers used to sanitize the 2020 Ford Mustang SHELBY GT 500 between drivers. at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Sprayers used to sanitize the 2020 Ford Mustang SHELBY GT 500 between drivers.

Now on to the good stuff! The cars and the SPEED!

The 2020 Shelby GT500 has a 5.2L supercharged DOHC V8 engine. It produces 760 horsepower at 7300rpm’s. It’s redline is 7500rpm’s. That is a mind-numbing amount of power that the normal day to day person would never be able to use safely on the streets. But when you take this baby to the track, that is where she really shines. And indeed that is exactly what we were there for! Switch the GT500 into track mode and I swear it smiled a little bit because I know I was! It only comes with a TREMEC 7-Speed dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT) which I know a lot of enthusiasts will be averse to given the sportscar nature of the GT500. I would not have wanted it any other way after the day spent on the track and the drag strip. This transmission knows exactly where it needs to be and when it needs to be there to work effortlessly. With flawless precision, the transmission understood the driver and the inputs. The sheer amount of design and technology that went into the transmission alone is amazing. Every piece of this car was designed just for this car. Yes, it looks like every other mustang with some fascia enhancements but that is where the similarities end. The brake rotors are larger in diameter than the original tires were on the first GT350. The engine, the transmission, the engine cooling system, the wheels, the tires and even the deletion of the rear seat were all designed in unison to make the GT500 the lightest it could be so you can out the 760 horses to good use.

The underside of the SHELBY GT 500 was displayed to show the mechanicals of the vehicle.
The underside of the SHELBY GT 500 was displayed to show the mechanicals of the vehicle.
Officer Matt Rihl helmeted and harnessed up prior to driving a SHELBY GT 500 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Track at speed. October 19 2020
Officer Matt Rihl helmeted and harnessed up prior to driving a SHELBY GT 500 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Track at speed.

After being split up into small groups, we were given a safety briefing and suited up in a HANS harness and a racing helmet. I was led to a GT500 in Ford Performance Blue. What a gorgeous stunning color on the Mustang. It fits perfectly with the design. It does not hurt that blue is my favorite color. We were then given instructions over the radio of how the instructor would be the lead car and we were to follow 2 to 3 car lengths behind him. We strapped ourselves in, mounted the GoPro cameras to the windshields and off we went!

Take It To The Track

Track Shot of the SHELBY GT 500
Track Shot of the SHELBY GT 500. courtesy of Ford Performance

The instructor lead us around the road track course the first time at moderate speeds explaining every little detail on how to handle the car and the speed and how to use the apex for turns and where our eyes and heads should be. The last spot of the course took us out onto the main track of the speedway where were could stretch the GT500’s legs. Man did they stretch! The first lap behind the instructor saw us go up to 110mph. The second time around, we got up to 141mph and then the third time around, we got up to 150. The GT500 has a top speed limited to 180mph. I am sure if given one more chance, I could have had her up to close to the top speed. After doing several runs around the road track, we were placed into one of the GT500’s with an instructor behind the wheel so we could experience the track from a different perspective. I did not flinch at all. The instructor asked why I was not grabbing the handles or the door or pressing my feet against the floorboards. I told him what I did for a living and then he stated, a ha! It was a bit obvious I had something to do with racing or driving. The instructor’s skills were top notch! I have had recruits that scare me just driving around town. Many times, I have wanted to grab my own steering wheel or press my own brake pedal while they are driving. Never did I once feel the need to do that with the instructor guiding the GT around the track.

Drag Time

SHELBY GT500 at the Z Max Dragstrip
SHELBY GT500 at the Dragstrip

After we were done with the road track, we were taken to a drag strip. The manufacturer states the GT500 can do a 11 second ¼ mile. We were about to see if that was true. After suiting up in another harness and watching the cars be decontaminated again, we hopped in the driver seat with an instructor in the passenger seat. The instructor explained how to use our left foot on the brake and the right foot all the way down on the gas. The car was designed so that in track mode, the RPM’s would not go above 1400 when you use the combination of brake and accelerator. Once the lights counted down, I lifted my foot off the brake and bam! The car launches you down the drag strip with minimal steering input on the driver’s part. The car systems take over and guide you down the ¼ mile strip in just under 11 seconds as advertised. What a rush of adrenaline! We got to do that three times before calling it quits. After we were done, we were directed back onto the buses and taken back to the event site.

With Purchase

If someone decides to buy any Ford product with the RT designation or a high-performance Mustang, they get a free class at the Ford Racing School. All our instructors for the day were Ford Racing School instructors. You can also opt for a 2-day school as well. I wish we had the opportunity to do the full school, but we only had a 4 hour block of exposure to the GT500 product and hands on experience.

The all-new Shelby GT500–the pinnacle of any pony car ever engineered by Ford Performance–delivers on its heritage with more than 700 horsepower for the quickest street-legal acceleration and most high-performance technology to date ever offered in a Ford Mustang.

If you are looking for a fast street legal race car, the GT500 is for you. Unfortunately, that performance and technology come at a hefty price. For the carbon fiber track package and the racing stripes painted instead of vinyl decals, you are looking at a figure just north of $100k. The base GT500 starts at $74k. For some, that may be worth it to have a street legal race car that you can use on the track without modifications. If I had the cash to spend, I would absolutely find myself behind the wheel of the 2020 GT500 properly equipped with the carbon fiber race package. This car left a lasting positive impression in my mind and a smile on my face.

The blue SHELBY GT 500 that Officer Matt Drove on the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway October 19 2020
The blue SHELBY GT 500 that Officer Matt Drove on the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway October 19, 2020

Ofc Matt

Words by Officer Matthew Rihl, images various sources.
Ofc. Matt at the SHELBY GT 500 North American Track Tour in Charlotte North Carolina, Oct 19 2020
Ofc. Matt at the SHELBY GT 500 North American Track Tour in Charlotte North Carolina, Oct 19 2020

Ofc Matt is a local county law enforcement officer, when not out driving fast cars, or keeping the citizenry safe, he is at home with his dog and husband planning trips to exotic places, thinking about RV Travel, or just building models of ships. Officer Matt is a 17-year veteran of a local law enforcement agency in the DMV.

We want to thank the Ford Motor Company, Ford Performance, and Ford Performance Racing School for including us in their North American Track Tour.


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