As part of its final evaluation regimen before signing off the production version, Ford's SVT (Special Vehicle Team) troops recently took a new 2011 Shelby GT500 to the Virginia International Raceway to perform a back-to-back comparison with the car it's destined to replace. Although expectations were high for the latest incarnation of this ultimate factory Mustang derivative, the 2011-spec Shelby didn't just eclipse the 2010's best effort, it absolutely destroyed it during a virtuoso performance that was impressively captured on video. With SVT Vehicle Dynamics engineer Gene Martindale behind the wheel, and a 550-horsepower/5.4-liter all-aluminum supercharged V8 under its hood, the 2011 Shelby GT500 lapped the 4.1-mile VIR "long" course in 2.58:5, a full 8.9 seconds quicker than the 2010 GT500 bogey -- and nearly three ticks better than what SVT had anticipated.
Like the 2010 car (and a 2008 that was brought along for good measure), the 2011 Shelby GT500 was fitted with the optional Performance Package. For 2011, it lowers ride height and adds SVT-spec springs/shocks, plus a 3.73:1 rear axle, wider lightweight forged-alloy wheels (19-inch front/20-inch rear) wrapped in ultra-sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G 2 tires and minor aero-enhancing nose/tail tweaks. Save for the fitment of a racing seat and mandatory roll hoop for safety -- changes that actually made this "mule" slightly heavier than the production model will be---the 2011 tester was bone stock, right down to running with manufacturer-recommended tire pressures.
Kerry Baldori, SVT global performance vehicle chief functional engineer, succinctly summed up the results: "This car is track-ready. We really took the Shelby GT500 to the next level and went through every detail. It offers great cornering and racetrack performance and proven durability, and that's something we want our customers to appreciate." That love fest is set to formally get underway next month, when the first of the new 2011 Ford Shelby GT500s start arriving in dealer showrooms.