There are improvements...and there are "holy cow that was a hell of a lot better than we could have ever hoped!" improvements. In the case of Ford's recent outing at Virginia International Raceway, it was the latter.
Ford made a substantial list of improvements across its 2011 Mustang lineup when compared to the sheet-metal-sharing 2010 Mustangs, with the GT500 getting what most expected to be the most minor changes - namely in the form of an aluminum block that dropped weight by 120 lbs. In terms of power, the 2011 GT500 only gained 10 horsepower compared to the 2010 model - for a total of 550 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque.
Ford did also re-tune the engine, allowing for 80 percent of the ground-shaking 510 lb-ft of torque to be on tap from 1,750 rpms clear up to 6,250 rpm - which likely helped propel this Shelby-branded 'Stang to a new best lap time of 2:58.48 - a time that is an surprising (and welcomed) nine seconds quicker than the 2010 model year GT500.
(More after video)
To give a little context to the time... when referencing the best lap times ever recorded on FastestLaps.com, the 2011 Shelby GT500 is in some fairly elite company, and would place directly between the 10th ranked Chevrolet Corvette Z06 with 2:58.2 and the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport C6 at 2:58.8 seconds. No offense to Gene Martindale, Ford's vehicle dynamics engineer, but looking at the video it looks as if there might be a little more time to be shaved even still.
Regardless, with the time recorded the 2011 shelby GT500 Mustang beats some fairly elite company with far larger pricetags, such as the Audi R8 V10 5.2 FSI, the Ford GT supercar, Dodge Viper SRT-10 and the Porsche 997 GT3 - to name a few.
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3.'Virginia International Raceway...' view