First Ride: 2017 Ford GT



Words: Don Cheng

Photography: Don Cheng

Published: October 11, 2017

 



CALABOGIE MOTORSPORTS PARK, Ontario - Standing outside the pitlane of Calabogie Motorsports park on an abnormally hot late September day, Richard L’Abbe recounts the knock-out unveilings Ford had announced at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Driving home the message that performance is in Ford’s DNA, the Blue Oval now has a full line up of cars to back it up. First was the Ford Shelby GT350R, single handedly silencing any commentary that the Mustang isn’t a driver’s car, followed by a show-stoppingly gorgeous supercar, the GT. Rotating slowly around the pedestal, it was unveiled that this was the production model set to hit showrooms in 2016.

 

 

Funny enough, among the attendees that day was not Richard L’Abbe, who as fate would have it, would become the first Canadian to own the fastest Ford production vehicle ever. Richard, an engineer and founder of Med-Eng systems says his interest was first piqued by the vehicle’s Canadian development. The firm responsible for manufacturing the supercar is Multimatic, who is based in Markham, Ontario. To keep things local, testing for the pre-production models (as well as the race-going version) were conducted at Calabogie Motorsports park outside of Ottawa.

 

Most impressively was the tight deadline required to produce a race ready vehicle’s debut for the 2016 24-Hours of Le Mans, a monumental year for Ford returning exactly 50 years after the motor company first dominated the famous endurance race from 1966-1969. Working as an engineer developing products of his own, Richard knew the sheer devotion and time required to accomplish a project of this magnitude, and he knew it is under these extraordinary circumstances that the Ford GT would be a special vehicle.

 

 

But claiming his piece of Ford history wasn’t as simple as walking into a dealership and dropping half a million dollars on the floor. It was an application process so thorough that he even made to submit a video explaining why he wanted one.

 

He was lucky enough to get approved, and Ford has invited a handful of journalists to ride along as he beats his brand new GT around the track (praise be to those who use the cars for what they’re designed to do). Peeling the cover off the silhouette of the supercar reveals just how cool the car looks in person. It’s every teenagers wet-dream, albeit, designed, crafted, and tested with the latest 3D modelling techniques. Every inch of the GT looks functional, from the massive scoops that lead to the side mounted intercoolers feeding the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 to the flying buttress design of the B-Pillar. There was even an iconic Ford GT40 on site for us to drool over.

 

 

With the simple click of a button, the entire car drops two inches of its ride height, and a giant rear spoiler emerges. Track mode, it’s business time. Open up the doors (yes they do swing upwards in true supercar fashion) and crawl inside the cramped cabin. The FIA certified roll cage hidden behind the pillars take up some of the room, but it’s an otherwise spartan interior. One central knob replaces a traditional gear lever, twist the dial and select your gear. The rest of the controls can all be accessed by the steering wheel. I imagine this is what being in a spaceship would be like - there’s not much sound deadening inside either. The EcoBoost emits a hollow, almost distant howl despite its proximity to your driver back. It sounds wildly different from the other EcoBoosts found in the manufacturer’s line-up, understandably so, as this motor pumps out nearly 650 hp.

 

 

Where the real magic of this Ford shines though is in how cohesive everything is. The use of a carbon fiber tub keeps the weight down, egregious amounts of ducting funnels and shapes the air as the Ford slices through. Meanwhile the 650 hp V6 sends the power to the ground through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Two turns in on the track and you realize just how harmonious all of these elements work together.

 

It’s immediately apparent that this was designed from the ground up to be a racecar. The Pilot Sport Cup 2s, molded specifically for this application feel like they’re attached to a magical rail that circumnavigates the track - it simply does not let up. Mashing your foot on the brake pedal, and you can hear the wing pivot vertically coming to its resting place with a loud thunk to operate as an air-dam to assist deceleration maneuvers.

 

 

Eyes glued to the track, Richard continues to wax poetic about his new car. He’s extremely passionate about this vehicle, and we have Ford’s application process to thank for that. An extraordinary supercar such as this shouldn’t fall to those with the largest cheque-book. They belong on to those who live and breathe on the track.

 


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