• Sep 3, 2006
Spent a good part of the day at Willow Spring's Streets of Willow course on Friday. Had to get up at 4:30 to make the 2 hour trek north into the vast wasteland above L.A. but it was worth it. We got a chance to watch a professional racer run his new car ragged trying to get it dialed in for an upcoming road race... in New Zealand. It all started last Saturday at Crystal Cove. Steve Millen had a wild (a la fellow New Zealander Bruce McLaren) orange Ford GT there and we were curious. Follow the jump if you are too.

It had some Stillen stickers, an odd little rear spoiler lip, and a few other bits of hardware strapped and screwed onto it. After talking to Mr. Millen (brother of Rod, uncle to Rhys), he mentioned that he would be up at the track and asked if we wanted to tag along. Who were we to say no?

So here we are at 7 am, watching the crows pick bits of rabbit off the road, feeling the temperature rise about ten degrees every five minutes, listening to that wonderfully quirky Kiwi accent and watching as a small team of helpers gets the car sorted for its upcoming racing duty. Steve is fairly happy with the setup, but needs to make a few adjustments. Fortunately for us it gives us plenty of time to watch and listen as this multi disciplinary champion flings the GT around the relatively short and very technical course.

As the pictures will attest, the car has a tendency to wag its tail when the throttle is planted, followed by small belches of flame that perfectly match the body's pigment. Steve has quite a varied history in motorsports and his off-road and rally experience allows him to easily collect the car even when small dust storms kick up at track's edge. In fact he seems to prefer this D1 style lapping and continues to slip and slide for a few more hours before declaring the setup good enough for the upcoming race.

The race in question is the annual New Zealand Targa Rally, which he has run 5 times in a row. He has generally run a Turbo 6 Ford Falcon, but this year wanted something a bit more reliable and fun. A little extra speed wouldn't hurt either. So he took your basic, off-the-shelf Ford GT and went to work doing what he does best.

Although many associate him with the dominating Nissan 300ZX and aftermarket superchargers for Nissans and Infinitis, Steve also knows a fair few things about adjusting brakes, tires, and suspension bits to get a good car performing better. So the tweaks to this particular GT are mostly limited to chassis work. A little extra boost and a new exhaust are the only real changes to the powerplant. The main changes are safety and handling related.

Steve patiently pursues the proper setup and then indulges our requests for some extra time to position the car for more photos and even allows us to take to the track for some action shots. Just a few days ago we were pacing a new Swedish supercar out in Las Vegas, and now we are being chased by a legendary racer and all-around nice guy who is going to drive the GT 135 miles back to Orange County, battling Labor Day get-out-of-town-early traffic just like us. We only guess that the upcoming race will offer much tougher challenges, but Steve should be up to the task, and so should his Ford GT.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Jeremy Clarkson's problems with the Ford GT were limited to the after market alarm system. He still loves the car, owns one and considers it the "Best Super Car In The World", his words.
      • 8 Years Ago
      It was the rear main seal that was leaking on some Ford GT's, I don't believe it was ever said that oil was "FREELY LEAKING".
      The recall for the control arms was precautionary, none ever failed on the road.
      By the way, Ferrari has had its share of recalls too, check the nhtsa.org site for yourself.
      While Jeremy Clarkson is just a TV talk show host, he is someone who has had the opportunity to drive many of the worlds most exotic and expensive cars, so surely his opionion counts for something.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I wouldn't say Jeremy was just a talk show host. He's a motoring journalist of twenty odd years standing. I've read him personally since he was in Performance Car in the early nineties. He'd been writing about cars for years before the Top Gear job came along. Don't assume the man's a fool for all his fooling about.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Jermey Clarkson is to the automobile world what Jerry Springer is to the news media. They are both entertainers and need to be taken as such. While I enjoy watching Clarksons Tomfoolery I would never take his advice on a supercar purchase.
      The GT has proved to be a very reliable car both on the street and on the track. It just is a shame that people that cant afford them like to cut them down.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Tim C. I have an import bias myself, but cmon man, lets give credit where its due.

      Corvette Z06 (Ferrari 599?)
      Hell, even the normal Corvette
      Cobalt SS
      Ford GT
      SRT-4 (yes its a neon, but dammit it can turn)
      Ford Focus RS? (does that count?)
      Cadillac CTS-V

      We may have a lower proportion of cars that turn but we have cars that turn man!
      • 8 Years Ago
      #11: Thank you!

      #4: "Yes, very early production GT's had problems. And they fixed those problems."
      #13: "Jeremy Clarkson's problems with the Ford GT were limited to the after market alarm system".

      Check your facts guyz. First off the "early production GT problems" involved a crankshaft design that allowed oil to FREELY LEAK out of the engine housing, and structural arms that were insufficient against the torsional forces the car could produce in spirited driving (um... very bad).

      But as far as reliability and J.C.: Clarkson took his car in for Ford/dealer warranted alternator replacement -> which then resulted in the ignition button turning on ONLY THE RIGHT BLINKER. J.C. then went on to say "... this means I've never actually a tip to and FROM anywhere. Making this the most unreliable car I've ever owned." If you doubt me, download season 8 episode 1 or 4 (i forget which one now... they talk about it in the news).

      • 8 Years Ago
      Jeremy Clarkson actually has a Ford GT.

      Do you ?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Great looking car Steve. Shame its still no match for the Porsche's in the New Zealand Dunlop Targa.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "The most unreliable car ever made" (Jeremy Clarkson). Hmmm....

      While I like Top Gear, I think Clarkson can be a complete tool sometimes. Yes, very early production GT's had problems. And they fixed those problems. If my memory is correct, there were a few people at Saleen who were fired over those problems. But like Chris said, the GT is one of the most reliable supercars out there. And if I were to take one on a rally, it would be a GT.

      But that definitely would be a fun race...
      • 8 Years Ago
      New Zealand + Ford GT = my dreams in a nutshell
      • 8 Years Ago
      Fair enough, I got annoyed with Chris and overstated my case somewhat. I'd pull off my ears for a Z06. The cornering abilities of the Z06 aren't in doubt. Viper? not really a handler is it? More a dragster with that boat anchor over the front end. Focus RS doesn't really count I'm afraid. It turns in okay due to the time and effort put in by Mr Parry-Jones on the original Focus's suspension set-up but is spoiled by the limited slip diff which is set up too tightly. Caddies and Dodge Neons may be stiffer than most of the US's domestic cars but still feel like armchairs at sea to me.

      I repeat I just got pissed off with Chris's "Clarkson's British what does he know?" rubbish. This country no longer has a domestic manufacturer but it has most of the best minds in motor racing and a hell of a lot of engineering consultancies and suppliers who are the best at what they do in the world. Who did Bugatti go to for a gearbox that wouldn't explode first time? Ricardo, that's who. As for old Jags coming with a toolkit, well so do brand-new Bee-Ems.
      • 8 Years Ago
      FYI Clarkson's problems with the FOrd GT have mostly been caused by aftermarket alarms and immobilisers fitted in the UK itself...
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