Sunday, October 24, 2004

Mustang kicks up its heels

Hundreds line up for '60s-look car

By Mike Rutledge
Enquirer staff writer

Despite rain, hundreds of sports car fans lined up along the track to wait for their turn to test drive the new 2005 Mustang GT Saturday at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
Enquirer photos by SARAH CONARD
SPARTA - Ann Ortlepp of St. Bernard knew how to go fast after she slid into the seat of a 2005 Mustang GT Saturday morning at the Kentucky Speedway.

She mashed the accelerator, winning whoops from other Ford fans awaiting their chance to drive the new 300-horsepower Mustang GT, which sells for $25,000 to $28,000.

"That's right, baby!" a happy Ortlepp, 45, said after going a piece of a lap on the banked track with a professional pace-car driver in the passenger seat. "Oh, my gosh, it's awesome. It's beautiful inside. It rides like a dream."

"It was cool," agreed husband Rick Ortlepp, a member of the Tri-State Mustang Club of Cincinnati. "I'd have liked to go about three times around the track with it. It was too short."

Hundreds at a time stood in line Saturday to experience the reinvented car with echoes of the 1960s styling that made the muscle car a favorite.

The speedway is one of five tracks this year to host Ford Racing Innovation Drive events. Drivers' rare trip on a NASCAR track was brief, but drivers precisely recounted the experience, which included slaloms.

"When I pulled into second, it had a lot of get, and it swerved just a little. Just a little," said Brad Blankenship, 22, of North Bend. "It got on it. It got on it fast. Lots of speed. Shifted very nicely. I liked the clutch. It drove very well. Short shifts, too."

Ford and Chevrolet, competitors on racetracks and on American highways, both use such events to reintroduce people to their products.

"We found that 52 percent of Ford customers qualify themselves as race fans," said Burt Diamond, global marketing manager for Ford Racing Technology.

He said NASCAR has an estimated 45 million hard-core fans, plus 30 million casual followers.

"The hard-core fans are already very brand loyal," Diamond said. "The other 30 million, that gives us a tremendous opportunity to predispose them to Ford products."

General Motors Corp. spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said her company's Auto Show in Motion, billed as the "world's biggest test drive," will visit about two dozen cities this year.


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