Fjord GT: taking on the Arctic Circle Raceway in a Ford GT
We take the new Ford GT to the Arctic Circle Raceway to see what makes the supercar tick, and attempt to break a lap record in the process
The original idea was nothing if not simple. Take the new Ford GT to one of the most beautiful roads in one of the most beautiful countries on earth, drive it for a couple of days and film and photograph it from every which angle. Then head north, all the way up through half of Norway and, once there, try to break the road car lap record for the Arctic Circle Raceway, held at that point by an Audi R8.
In total it would take us just over a week to complete our mission, and we’d find out all about the Ford GT during that time. Not merely how quick it is or how amazing it is to look at, but also how good it is as a supercar, full stop. And by the end of it all we would surely be able to decide a) if the car actually warrants its £450,000 price, and b) whether it deserves a place among the true supercar greats.
First stop, though, was the Atlantic Road itself. It was finished in 1989 to link the villages of Karvag and Vevang at a cost of some 120million Norwegian Krone (£11.34million). It’s a surreal piece of road that’s won numerous design awards, and upon which a bright yellow Ford GT looks out of this world. The car sounded quite good, too.
The noise the GT makes at low speeds is pretty intense, and maybe a bit over the top compared with some rivals. Even at 40mph the engine and exhaust are always audible. Yet in a way, this is what ultimately defines the GT.
After a week in it, I actually began to go full circle about this particular aspect. I ended up thinking that this might be the way to go with supercars like this. Let’s face it, you don’t drive/own/buy a car like the Ford GT – or a Porsche 918, McLaren P1, etc – wanting everyday Mondeo-like refinement from it. You drive a car like this to make your heart, mind and imagination go to another place, and I think the fact that you need to suffer a bit in the process actually heightens the experience – so long as it delivers where things matter the most. And holy smoke does the Ford GT deliver. Technically you’re not supposed to drive the car in Track mode on the road at all, because of pedestrian protection laws. But with completely empty roads, we had to give it a try.
Apart from anything else the GT looks incredible with the wing up and its 50mm lower ride height, and it drives that much sharper as well, because the gearbox, throttle and exhaust maps get snappier, while the suspension firms up, too. Not that the GT feels in any way turgid in its regular modes, even if the ride comfort becomes a touch smoother and less noisy in Road mode.
But that’s the thing about the GT. Even in normal mode it’s still noisy, unrefined and uncompromising compared with something like a McLaren 720S or a Ferrari 488, so you might as well drive it in Track mode all the time. Because although Track mode makes the GT tiring, loud and less refined, it also makes it a fantastically exciting car to drive.
It even has some good old-fashioned turbo lag, because the boost pressure, as you can imagine, is quite high in order to squeeze 647bhp and 747Nm out of a 3.5-litre V6 at 5,900rpm. It’s one of those cars in which every millimetre of throttle travel makes a difference, and incites a slightly stronger reaction from what lies beneath the rear bodywork. A small squeeze on the accelerator pedal still incurs an almighty cacophony of whooshes and whistles from behind, but not necessarily a huge level of thrust. Press a bit harder, though, and, bang, there it is, a massive hit of energy that compresses you back in the seat, and makes you grip the rather ungainly steering wheel that little bit harder. And still you haven’t yet got anywhere near full throttle.
When you do, the GT does feel and sound just ever so slightly mental. Officially the 0-60mph claim is “under three seconds”, but unofficially it’s 2.8 seconds, which is quite ridiculous for a rear-wheel-drive road car. Yet the most shocking aspect of its performance is that it actually feels quicker from 50-120mph than it does when going from 0-60mph. The way its torque builds so fast in the mid-range above 2,000rpm is entirely addictive. And the gearbox works nicely, too, even if it doesn’t have quite the same snap of response as the very best dual-clutch set-ups from the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.
It’s easy to get carried away in a Ford GT, on a mostly deserted road, among the breathtaking Nordic scenery. But we had one last piece of the jigsaw left to complete on our week-long tour, and that was to try to break the lap record at the Arctic Circle Raceway. To do that, we enlisted the services of Stefan Mücke, one of the drivers for the Ford Chip Ganassi squad at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
When we got to the Raceway, situated just 19 miles from the Arctic Circle, the sun was shining and the paddock was chock full of racing bikes, whose owners were more than a little bit interested in the GT. When Mücke first climbed aboard, we took bets on how fast he’d be on his opening lap, having done just a few sighting laps in a hire car. The existing lap record set by that Audi R8 was 1min 41secs, while my punt was 1min 39secs. I was wrong.
On his first flyer he did 1min 38secs, and 1min 37secs on his second. Then he came back into the pits, claiming that the tyre pressures were a touch too high. So we dropped the pressures by 4psi all round and he went back out again. After another couple of stints he did a 1min 36.29secs lap. At that point he climbed out and said that’s it, can’t go much faster today, cheers, my work here is done.
Interestingly, though, he also said that “our” Ford GT felt quite a bit quicker in a straight line compared with his Le Mans racer. But then that’s to be expected when the road car has 647bhp and weighs just under 1,400kg, whereas his Le Mans racer weighs a similar amount and has only 470-500bhp due to its air restrictors.
With a new lap record to its name and seemingly an entire country head over heels in love with it, we put the GT back in its truck and, with some extremely fond memories to savour, sent it back home to Essex.
The GT isn’t perfect, but in some ways it’s the imperfections that make it so memorable. Occasionally, flawless is not the only way to go with a car like this. Apart from anything else, the way the Ford GT looks, goes and sounds is sufficient to make you fall in love with it, even with a price tag of £450,000 and an interior that’s more Mondeo than Mondial.
In yellow with two black stripes across its roof, it deserves its place among the greats. Easily.
What would you rather have, a Ford GT or house in Norway? Let us know in the comments below...