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TIN news:        Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R in showrooms later this year we’ll even have attainable cars with wheels made from the lightweight stuff. Carbon fiber is seen by many in the auto industry as one of the most effective ways of reducing vehicle weight and thus improving acceleration, braking and handling while simultaneously curbing fuel consumption and emissions. But the expense of the material and finicky production process has mostly reserved its use for high-end cars. That’s now starting to change.
Close Look At The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R’s Carbon Fiber Wheels
 
A number of cars with price tags of less than six figures are now fitted with carbon fiber components, and with the arrival of the new Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R in showrooms later this year we’ll even have attainable cars with wheels made from the lightweight stuff. Previously the domain of the aftermarket or million-dollar-plus supercars, the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] now has the world’s first mass-produced carbon fiber wheels, which it plans to debut on its upcoming track-tuned Mustang.
 
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R in showrooms
 
Ford first confirmed the carbon fiber wheels for the Shelby GT350R at the car’s 2015 Detroit Auto Show unveil, but now we have a close look at the finished product. The one-piece 19-inch wheels, which are equipped as standard equipment, are supplied by Carbon Revolution, the Australian firm first to bring to market carbon fiber wheels. The benefit is a roughly 40- to 50-percent weight reduction in those components not supported by the suspension, known as unsprung mass (18 pounds versus 33 lbs for aluminum for the Shelby GT350R, at each corner). Furthermore, they reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), since the carbon fiber has natural damping properties.
 
In testing with benchmark vehicles, engineers determined the lighter unsprung mass improved the suspension response times, chassis dynamics, steering feel and ride quality. It also enabled vehicles to start, stop and turn faster because of the reduced wheel rotational inertia, and the lighter unsprung mass meant the suspension components were not working as hard to keep the tires in contact with the road over undulating or broken surfaces.
 
Although Carbon Revolution has been the leading manufacturer of carbon fiber wheels, significant innovation was needed to meet Shelby GT350R program needs. That’s because Ford sets extremely high testing requirements for its wheels. For example, they need to survive high-speed curb strikes, UV and chemical exposure, and extreme heat durability testing. They also need to have a finish that’s near flawless. Unfortunately, the finish is a gloss black, so you don’t actually see the weave of the carbon fiber.
 
In the curb-strike test, Ford says that due to lightweight, advanced construction methods and resins in the wheels, along with the highly-developed MagneRide dampers fitted to the Shelby GT350R, the suspension was able to react so fast that the driver wasn’t sure the test had been carried out correctly and thus needed to repeat it. Essentially, the quicker response greatly diminished the severity of the impact.
 
Another tough test is heat exposure (the Shelby GT350R’s brake rotors reached temperatures in excess of 900 degrees Celsius during testing). To combat these heat levels, the wheels feature a multimaterial coating formulation that provides an excellent thermal barrier. Using a plasma arc gun to liquefy a ceramic material, the wheels are coated at critical points around the inner hub and on the back of the spokes. The result is an incredibly thin, nearly diamond-hard coating that shields the wheel from heat.
New Ford Shelby GT350R-C making waves
 
Last month’s Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen International saw the competition debut of Ford Performance’s newest GT contender, which raised some eyebrows up and down the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge paddock.
 
After nearly a year of development, the new Ford Shelby GT350R-C broke cover and immediately impressed, with Scott Maxwell taking the latest-generation Mustang to a debut pole position and both Multimatic Motorsports-entered cars leading laps and finishing inside the top 10.
 
The maiden outing for the two-car factory-supported effort proved to be a valuable learning experience, as the Toronto-based Multimatic heads back home to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for this weekend’s Continental Tire Challenge race, looking to continue the rapid development of the new GT350R-C.
 
“The time between deciding to (build and race the Ford Shelby GT350R-C) to here has gone incredibly fast,” said Mark Rushbrook, motorsports and advanced engineering manager, Ford Performance. “It’s been very exciting, given what the car is and given what the engine is.”
 
Powered by a 5.2-liter V8 engine featuring a flat-plane crankshaft, the GT350R-C is Ford’s biggest step forward in the Mustang GT racing platform, following the success of the Boss 302R, which had been used in the past five seasons.
 
“The Boss was a fantastic car and we had a lot of race wins,” said driver Billy Johnson. “But this GT350R-C has taken it to a completely different level, with the build, with how much better the street car is and how much better and cooler the race car is.”
 
Johnson, along with co-driver Maxwell, has played an integral part in the car’s development, which began nearly eight months ago, once the specification of the GT350R production car was finalized.
 
One of the biggest advancements the new Mustang platform features is a fully independent rear suspension, which translates to a better-handling car on the race track, as well as more freedom in adjusting the car’s setup. While having enjoyed a solid first outing at The Glen, Johnson and Maxwell, as well as co-drivers of the No. 158 car Austin Cindric and Jade Buford, will be looking to continue to make progress in the car’s development this weekend at Mosport.
 
“Every time out is a learning experience, learning about the car, working on it to make it faster and faster,” Johnson said. “Now that we’re racing we’re building our logbook and we’ll be h3er the next time we go out. We’ll look at our notes and improve the car in the areas we can, and show up strong.”

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