Racers, start your engines — and close your sliding doors. Because Ford minivan racing is coming to a track near you.
Yes, that’s right. You’ve heard of stock-car racing. You’ve heard of truck racing. And now, a new race series will see heavily modified versions of the Ford Transit Connect minivan tearing around oval tracks at high speeds, like a rushed parent trying to get from basketball practice to oboe lessons.
Here’s the plan: Ford will take the Transit Connect van and heavily modify it for racing, tuning up the power in its 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine from 178 horses to "somewhere around 478." While this seems optimistic to us, Ford claims this engine will still get 20 miles per gallon "as long as you carefully draft other vans."
Of course, Transit Connect vans will also require other modifications, such as a roll cage, slick tires, a conversion to rear-wheel drive, a new manual transmission and four racing seats. Four seats? That’s right. Under the rules of the minivan race series, you have to carry around an entire family as you lap the track, including a moody teenager who’s listening to music, a baby in a cumbersome rear-facing safety seat and a know-it-all neighbor who sits in the back and shouts instructions in your ear.
"It’s going to get a little hot in there," said Eugene Philbert, 46, who will be the designated neighbor riding with a Ford Racing team from Dearborn, Michigan. "Especially for the driver."
Although Ford has not yet announced venues for the race series, the automaker says the vans will be set up for oval-track racing, suggesting that it may reach many of the same tracks as stock-car races. We, for one, are very excited to see the vans out there, jockeying for position, brightly painted in sponsor colors and following behind the pace car: a 1998 Ford Windstar Northwoods Edition with 147,000 miles on the odometer.
"We believe van racing can bring a whole other demographic into auto racing," said Ford Vice President of Motorsport John Smith. "For instance, we think commercial fleet buyers will choose our vans in larger numbers because they want to go with a winner."
Ford has not yet revealed any drivers for the race series, though we suspect professional drivers will be lining up to get a turn behind the wheel of a 478-horsepower Ford minivan — assuming, of course, that they don’t quit in disgust when Eugene screams "LEFT!" over and over as they go around the track.
Thanks to our friends at TopSpeed.com for the photo. Oh, and if you haven’t already figured it out, none of this is actually true. April fools!
For information on actual Ford Racing programs and products go to Racing.Ford.com