Saturday 24 February 2018

My dream drive in the sensational €410k Ford GT super car

First Drive in Salt Lake City: Ford GT

Ford GT
Ford GT
The GT engine
The interior of the GT

John Galvin

The year was 1966 and Ford took the first three places at the Le Mans 24-hour race with their GT40, designed to break Ferrari.

To commemorate 50 years since that victory, Ford wanted to return to Le Mans, initially with the Mustang. When they realised the Mustang wouldn't be competitive enough, a small team met in secret to develop a new GT, as a worthy successor to an iconic racing car.

Initially, the team looked at three approaches: a retro design, a racing machine or a modern interpretation.

In the end, they combined all three.

The interior of the GT
The interior of the GT

The GT is made from pieces of carbon fibre, bonded together with an integrated roll cage so the car is immensely strong. Power comes from a 3.5 litre V6 twin turbo EcoBoost producing 647bhp and 746Nm of torque.

What's really clever though are the aerodynamics. With the smallest frontal area in its class, it cleaves through the air but an active aerofoil provides downforce and incorporates an air brake. Ford admit that the air brake doesn't contribute much to stopping power but helps to settle the car. The brakes themselves are carbon ceramic.

We got the chance to try the car on road and track in Salt Lake City, where Ford have a performance driving school. I drove the GT first on the track, which was just over two miles long with a good variety of corners.

Immediately, the strong performance manifested itself. There's an anti-lag mechanism which keeps the turbos spinning so instant torque is always on tap. Following the advice of the instructor, I was in third gear through most corners but the car was well capable of carrying fourth and still sprung like a catapult onto the following straight.

I made a mistake at the last corner, a hairpin bend leading onto the main straight. I gave it too much throttle without winding off the steering and the car went sideways.

A simple flick of opposite lock and we were back in business and it really showcased the balance of the car. In track mode, there's no help from the electronics so it was all down to reflexes and the benign nature of the car at speed.

The GT engine
The GT engine

The most outstanding thing about the GT though was the brakes. I have never experienced such stopping power, even in a full-on racing car. Lap after lap, I found myself braking later and still I didn't reach the limit.

The GT was surprisingly easy to drive on the track. There was so much grip but even if you overstepped the mark, the car left like it was on your side and didn't bite back.

On the road, the GT was a frustrating companion. There was so much performance available it was a constant struggle to fight the temptation to floor it at every available opportunity. We drove into the mountains and found a sublime, traffic-free road with challenging curves and a smooth surface. The car was a joy on this part of the drive and I don't think I'll ever top that driving experience.

It's a wide car, about the same as a Ferrari 458, but it doesn't feel like that on the road. In pursuit of a reduced frontal area, there's very little space between driver and passenger so the cockpit is quite intimate.

The seats are fixed, with both pedal box and steering wheel moving to accommodate the driver. All the controls, bar the air conditioning, are mounted on the steering wheel.

Even the indicators, which took some getting used to.

There's a thumb wheel to select driving modes, including the infamous track mode, which lowers the car instantly by 50mm to 70mm.

To deal with speed bumps, the front can also be raised at speeds up to 25mph. There's also a comfort setting for the dampers which makes the car into a surprisingly usable long distance cruiser while not interfering with handling.

There's also a V-Max mode, which lowers the car even further and retracts the spoiler. In this configuration, the GT is capable of 347kmh, well above its rivals.

A practical car it's not. There are two tiny cup holders - it's American after all - but there's nowhere to put even a phone in the minimalist cabin. Luggage space is all but non-existent. A vestigial boot wouldn't fit a change of clothes and there's no room for a spare wheel.

Ford had an F-150 truck on the route with a spare front and rear wheel in case we suffered a puncture, but I doubt they'll do that for every owner.

Only 250 GTs a year will be built over the next four years, with customer deliveries just starting.

As for pricing, Ford are being coy. There will be a 'conversation' with each potential owner. But around $450,000 (€410,000) is where that conversation will start.

Do you know something? I reckon it's worth that.

Indo Motoring

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