2005 Ford GT Track Test: One Lap in an American Supercar Star

velotica-logo_edited-1
ford_gt_trio_wet_pavement_v1

Is that drool running down my chin? I tried hard to control it, but that’s not easy. This car is the stuff of legends — a latter-day reincarnation of the star player from Ford’s glorious 1960s racing heyday.

But beneath that glamorous exterior, the Ford GT hides a very pleasing surprise: this rockstar diva is actually girl-next-door easygoing to drive, which I found out for myself behind the wheel of one at famed Midwest race track Road America.

The Ford GT was the top attraction of this year’s Spring Collection, an annual smorgasbord of cars put on by major automakers and our local media association. The event was created to give us scribes the chance to drive some of the latest machines in a performance environment that we might not otherwise get access to. As such, there was a tantalizing array of stunningly hot cars on hand.

Of course the number one item on my ‘must-drive’ list was the GT.

After the mandatory morning safety briefing, we’re free to pick whatever car we want to drive. With my mind dancing with visions of GT-40 legends like Dan Gurney, Ken Miles, and all the other heroes that have plied their trade in Ford’s mid-engine maestro, I literally run to take my turn in the GT.

ford_gt_switches_v1

The fun begins as soon as I drop myself into the cockpit. Other than having to avoid the door’s skull-creasing curved top, getting into the GT’s cabin is straightforward and easy enough. In front of me sprawls a pleasing blend of purposeful black upholstery and brushed aluminum, punctuated by switches designed to look like the starkly functional toggle switches of the original GT-40. It’s definitely cool.

And the visual pleasure isn’t limited to the cockpit. The GT’s hulking 550-hp supercharged V8 is plainly visible through the rear window. Ensconced in robust looking aluminum frame members, the hefty powerplant lurks mere inches from the driver’s head. With a push of the red Start button just above the center console, the engine launches into a rumbly symphony that evokes muscular American V8s and Italian exotics alike, accompanied by unmistakable supercharger whine.

I click the precisely gated shifter into First and prepare for the fiddly uncertainty of manipulating an exotic car’s clutch pedal just right to get the car moving without killing the engine. But instead I roll away without so much as a shudder, using no special left-foot technique. It’s easy, just like any American V8 car with a manual transmission. And surprisingly for such an exotic machine, the pedal pressure is similar to that of an everyday Mustang GT, maybe even a bit lighter.

At this point it already begins to set in that this all-out supercar is quite user friendly — a sweetheart.

ford-gt-on-banking-v3

That said, day-to-day driving in a GT wouldn’t be like commuting in a Camry. Just making the short trip from the staging area to the track forces me to constantly stretch and crane to see past the thick window pillars and swooping fenders. And directly behind the car? Forget it. If it doesn’t show up in the sideview mirrors, it doesn’t exist when you’re in this car.

But would anyone behind the wheel of such a thrill machine really care about those mundane quibbles? Highly doubtful.

After stopping just short of the track to let the car in front of me get far ahead, I’m ready to launch onto the front straight. I ease the clutch out at a modest 2500 rpm or so, then I gently roll into the throttle. Since I’d never driven this car, I took it easy.

Or at least I thought I was taking it easy.

ford_gt_engine_v1

Nope. Despite those good intentions, I practically boil the rear tires into sticky goo. Faced with 500 lb-ft of torque at just 3750 rpm, the GT’s rear tires cut loose with a burnout so uncannily effortless that it seemed like a video game.

The car quickly regains its footing and blurs to a brisk pace. I reach Turn 2 at a pleasing clip. From there I head downhill to Turn 3, then I get on the gas for what the GT has been begging for — the long, open Moraine Sweep. With a feverish supercharger whine and a deep, roaring exhaust note the car eagerly climbs to an impressive velocity.

At the end of the straight, the big brakes haul the car down with reassuring authority, aided by good pedal modulation. A quick flick of my right foot proves heel-and-toe downshifts to be delightfully easy in the GT. The car flies through the sharp Turn 5 with copious grip and practically no body lean. Then I’m back on the gas.

After that comes a short uphill straight, another tight turn, and then another. The GT’s steering is weighted a bit lighter than one might expect for a serious performance car, but it feels nice. Most important, it communicates well. Neither of those facts is surprising though; pretty much everything about the GT inspires confidence. Just minutes after getting into the car, you feel ready to go fast.

But as I let my attention wander a bit to savor that fact, the back end steps way out as I exit the tight Turn 8. Fortunately, it didn’t reach the point of no-return, and a quick jab of the steering wheel easily brings it back in line. Nonetheless, the quick onset of such pronounced oversteer is an important reminder that this is a serious performance machine, no matter how friendly its overall demeanor is.

I haul swiftly around the Carousel and out onto the long, sweeping Kettle Bottoms. Then I’m hard on the brakes to make the sharp Canada Corner. At that point it suddenly dawns on me that I’m already near the end of my all-too-brief one lap in the car. A couple of relatively easy turns follow and I lift off the gas to bring the GT back into the pits.

ford_gt_trio_banking_v1

After I shut the car down, the grin stays plastered on my face for most of the morning. It’s hard not to gush about the GT. This mega machine has the agility of an Olympian, the bravado of a rockstar, and the looks of a supermodel.

Best of all, it has none of the high-strung annoyances typically associated with such A-list celebrity types.

Another lap please?

Leave a Reply