Patrick Arnaud, chief engineer, concepts
Citroen's chief concept car engineer Patrick Arnaud turns toward me with a grin as he presses the starter button and the GTbyCitroen's V8 erupts volcanically behind the bulkhead. "Noise matters," he quips, immediately revealing himself as one of the PH family. (Say 'allo', folks!)
Patrick is loving this gig, having sole charge at Goodwood of the fabulously eye-catching and notably ear-popping supercar concept that Citroen turned from Gran Turismo game to reality in just nine months in 2008.
Concept has 'show car' air suspension
Having originally requested a posting to the French maker's motorsport division, he was diverted to the concept car team and is now the engineer in charge of all the company's future concept studies. Unfortunately, he won't tell me what any of them are, only that today at Goodwood he has "the best job in the world".
As Patrick threads the big GTbyC through the roped off crowds, it's clear why he's enjoying it so much. Many of the spectators seem to think his car is the star of the Supercar Parade, in spite of some very illustrious company.
Smiley rides again...
In true enthusiast style, every now and then he gives the car a prodigious dab of throttle as we rumble along in convoy, enveloping the appreciative audience in an earth-shattering cacophony of muscular V8 burble. At least it sounds earth-shattering from inside the car, where I'm sitting in readiness for my turn at the wheel for the run up the hill.
Already it's a little unnerving, as visibility in any direction is not this car's strong point. The front corners are way out of sight, there's nothing behind us but a solid bulkhead and the rear wing mirrors seem pretty ineffectual too - it's predominantly a car for looking at, and not out of.
Concept interior is suitably 'space age'
The air-con isn't working, and it's extremely hot once the scissor type doors are shut, and while we have left them open at the holding pen where I'm briefed on the controls, the slow-moving queue of supercars heading towards the startline has sweat dripping off us. As our turn approaches I swap seats with Patrick, and am relieved to find that driving this (so-far) one-off 500bhp monster of a concept car is not too taxing. There's plenty of room in the driver seat, and three pedals with a clutch that feels as light as you'd expect in a C3. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the unassisted steering which requires a bit of muscle via the small Formula car-style wheel. Gears are shifted pneumatically like a racing car, and changes requested by 'up and down' buttons on either side of the wheel.
In spite of its dashing looks and design concept, the GTbyC is still just that - a concept - which means it's got a relatively basic subframe either end of a steel-framed carbon central tub, and an air-adjustable suspension system more suited to negotiating motor show ramps than laying down a time on the Goodwood hillclimb.
We leave 'smoking' to the pros...
So I don't even think about trying to look quick, and instead concentrate on making noise, which is something the GTbyC is definitely suited to. Accelerating through the gears, the exhaust note is spine-tingling from where I'm sitting, although in spite of my best efforts to download info, Patrick frustratingly sticks like glue to the official Citroen line of not admitting the engine's provenance.
(Thus I can't confirm with 100 percent confidence that behind the bulkhead lurks a modular 4.8-ish litre V8 from the Ford US stable, making upwards of 500bhp in its particular state of tune. So let's just call it a 98 percent certainty, give or take a handful of 'cubic inches' either way...)
Still no decision on production...
Equally frustrating is the fact that Citroen won't confirm whether its supercar concept will ever make production, saying only that it hasn't yet made a decision.
According to Patrick, if the car does find its way into a very limited number of private owners hands (for a previously reported £1 million), they'll get a pretty much exact copy of what you see here, but with a fully developed suspension and brake set-up, and not much else. "We'd need 18 months to two years to develop it if we get the go-ahead," he says, "but we're still waiting for that decision."
It's pretty academic for us enthusiasts, as given the car's 'conceptual' nature, it's potential price and its rarity, any production versions would seem likely to be squirreled away by collectors. So I for one won't be surprised if Citroen ultimately decides the car is best left to dreamers and PlayStation gamers, but if that's the case the world will be a lesser place (and quieter!) without it.