The latest Scalextric Mustang GT4 is a stunner…

Modelled on the 2020 Brands Hatch GT4 race winner, the Academy Motorsport Mustang is an exciting new release for 2021. Regular readers will know the Scalextric Ford Mustang is a big favourite here on the Jadlam blog – and was the subject of a ten-part Scalextric Tuning series. However, this new livery is the best yet.

In this post, I’ll take a close look at the new model – and chat to Academy Motorsport boss Matt Nicoll-Jones about the car, the team and the British GT Championship. I love discovering more about the real cars Scalextric base their models on – and this was a fascinating conversation which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did. You can follow the car and the team via the Academy Motorsport website, Facebook page and Instagram.

And don’t forget you can buy your very own Scalextric Academy Motorsport Mustang here: There’s a digital version available too:

The Real Ford Mustang GT4

The Mustang GT4 is derived from the awesome Ford Shelby GT350R-C road car. The GT4 project is a partnership between Ford Performance and the Canadian company Multimatic – a long-running relationship that also includes the Ford GT GTE programme. The Mustang GT4 was earmarked to compete in racing series around the world, including the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, Pirelli World Challenge GTS/GT4 and various European GT4 series.

Three Mustangs competed in the 2019 British GT Championship, Multimatic finishing third in the GT4 team standings with their two cars. For 2020, the Mustang was handed to Academy Motorsport – a team that has been racing GT4 cars in the British GT Championship for nearly two decades. Former GT4 champion driver and Academy team boss Matt Nicoll-Jones explains…

“We’d been talking to Multimatic on a friendly basis for quite a while. We got on well with them in the paddock. Multimatic are the biggest company no-one’s ever heard of. For us, we knew who they were and what they were capable of. And we loved the car – the build quality of the Mustang is far superior to any other car out there. The link-up with them was an absolute no-brainer – we became partners with people we’d always wanted to work with. We are now the European agent – with full engineering support from Multimatic. It’s just a fantastic relationship – we love it.

“The Mustang is not what you’d expect. The stereotypical idea of a Mustang is fast on the straight and slow round the corners. Actually, our car is very capable down the straight, but it’s pegged back quite a bit – it’s restricted by BOP [Balance of Performance] – because it handles so well. Our car is one of the best on its tyres, brakes and all the rest of it – so when we go to a technical circuit like Oulton Park it is really strong – and the same for Donington.”

I spoke to Matt after an impressive class win for the team in the wet at Snetterton (you can watch the highlights on YouTube). Some of their GT4 rivals couldn’t handle the conditions, but the big Mustang gave drivers Matt Cowley and Will Moore the basis for their first victory of the year…

“It was about time, to be honest. We’ve been working for that result all year – we’ve had an awful lot of bad luck that’s been completely out of the team and drivers’ control. We’ve been quick, we’ve been in for a win and it hasn’t quite come to fruition. We’ve got our two strongest circuits [Oulton Park and Donington] coming up, so we should be in a fairly strong position to try to come away with some more trophies.”

The Scalextric Model

The Mustang GT4 was a new mould for 2020. The first two liveries featured models of the white #15 works Multimatic Motorsport car and the customer #23 RACE Performance grey version – both from the Mustang’s 2019 debut season in the British GT Championship. You can read my original review on the blog here. In brief, I absolutely loved the look of the new car and found it a lot of fun to drive – although some basic tweaks vastly improved the track performance.

So what do the team at Academy Motorsport think about the Scalextric model?

“It’s awesome! I’m 36 years old and been running the team for 17 years. I can remember as a kid, toys went out the window because I was karting. My dad did have a Scalextric set and I used to get told off for never putting it back right or losing stuff. So this is cool for me, because it immortalises what we’ve done. And we’ve done some massive events – like the Le Mans support race – but when they told me about the Scalextric model it was “Oh wow! That’s really cool!”. We’re really proud to have that.”

