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Ford Mustang Dark Horse lays ground for racing ponies. Image by Ford.

Ford Mustang Dark Horse lays ground for racing ponies
The Mustang Dark Horse is a new track-focused version of Ford’s pony car.
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What's all this about?

Ford has just unveiled the new seventh-generation Mustang, but excitingly, it also revealed the Mustang Dark Horse, a track-focused version of its big-selling pony car. And it seems the Blue Oval is planning to reveal a slew of racing cars in its wake. Though the Dark Horse uses the standard Mustang V8 as its base, it receives loads of performance modifications to make it a lot more capable on track, and the styling has also been tweaked.

What kind of modifications?

Almost too many to list, but let’s start with the engine. Under the bonnet is the same 5.0-litre Coyote V8 found in the standard V8 Mustang, but it now develops around 500hp. That’s largely thanks to changes such as a new dual throttle-body intake design to improve engine breathing, and some modified piston connecting rods. Importantly for hard track work, cooling is improved too with a unique lightweight radiator, bigger cooling fans, an auxiliary engine oil cooler, a rear axle cooler and bigger fans.

Please say it's a manual...

It certainly is. There’s a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but for those whose clutch control is a little rusty, there’s the option of a ten-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

More power is great, but surely there's more?

Plenty more. The chassis and handling have been tuned up compared to the standard V8 model, with larger rear sway bars and heavy-duty front shock absorbers. Steering response and grip are improved with a new lightweight Ford Performance-designed strut tower brace and K-brace for even better handling and feedback. Stopping power comes courtesy of Brembo six-piston front brakes with 13.9-inch discs. Transferring the power from the engine and gearbox to the tarmac are a Torsen rear differential and Pirelli P Zero tyres. Adaptive MagneRide dampers are fitted as standard, and there’s even an “electronic drift brake” to allow owners of all abilities to unleash the Mustang’s tail-happy side.

Anything else new?

The interior is now heavily digitised with screens galore. A 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster sits ahead of the driver, blending seamlessly into the 13.2-inch central touchscreen angled slightly towards the driver. The exterior styling is more aggressive than even the standard V8 too with gloss black accents, NACA ducts and the traditional side-on Mustang badging replaced with a forward-facing horse.

You mentioned racing?

Ford is going back to Le Mans with the Mustang! The company has a great history at the La Sarthe circuit having won there outright in four times in the sixties and taken victory in the LM GTE-Pro class in 2015 with a Ford GT, so a return is big news.

“Mustang is raced at all the great tracks around the world, but there is no race or track that means more to our history than Le Mans,” said Ford’s executive chair, Bill Ford, at the reveal of the new Mustang. “It’s where we took on Ferrari and won in the 1960s and where we returned 50 years later and shocked the world again. Mustang will go back to Le Mans. Once again, we will go like hell.”

Where does the Dark Horse fit into all this?

In addition to the road-going Dark Horse, Ford will also sell a track-only Dark Horse S aimed at privateer racers, stripped of all but the essentials and fitted with a full FIA-certified safety cage, safety nets, a race seat with safety belts and a race steering wheel with quick disconnect. Other safety items include electrical disconnects and a fire suppression system.

Ford says that the launch of the Dark Horse is part of its plan to debut six racing Mustangs to compete in NASCAR, in GT3 and GT4 classes and in other series too. The GT3 car has been fettled by Ford Performance and Canadian firm Multimatic (the company behind Ford’s 2015 Le Mans class-winner) and is powered by a 5.4-litre version of the Coyote V8.

Both the GT3 and GT4 cars will be available to customers, and Ford plans to campaign the GT3 in the North American IMSA series starting with the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2024, with the GT4 car making its first appearance next year and eligible to compete in the IMSA series as well as in FIA GT racing. Expect then to see more Ford vs. Ferrari duels at Le Mans, albeit in the GT classes rather than at the pinnacle tiers.

David Mullen - 18 Sep 2022

2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.

2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Mustang Dark Horse Reveal. Image by Ford.      - Ford road tests
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