We can thank the Le Mans 24 Hour for this masterpiece
If you want to race in the Le Mans 24 Hour you need to have a roadgoing version of your race car. Ford wanted not to race in the epic French event but win it, and the result is this roadgoing racer. How lucky are we?
If you’re after a four-seater with some elbow room look elsewhere as the carbonfibre tub is extremely narrow for aerodynamic slipperiness, meaning it’s quite snug in there even for a pair of racing snakes.
More space is taken up behind the occupants’ heads by the 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6. With 638bhp and 550lb ft of torque being made fairly noisily, there’s actually more than in the full racing version which is burdened by regulations.
We say ‘fairly noisily’ but actually what we mean is ‘with an awesome racket’. There’s the induction roar from the engine, the wheezing of the wastegates and all the cacophony of a heavily tuned V6 with the turbos sucking and blowing with real violence.
Then there’s the row made by stones hitting the underside of the chassis, and all the other electronics and mechanical parts adding to the din. It’s a touch rowdier in there than in say a Rolls-Royce Dawn.
However, all that noise generates huge amounts of performance. The figures are eye-opening – 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds. Top speed 216mph. And all that through the rear wheels. Astonishingly, those tyres grip even in full load in first and second if the road is dry. Which means you are propelled towards the horizon with alarming speed. Shift into third and it keeps on coming with the same terminal violence, to the extent that it’s hard to keep up with it, all the time that row behind your head making your spine tingle.
When you need to slow or stop, the carbon ceramic brakes and nifty rear air brake haul you down so fast you’ll feel your intestines move. Which is nice.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is not that the handling is epic, nor that you can actually control it all relatively easily as it’s so well weighted, so accurate, so sharp. The biggest surprise is how comfortable the ride is. The suspension is so sophisticated it would put many considerably more family-friendly saloons to shame in terms of outright comfort as well as control. Who’d have thought?
Naturally the cabin itself is hardly the last word in comfort, as we’ve mentioned. This is a racing car that’s been converted for the road, and racers don’t get their comfort taken into consideration at all. It’s hard to get in or out if it’s been a while since you went to a yoga or pilates class. The driving seat is bolted directly to the chassis, so it’s the pedals that can adjust so you can reach them easily. Virtually all the controls are on the wheel, so it’s easy to indicate left when you’re driving straight ahead, but a bit more confusing when the wheel is 180-degrees over.
Visibility forward is good, visibility rearward is poor, but it’s unlikely anyone will be lining up to overtake you. There’s masses of carbonfibre in there, the real stuff, but everything else feels fairly utilitarian. We’ll not bother telling you about the sound system as we couldn’t hear it.
This obviously isn’t the most practical of vehicles. If you’re looking for a weekend away – and it needs to be with someone you know well as you’ll literally be rubbing shoulders in there – you may find the boot a touch small. It won’t even take a crash helmet so matching Louis Vuitton luggage is out.
All of this should have been concentrating minds over the fact that this is a racer with numberplates. As such that makes it a hugely attractive proposition, but don’t expect Ford to have made many concessions to comfort or practicality. A big businessman getting in and out of his new GT40 is unlikely to elicit looks of envy, more sniggers of amusement as he puffs and pants and tries to get his belly in.
Even so, Ford is going to make 1000 of these. And they’ve had 7000 applications. Since this is Ford the company is doing its best to ensure the cars go to people who will use them rather than squirrel them away in air-conditioned luxury away from the human race. Those 1000 owners will truly be the lucky ones.