The Livery

As nice as the Multimatic and RACE models were, this new livery simply blows them out of the water. There is a fashion for monochrome cars these days – designers focus on intricate patterns, rather than blasting the senses with bright colours. On the Academy Motorsport Ford, dozens of Mustang pony motifs blend into a camouflage pattern – it’s clever and very effective.

I asked Matt how the livery came about. “Our sponsors SRS Automotive do all our graphics – they wrap the cars and then we maintain them as we go. As far as the design, that was something worked on between SRS and me – then they turned it into reality. I can’t remember who came up with the idea of the Mustang camo, but it is really cool. The cars look awesome – they’re the best looking cars we’ve had at any time.”

Scalextric have modelled their Academy Motorsport Mustang on the car from the two-hour British GT Championship race at Brands Hatch in 2020. The pairing of Jordan Albert and Matt Cowley dominated GT4 at Brands, claiming the class win and fastest lap. There was drama at the end – a late safety car closed up the pack, but Cowley dealt with the pressure and took the chequered flag.

The 2021 livery is pretty much the same as the Scalextric model, apart from a couple of small logos. And for 2022? Matt told me “Probably – or a slight variation. It depends on sponsors, but there will always be an element of the Mustang camo on there.”

Matt added “The #62 car – the one I was supposed to be racing last year – is a mirror version of the #61 and I think it looks even better. Our intention is very much to push to get two cars in both the British GT Championship and European GT4 for next year.”

The British GT Championship

Our national GT series is run by the SRO Motorsports Group – the organisation responsible for most of the major GT championships around the world. The first British GT Championship season was in 1993 and the series has become an important stepping stone into international GT racing for teams and drivers – as well as a brilliant opportunity for fans to experience GT racing at classic British tracks. You can follow the series on British GT website and watch every race live on YouTube and Facebook. The current format sees both GT3 and GT4 cars running at the same time. With different driver grading and pairings, there are always numerous battles going on for class honours – there’s never a dull moment.

“As a team, we’ve been in that championship an awful long time – 17 years – so we’re very well drilled as an outfit to get the most out of the championship as we can. Our pit stops have been the quickest of everybody’s – and we’re closest to the allowed time. It’s all come together quite nicely. Normally we’d be running in Europe as well – we’d also be running two cars in the British.

“Covid has had a huge impact – the uncertainty at the start of last year meant teams scaled back their plans. For us, we pulled the plug on doing anything in Europe and only ran one car in the British GT Championship. That was the way of the world.

“Going into this season, there was still so much uncertainty for being able to effectively do European GT4 – other teams have proved you can get out there and do it, but it’s not cost-effective at all. For us, it would have had an impact on our British programme – where we wanted to try and win the thing. That was the intention, but a bit of bad luck and bad BoPs has put us a bit out of contention.”

What is GT4?

Most motorsport fans will instantly recognise the big, muscular GT3 and Le Mans GTE cars – yet the generally smaller and less familiar GT4 cars play an important role worldwide. GT4 cars are more like ‘track day’ cars – either factory-built race cars on sale to the public or modified production road cars. All GT4 cars are thoroughly tested and evaluated by the FIA and then specific modifications allowed to give near identical performance levels – designed to give close racing and give manufacturers confidence to enter cars. Once a car has been approved by the FIA, it can’t be modified further – that keeps development costs to a minimum. Balance of Performance (BoP) is regularly tweaked by the series organisers to keep that parity between different makes.

For a team owner like Matt, GT4 has many benefits, but the main one is cost…

“Nothing’s cheap in motorsport, but GT4 is value for money. If you’ve got a good reliable, strong car like the Mustang it’s very effective to do. We started out 17-18 years ago with Ginetta, but we needed a stronger route forward. At that point we jumped into the Astons. They served a purpose and were great for a number of years.

