The Ford GT finally shows us what it can do to our internal organs when it turns a wheel under its own power.
Lap after lap, Scott Maxwell gnaws deeper into the curbing. By drawing a straighter line through a shallow chicane on the road course that lies in the shadow of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Canadian pro driver with class wins at Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans is searching for and finding more speed. What started as a nibble is now a chomp as he rides to the top of the red-and-white candy cane on his fourth lap. The 2017 Ford GT he’s piloting, the car in which I’m riding shotgun, swallows it whole.
Ford GT Video:
The GT skates over the pavement, clearing it by just 2.8 inches in its ground-sucking Track mode, when the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are sunk into the wheel wells and the GT looks as if it has all the suspension travel of a bobsled. Yet this carbon-fiber dart from Dearborn never threatens to lose traction, to pitch left, or to unsettle as it leaps off the curbs. It soaks up the input gracefully, presses rubber into earth, and rockets ahead. “I kept expecting that curb to launch us,” Maxwell says during the cool-down lap. “But the car just takes it.”
Back in the pits, Jamal Hameedi, the chief engineer of Ford Performance, wants my feedback. “How was it? Did you feel something more visceral than in a McLaren?” No amount of poise can neutralize the effects of cornering, braking, and acceleration with that kind of intensity. I feel as if my gut has been run through a Vitamix and is now sweating out through my palms. So, yeah, the GT stirred something inside me.
After two years pirouetting on auto-show turntables, the Ford GT is finally making its own moves. Ford won’t let us behind the wheel just yet at least not while the car is moving but in between in-depth discussions with Hameedi, I was treated to 647-hp chest compressions and gut-punch lateral g’s in the passenger seat, with Maxwell and vehicle dynamics development engineer Murray White taking turns driving.
Hameedi talks about the GT program like a man who’s gotten away with something, and not just that he was able to buy a Ferrari 458 Speciale and a McLaren 675LT on Ford’s dime. For competitive analysis, you understand. The guy responsible for all of Ford’s performance variants, from the flying F-150 Raptor to the $40,000 350-hp Ford Focus RS, still marvels that his team was allowed to build a car this extreme. A career Ford engineer, Hameedi knows a thing or two about corporate bureaucracy. As the program manager for the 2005–06 Ford GT, the original mid-engined GT40 nostalgia trip, he witnessed firsthand the internal resistance to selling a six-figure Ford. That those GTs now trade for more than $300,000 (they originally retailed for $139,995) allowed his team to shoot for the moon this time around. “That car gave us the confidence to do this car,” he says.
To recognize the 50th anniversary of Ford’s Le Mans podium sweep, Dearborn was wont to do a special-edition road car. But instead of some paint-and-tape Mustang, Ford Performance unleashed both a full-fledged GT racing program and a homologation road car that’s pretty close to being the 2016 Le Mans GTE-Pro class winner with a license plate. The resulting production model isn’t just radical for a car wearing a Blue Oval badge, it’s the razor’s edge of automotive design, with a weight-to-power ratio of roughly five pounds per horsepower to back it up.
Based on the neo GT’s $450,000 starting price, you might say the confidence borders on hubris, though. The GT lies in the largely uncharted waters between million-plus-dollar hypercars from Bugatti and Pagani and the supercar stalwarts from Ferrari and McLaren that run around $250,000. The $424,845 Lamborghini Aventador S is the only competitor parked at the same intersection of price and performance. Yet in this realm, a car is overpriced only if it doesn’t sell, and the first 750 GTs—three years’ worth of production—are already claimed. Ford will accept another round of applications for the remaining 250 cars in early 2018. Start building your case now; a social-media following helps.
More at caranddriver.com