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Mustang Shelby GT500 Is Quicker without Track Tires. Here’s Why

2020 ford mustang shelby gt500

Michael SimariCar and Driver

  • In Car and Driver testing, the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 hit 60 mph and 100 mph 0.2 second quicker on the standard street tires than on the optional track tires.
  • A Ford engineer who works on the GT500 confirmed that the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires tend to have better longitudinal traction than the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.
  • The Cup 2 tires deliver their big benefit in lateral grip, a boon for road-course lap times.

    It might seem intuitive that if you’re trying to run the quickest straight-line times with Ford’s most powerful production car ever—the 760-hp Mustang Shelby GT500—you’d want to spend the money to upgrade to the optional performance tires. Car and Driver testing reveals that hunch is wrong, though. A GT500 is quicker—to 60 mph, to 100 mph, and through the quarter-mile—with the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires than with the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that are part of the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track Pack. Here’s what the test numbers reveal:

    Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
    0–30 mph: 1.6 sec
    0–60 mph: 3.4 sec
    0–100 mph: 6.9 sec
    ¼-mile: 11.3 sec @ 132 mph

    Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
    0–30 mph: 1.7 sec
    0–60 mph: 3.6 sec
    0–100 mph: 7.1 sec
    ¼-mile: 11.4 sec @ 132 mph

    “There’s no surprise here,” said Steve Thompson, the lead development engineer for the GT500, when we asked Ford about our findings. “It’s not atypical to see a PS4S equal the Cup tire or go a bit faster.”

    Thompson cited several factors that explain why the street tire is quicker. The Pilot Sport 4S’s thicker tread blocks do a better job holding heat, which improves traction so the car gets off the line quicker. You’ll notice that in the standard tire’s quicker zero-to-30-mph time. Thompson also credited differences in the internal construction, noting that the street tire is designed with occasional drag racing in mind.

    The Cup 2, on the other hand, is optimized for lateral grip and racetrack use. The track tires deliver a wild 1.13 g’s of lateral grip in our skidpad test, while the Pilot Sport 4S summer tires manage 0.99 g. In cornering, the lateral forces are largely carried by the outer ribs and shoulders of the tire. The tire compounds and tread patterns used at the tire’s edges are optimized for that work, but the center section of the Cup 2 track tire is designed to account for the likely scenario that they’ll also be driven on public roads. “When you look at the contact patches of the two tires, they’re not dissimilar. The inside ribs on the Cup tire are geared toward the street,” Thompson said. That contact patch is what translates the supercharged 5.2-liter V-8’s massive thrust into forward motion.

    So if you plan to drive a Shelby GT500 straight off the dealer lot and to your local drag strip, know that you’re better off skipping the pricey Track Pack. You’ll have a quicker car and the $18,500 you save will cover entry fees, fuel, and replacement tires for years’ worth of dragging racing.

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