“Our plans for the future are to go GT3. That’s what we’ve been working towards for a long time. For me, the most important thing is that ours is a true business – there are some very well-funded teams that don’t really have to operate as an effective business. I started with £900 and lived in my workshop – every single penny had to go back into it. At the end of the day, what we’re doing is selling drives – and if I don’t believe in the drive myself, I can’t sell it. That’s why we’ve changed in the past, when we didn’t feel we could offer what we should.

“In terms of our drivers, funding is always individual. A Silver-Silver pairing is usually a 50:50 budget and a Pro-Am is a slightly more aggressive split, depending on how ‘pro’ the Pro is and how ‘am’ the Am is – and how well funded each party is. Some people, if they’re going to do it, they want to do it right – I really admire an Am who says “I’m going to control this, I want to have a proper driver and a proper budget, go and do it”. My job is to manage people’s expectations with all of that – and give them the best I can for what they want to do.”

The Future for Academy Motorsport

“Being at the circuit and running a car is the easiest part of this whole game. The hardest part is getting the budget together so you can get there – it’s just hideous amounts of money. And there’s a lot of luck – you can do the same job on one day to another and get totally different results.

“We’ve been around 20 years and always been there or thereabouts. We’ve had a lot of success – not so much in the past few years, which have been a bit dry. We should have won the British last year with the two lads we had, but one of them didn’t have the budget to continue. Otherwise, they could have gone on to potentially win that championship. This year, we very much could have won it. In previous years, me and Will have finished second in Europe – we should have won that too!

“I’m very very proud of my team. This is a seven-day-a-week, never-ending thing. We’ve done a lot, are capable of doing a lot – although we’re a long way from where we want to be in terms of programmes. That will change.”

And the ultimate goal?

“Le Mans. We will be doing it. We’ve already been twice – to do the support race with the Astons – which was fantastic and really good fun. Stressful though. Le Mans with GT3 has just been announced – and I’ve got to get ourselves in the position where we can do it.

“There are so many teams out there all pushing for the same thing. Any team that’s been around for a long time and had some success, they’re not there by accident. It’s incredibly easy to come in quickly and disappear just as fast. Anyone who’s been there long enough and had results wants to step up and move on to the next thing – and really all that comes down to is budget. A car is a car, and the rest of it – the infrastructure and the organisation – takes care of itself.”

Since I chatted to Matt, the British GT Championship teams have been to Oulton Park for two really exciting one-hour races – probably the best of the season so far. Race One was frustrating for Academy Motorsport. A strong opening stint put the Mustang second in GT4, but then the engine failed to restart after the pitstop. The car was fixed for a wet Race Two. A storming drive through the GT4 field gave the team a very satisfactory third place and a trip to the podium to collect some more silverware – a very good end to the weekend. The Scalextric Mustang also arrived at Academy Motorsport HQ – and was shown off on their Facebook page with the comment “How cool is this?! 😍 We absolutely love it!”

Many thanks to Matt for taking the time out of a busy day to talk to me. I hope – like me – you’ll be cheering on the Academy Motorsport Mustang next weekend for the final round of this year’s British GT Championship at Donington Park. You’ll be able to watch the two hour race live on the GTWorld YouTube Channel.

Huge thanks also to Academy’s official photographer Chris Lazenby for permission to use his fabulous images on the blog. You can view more of Chris’ unique motorsport photography on the Lazenby Visuals website, Facebook page and @lazenbyvisuals on Instagram. Definitely worth taking a look.

Next week, I’ll be using my conversation with Matt to devise a detailed simulation of a British GT Championship race for the Scalextric ARC Pro digital system, using the Magic app. This third-party software is perfect for running long endurance races with realistic pit stops and even adding Balance of Performance tweaks. How does a one-hour race with up to six cars and twelve drivers sound?

By Andy Player

Andy has been a big Scalextric fan from a very early age. He now runs the Worthing HO Racing club, is on the editorial team of SlotRacer Online and is a regular contributor to Slot Car Magazine.

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