Just a short while ago, the SSC Ultimate Aero stormed to 256mph to become the world’s fastest production car. But on the outskirts of Dortmund, the gentlest quiver of a foot on the 9ff GT9’s throttle was all it took to convince me that the American machine won’t hold the title for long.
That’s when the sheer force of a 987bhp monster on full boost hit home and the car took off down the road like the shattered case of an exploding grenade. Clichés come thick and fast when cars get beyond 500bhp, but the GT9 is scary. With the deftest touch, this car pressed me so hard into the seat that even breathing had to wait for the gearchange.
Not that it was a long wait. Selecting the next cog of the manual six-speeder, I was then thrown violently forward into the belts before those monstrous 20-inch rear wheels gained traction and spat the car down the road once again.
It was a staccato flurry of acceleration and I learnt that the wheels will spin all the way into fifth if you can find that much clear road. The noise of blasting wastegates and 8000 near-uninsulated revs threatened to draw blood from my ears.
Then, as an optimistic Clio driver in the middle distance pulled into the outside lane, solid in his belief that nothing would be coming up with a closing speed of more than 100mph, an overly cautious shove on the brakes threatened to stand this 1380kg machine on its nose.
At a time when modern supercar manufacturers want their cars to achieve 200mph so smoothly that babies could sleep on the passenger seat, this is a savage and deliberate departure. The good news for those people - like us here at PistonHeads - who enjoy the sensations of really driving, this is a throwback to ancient times of knuckle-dragging power and, yes, even fear.
‘I find the Veyron too perfect, too easy,’ said 9ff boss Jan Fatthauer. ‘I wanted to build a car that would give my customers a little fight, a little special plaything for the weekends.’
Only the numbers truly explain this car’s true potential. On a cold day when the 0-60mph time was limited to four seconds, it still blasted past 300km/h (186.4mph) in just 17.6 seconds and 870 metres. With the right conditions at Papenburg, it hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds and nailed 254mph, just 2.5mph shy of the SSC Aero’s record and faster than Bugatti’s all-conquering Veyron.
Fatthauer won’t give up either – that record is just a few tweaks and a perfect day away. He’ll drive the car himself, too, because he says that test drivers who are willing to break the 250mph mark are supremely thin on the ground.
This is the first complete car from 9ff, the German tuning giant that has forged a reputation for big horsepower 911s and broken a whole stack of records since its inception in 2001. But the thought of his own car has burned deep in Fatthauer’s mind for 10 years. He wanted to go faster than a 911 ever could and the past three years have been devoted to building a car that looks uncannily like a Porsche, but isn’t.
‘I have worked with Porsches for years and know which parts work,’ he said. ‘There was no reason to reinvent every part. I have taken the very best from the last three generations and even some special parts from the racing programme to create my own supercar.’
Claims that this is simply a reworked GT3 are so far wide of the mark that they’re on a different page. It’s perhaps inevitable, though, that the 9ff looks like a flattened 911. The crash structure is sourced from the lightweight road racer, but the chassis is a lengthened version of the GT1. The engine starts out as a 996 Turbo block before Fatthauer turns it into a 4.0-litre with titanium conrods, a brace of Garrett T35s, Nikasil-coated chambers and forged pistons that could withstand forces that Porsche never even envisaged.
Then there’s the PCCB ceramic braking system, which would have been hard to beat for a factory in Dortmund, and the lights, dashboard, seatbelts and stereo from the 911. Sure, the interior needs work, but this is the prototype and Fatthauer insists that every one of the 20 cars up for grabs will come with a bespoke, perfectly finished interior.
There are other neat touches too, including a floor of purest plywood since Fatthauer insists that he couldn’t match the rigidity-to-weight of the material with other alternatives. A racing clutch copes with the 711lb ft of torque that courses through its veins, the cooling system belongs in Iceland and untold work went into the newly mid-mounted drivetrain to ensure that it didn’t end up with six reverse gears.
Then there’s that gold-plated air intake. Officially, its sole purpose is heat insulation but, when pressed, Fatthauer admitted that the costume jewellery under that Perspex rear might be there for visual impact, too.
The open rear is all about the aerodynamics but Fatthauer admits that the car has been nowhere near a wind tunnel. The aero work was done with ribbons taped to the car and an aft-facing camera, which makes the results so far almost disturbingly impressive.
And for those who have dismissed this as an epoch-making missile and nothing more, you’re wrong. Fatthauer says he won’t sell it to clients who are only interested in horsepower and pure speed. He wanted to create the complete, visceral supercar and has put serious development time into conquering the corners and the open road rather than the race track.
Light power steering allows it to be placed with fingertips, despite the car’s size, and the handling is no more savage than a track-tuned GT3’s. It comes with even more balance, thanks to the mid-engine mounting, prodigious grip and a sure-footed approach at standard speeds.
Go after those last few tenths, or sneeze, and you’ll need the GT2-sourced traction control that wasn’t fitted to this model. But dawdling on a trailing throttle round the Dortmund streets revealed a car that is composed, simple and, considering its H&R suspension gives just 10cm of travel, surprisingly comfortable. It soaks up bumps and only the biggest autobahn expansion joint caused the rubber to leave the tarmac. Even then, it was nothing more dramatic than a gentle skip.
Once the speed record is in the bag, they’ll take the car to the Nordschleife for an assault on the production car record and Fatthauer is quietly confident. Even if that doesn’t happen, he’s got a back-up plan because he’s about to start work on the hardcore GT9 RS, the next car to bear his name.
So the SSC Aero might be the fastest car in the world, but the folks in their factory must be gently quivering right now.