This past July, the all-new Ford Mustang Dark Horse R was revealed as the latest track-ready pony car following the debut of the GT3 and GT4 racers. A more hardcore version of the Dark Horse S, the Dark Horse R is powered by the naturally-aspirated Ford 5.0L V8 Coyote engine, which produces 500 horsepower and 418 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. However, the Dark Horse R also marks the dawn of a new one-make racing series – the Mustang Challenge. The Blue Oval released the full schedule for the Ford Mustang Challenge early last month, and now, it’s giving us even more details about this brand new series.
For starters, Ford has updated the schedule to match some changes in the IMSA’s own schedule, which means some changes for the second round at Watkins Glen International and a new location for the finale. The season is set to kick off at the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course in Lexington, Ohio on June 7th-9th, after which it will travel to Watkins Glen in New York on June 20th-23rd, Road America in Elkhart, Wisconsin on August 2nd-4th, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on August 31st-September 1st, with the finale now taking place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from October 4th-6th – rather than the Ford Performance Racing School as originally planned.
Each round of the Ford Mustang Challenge will feature two 30-minute practice sessions, one 15-minute qualifying session, and two 45-minute sprint races. The field will consist of up to 40 full season entries – with additional entries possible at rounds two through five. From there, entrants will be split into two classes – Dark Horse and Dark Horse Legends, the latter being an optional classification for bronze-level drivers 45 years old and over.
Each race in the Mustang Challenge will feature a podium celebration for both classes, as well as prize money awarded to the overall first through third place finishers. Ford Performance will be offering a championship prize structure for the series designed to encourage drivers to progress through the pony car ranks, too. Dark Horse season champions can choose from a cash prize of $40,000 or a $100,000 scholarship toward a Mustang GT3 or GT4 seat the following season. Additionally, Michelin will give the overall champion a set of tires each weekend the following season, while second-third place will get cash payouts of $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, and Dark Horse Legends champions receive $20k – or a test day in a Mustang GT4.