How cynical are you? I ask because it might affect how you feel about the
, created solely to win its class at Le Mans, in a GTE category that's in pretty fine health at the minute.
The racing is close, the grids are large and the cars, crucially, look like ones you can walk into a dealership and buy: Ferraris, Aston Martins, Corvettes, Porsches, that sort of thing.
Alongside them now, though, there's the Ford GT as well. And doesn't it look every bit like the racing car it was created as?
It acts like one as well, winning the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans last year, 50 years after the Ford GT40 took a one-two-three victory there. Which is entirely in keeping with the rules, because Ford is building roadgoing examples of the GT - this is one, obvs - but, well, I dunno. If I was turning a road car into a racing car, which is sort of the idea behind GTE, I might be a bit miffed if somebody had turned up with what was a racing car first, road car second.
Still, what's Ford to do? It wants to be back at Le Mans, yet if it had made a race car based on the Mustang - which was the original idea - it reckoned it would be uncompetitive. And Ford isn't about to make a £200,000 sports car that it could later take racing, because nobody would buy it.
So you can see how the logic goes. Develop GT. Race it. Sell some. And that 1966 Le Mans victory set a precedent that's still applicable today: it established Ford as perhaps the only mainstream brand that could make and sell a massively expensive, high-performance sports/super/hypercar.
How expensive is this one? It's £420,000 (or whatever $450,000 at the current exchange rate, plus VAT, works out at today), and Ford - or rather Multimatic, its Canadian partner, who helped engineer the GT and supports the race team - is going to build 1,000 roadgoing examples, at the rate of one a day. More than it strictly needs to by homologation standards, but make no mistake: this is racing car first, road car second.
Don't be deceived - it's snug in here!
Quite a lot of that is clear even before you sit in it. It has a carbon fibre tub with an integrated roll-cage built-in during production - to make it FIA compliant a few extra beams are welded into the race cars. The cabin fits two occupants but it's narrow in there - to reduce the car's frontal area - and the seats are fixed to the tub, with pedals that move via a fabric pull strap instead. Behind the narrow cabin is a narrow engine, a development of Ford's 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6, with twin-turbos.
Ford says that part of the GT programme - because it certainly isn't about making money, even with $450,000,000 in sales revenue coming in - is ensuring that advances on the race car meet its road cars. Quite often that's piffle, but when Ford started developing this V6 and racing it in IMSA, it kept blowing head gaskets and distorting heads. Changes to the race engine are now best-practice for Ford's street engine designers; 60 per cent of the GT's V6 is common with the one used in the F-150. The Raptor, granted, but still. A pick-up and a GT have largely the same donkey.
Anyway, that engine drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox in the road car, a six-speed sequential in the race car. Steering is hydraulic, as is some of the suspension control.
By measurements it could be a GT42...
That's by double wishbones all round but even here you can't escape the racing overtones. Ford talks about a 'keel', a set of strong points down the centre of the car, to where the suspension is mounted. With very long wishbones and pushrods, there's space beneath the car for Ford to get funky with aerodynamics, while the suspension is itself worth more than a moment's thought.
At each corner a pushrod acts on a rocker which then acts on spring one - a short torsion bar - which in turn meets another rocker that acts on spring two - a coil spring. That's in 'normal' mode. But if you select 'track' mode, the car hydraulically drops by 50mm, giving it just a 70mm ground clearance and locking tight the coil spring, thus doubling the spring rate (the bar and coil have similar rates) and tieing the GT down yet further. The dampers - which, technically, are passive, although are Multimatic's impossibly clever spool valve 'DSSV' dampers - have three states they can be set to. Normal and comfort in high body mode, or a firmer mode when the body is dropped on the deck.
And you should see how it drops. You know how supercar nose lifts or 4x4s on air springs creep up and down? None of that here. You push a button and the GT shoots up or down like it's on air jacks.
On road? Not at its best, actually
Anyway, you don't have all day and I don't have the entire internet to play with so enough technical detail; although I could go on about how the rear wing doesn't just change position, but actually changes its profile. Or how the engine's air is ducted in through the lower bodywork at the rear, meets the turbos, is ducted back to the sides where it passes through those intercoolers and is then fed via the buttresses to the engine. Or I could expand on how the dashboard is designed not just as a structural element but also has ventilating air passing through it. But let's move on.
The GT's fixed-base seats are comfortable, but crikey it's cramped in here. Driver and passenger are well into elbow-bashing territory; perhaps beyond Lotus Elise and into Caterham snugness. The roof is low, and because the scuttle is too, despite the GT only being 41.8 inches tall (in track mode), you don't feel like you're sitting on the deck. Some of the plastics are a bit shonky for a £420,000 car, but that's the nature of it.
The steering is reassuringly heavy - 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, too, so free from nervousness, and hydraulically assisted - and gears engage cleanly. The motor makes a straightforward sort of noise. Gruff, growly, powerful, but far from sonorous. However, I think that's alright, you know. The GT40's V8 made an amazing noise, but ultimately, it was an effective noise. The GT's is similarly honest.
Circuit is where the GT really shines, funnily enough
What is breathtaking about the GT - and I didn't expect to be writing this - is the way it rides. I don't know how much of it is springing and how much is those clever dampers - a lot, I suspect - but its ride quality is astonishingly comfortable, yet controlled. If there's a sports car with a better blend of ride comfort to body control, I'm pretty confident in saying I've never driven it.
Curiously, that doesn't necessarily translate to making the GT a great driver's car on the road. It's good, make no mistake, but the steering's weight doesn't blend much road feel into the mix, while the brakes on our test car were a bit over-servoed at the top of the travel. I'm being critical here. It's enjoyable. The grip is there, and the poise, and the agility - the dry weight is 1,385kg - but on a decent road you'd get more back, more often, from something like a Porsche 911 GT3 or a McLaren 720S.
Where the GT feels happier - and this is probably no surprise - is on a circuit. 'Pssht' that suspension into its lower setting in an instant and the body ties itself to the floor, with enough suppleness in hand to flow over kerbs. And it all makes sense. There are cars with 655hp and 550lb ft that could seem intimidating, but this isn't one of them.
You will wait for one, but it might just be worth it
The GT revs to 7,000, gives a notable kick above 5,000rpm, and such is its approachableness that you'll be inclined to use the lot, all the time (so fast is the race car, meanwhile, that its power is knocked back to under 500hp under the sport's 'balance of performance' regs). The carbon-ceramic brakes are superb, under bigger loads the steering starts to tell you things, and the balance is terrific: there's a touch of understeer if you let it, but you can easily trail-brake it out, and have a big dose of adjustability on the way out. The balance, and the poise, are sensational.
Race-derived car is good on track, then. Which is about as surprising as finding out that a race-derived car is good at racing. But I can quite easily ship out my cynicism about how it plays to the rules: what balls of Ford to make it, after all. Who else, beyond the traditional supercar makers, could do that? As a road- and track-going supercar it's a brilliant, flawed, compromised, wonderful, capable, fabulous thing. [Matt Prior]
Engine: 3,497cc V6, twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 656@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 550@5,900rpm
Top speed: 216mph
Weight: 1,385kg (dry)
MPG: 14 (est)
CO2: tbc g/km
Price: £420,000 including VAT, before options