Ford ‘Champion’s Spirit’ Livery to Highlight 60 Years of Mustang

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

What if you made an “art car” by blending eight iconic visuals that have encapsulated 60 years of history and assembled it on a single canvas, for a single livery?

Ford Performance has done just that with its new “Champion’s Spirit” livery, set to run on the pair of Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class factory Ford Multimatic Motorsports Mustang GT3s in the next two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (May 10-12) and on Detroit’s downtown street course (May 31-June 1). The latter is Ford’s home race.

Anthony Colard, Ford Performance Design Manager, and Scott Bartlett, Ford Global Sports Car Marketing Manager, spearheaded the livery design. The finished piece is as educational as it is historic; its key is in drawing different vantage points at any time of viewing, while then realizing each segment is part of the legacy.

The “battle worn” inspired livery highlights six decades of the Mustang, with the liveries formally unveiled April 17 at Charlotte Motor Speedway exactly 60 years to the day after the first Mustang premiered.

Three years highlighted on this special-edition livery are IMSA-specific, recalling an iconic decade in both IMSA and Ford’s respective histories: the 1980s.

The 1981 IMSA GTX Mustang, the Zakspeed No. 6 turbocharged Miller Mustang driven by Klaus Ludwig, is the first IMSA-specific livery on the car. Wins at Brainerd and Sears Point (now Sonoma) set Ford back on its path to sports car success.

It was in 1985 when Ford and Roush Racing teamed up to dominate the IMSA season. After a Willy T. Ribbs and Wally Dallenbach victory at Daytona in late 1984, 1985 beckoned as the Roush Mustang won all nine IMSA races. John Jones won the driver’s championship while Lyn St. James added three more wins and became IMSA’s first female race winner in the process, as Ford took the manufacturer’s championship.

An IMSA GTO class win at the 1987 Rolex 24 At Daytona featuring St. James, Tom Gloy, Scott Pruett and Bill Elliott in the No. 11 Roush Mustang (same livery as 1985) is also captured on this tribute livery.

These three go along with the 1964 Tour de France, 1965 SCCA B Production GT350, 1966 Shelby American Mustang, 1970 Mustang Boss 302 and 1997 Mustang Cobra Trans-Am liveries.

“A textbook definition of a livery is an identifying design or insignia that denotes affiliation often found on people or vehicles,” said Mark Rushbrook, Director, Global Ford Performance Motorsports, as the Champion’s Spirit livery was formally unveiled.

“For me, the term immediately recalls some of the great racing patterns found on iconic Ford cars over time. I bet that if you are like me, you have already recalled some of your favorite racing patterns or even a driver’s number.

“With a list of great liveries that goes many pages long, it was difficult to narrow it down to just these seven.

“When I first saw the finished version with the various liveries, I was immediately struck by the rich heritage and champions spirit that has always been a factor in Mustang racing. From the first international success at the Tour de France in 1964, a few short months after the Mustang was introduced to the world, or the instantly recognizable Motorcraft livery from 1985, where Mustang dominated the IMSA GTO class, this livery contains some of the most significant Mustang patterns over time.”

The Champion’s Spirit livery builds on Ford’s recent legacy running special liveries. The previous era of Ford Performance within IMSA, with the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT program, had tribute liveries to the past during IMSA’s 50th anniversary season in 2019.

That year, the Ford GTs wore Motorcraft and Castrol throwback liveries at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Meanwhile when the IMSA Ford GTs joined the pair of FIA World Endurance Championship Fords at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, three of the four cars had black, red and light blue tribute liveries from 1960s Le Mans races, and one of the cars was in its 2016-winning throwback.

The Champion’s Spirit Mustang livery, however, has a chance to write its own chapter of history depending on how well its current quartet of drivers – Harry Tincknell, Mike Rockenfeller, Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller – do at either Monterey or Detroit. If history is a guide, there could be good things coming.

Hand and Mueller captured the final win of the Ford GT Ganassi IMSA program at Monterey in September 2019. Rockenfeller has multiple Monterey podiums earlier in his sports car career.

See how the new Champion’s Spirit Mustangs do starting this week at the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N. The WeatherTech Championship race airs live on NBC at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.